RAS MOHAMMED, EGYPT -- Once a war zone, this is now a region of opportunity in a country whose crumbling economy needs help.
Professional divers and family snorkelers come from all over the world to see the mountainous formations of living coral that wrap the tip of the Sinai Peninsula in a crown of underwater jewels.
A visitor cannot help but marvel at the vast and virtually empty piece of real estate that sits like a cork wedged between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. If this were Florida, the splendor of Sinai's terrain -- where the mountains of Abraham and Moses drop quickly to desert and sea -- would long ago have disappeared behind a wall of Miami Beach-style hotels.
But Sinai remains remote. The hulking remnants of war are here and occasionally still intrude, as they did three summers ago when several children playing in the sand across the Gulf of Suez detonated a long-hidden land mine.
Even so, Sinai exists as one of the symbols of Egypt's great potential. Northeast from here, along the peninsula's western shore, lie some of Egypt's most productive oil fields and the rocky interior hides untapped mineral wealth. Beyond is the Suez Canal, the 100-mile-long strategic ditch that links the seas and provides Egypt with more than $1 billion a year in hard currency passage fees.
Along the western shore, beginning just north of here, are the tiny resort towns of Sharm el-Sheik, Nuweba, Dahab and Taba, which was developed during the Israeli occupation and is now the subject of an arbitration that Egypt hopes will repatriate the last Israeli enclave in the land of the pharaohs.
For Egypt, this coral-rich gold coast is fertile ground for the growth industry of tourism, which has been fighting its way back this year after the terrorism of 1985.