Skyline of Arish, 1916
Skyline of Arish, 1916
Flag of El-Arish
Official seal of El-Arish
El-Arish is located in Sinai
Location within the Sinai Peninsula
El-Arish is located in Egypt
Location within Egypt
Coordinates: 31°07′55″N 33°48′12″E / 31.132072°N 33.803376°E / 31.132072; 33.803376
Country Egypt
Governorate North Sinai
 • Total308 km2 (119 sq mi)
Elevation32 m (105 ft)
 • Total199,243
 • Density650/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
Area code(+20) 68

ʻArish or el-ʻArīsh (Arabic: العريش al-ʿArīš  Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [elʕæˈɾiːʃ]) is the capital and largest city (with 164,830 inhabitants as of 2012) of the North Sinai Governorate of Egypt, as well as the largest city on the Sinai Peninsula, lying on the Mediterranean coast 344 kilometres (214 mi) northeast of Cairo and 45 kilometres (28 mi) west of the Egypt-Gaza border.

In Antiquity and Early Middle Ages the city was known as Rinokoroura (Ancient Greek: Ῥινοκόρουρα, Coptic: ϩⲣⲓⲛⲟⲕⲟⲣⲟⲩⲣⲁ).

ʻArīsh is located at the mouth of Wadi el-ʻArīsh, a 250 kilometres (160 mi) long ephemeral watercourse. The Azzaraniq Protectorate is on the eastern side of ʻArīsh.


There are several hypothetical possibilities for the origin of the modern name of the city, which is first mentioned under it in the 9th century. One possibility is that the name might be an Arab phonetic transcription of a pre-existing toponym. However, there is no name that fully qualifies as such, apart from the Ariza (Ancient Greek: Αριζα) of Hierokles, which is difficult to interpret.

Another possibility is that the name el-Arish was given to a city that already existed in the Byzantine period. However, no Arab source mentions such a change of name for any city in the region, and there is no plausible explanation for this change.

A third possibility is that the name el-Arish was created when a new settlement of some "huts" (Arabic: عرش, romanizedʕarš) was established in the 7th or 8th century. It is possible that the city of Rinokoloura fell into ruins in the first half of the 7th century, and a new community arose that the new inhabitants started to call el-Arish, after their poor living conditions.

M. Ignace de Rossi derived the Arabic name from the Egyptian ϫⲟⲣϣⲁ(ⲓ), 'noseless', an analogue of Greek Rinocorura.

A Coptic-Arabic colophon dating to 1616 mentions the writer "Solomon of Shorpo, son of Michael, from the city of Mohonon" (ⲥⲱⲗⲟⲙⲟⲛ ⲛϣⲱⲣⲡⲟ ⲡϣⲏⲣⲓ ⲙⲓⲭⲁⲏⲗ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲙⲟϩⲟⲛⲟⲛ); in the Arabic version, the writer is identified as being "of el-Arish". Timm raises the possibility that Shorpo (Coptic: ϣⲱⲣⲡⲟ) may be another name for el-Arish.


Herodotus describes a city named Ienysos (Ancient Greek: Ιηνυσος) located between Lake Serbonis and Kadytis. It is possible that Ienysos is the predecessor of Rinokoloura, but there is no clear evidence to support this identification.


The foundation of the city is closely linked to the etymology of its name. The explanation given by the classic authors is that it comes from a compound of "nose" (Ancient Greek: ῥίς) and "curtail, cut short" (Ancient Greek: κολούω).

Thus modern scholars, following the version given by Seneca, believe that in the 4th century BC, a Persian king, believed to be either Artaxerxes II or Artaxerxes III, conducted a campaign in Syria where he punished people, possibly a tribe, by mutilating their noses. As a result, the places where these people came from or relocated to were given new names that reflected their disfigurement. While the Greek name Rinokoloura may have existed from the outset, it is possible that it was a translation of a name with the same meaning in another language.

When the city became a part of the Ptolemaic Empire, an Egyptian tradition emerged that may have transformed the Persian king into an Ethiopian king named Aktisanes. First mentioned by Diodorus, who based his information on the Aegyptiaca of Hecataeus of Abdera, written in the 4th century BC, Aktisanes conquered Egypt during the reign of king Amasis. He governed Egypt with justice and benevolence, and instead of executing convicted criminals, he had their noses cut off and relocated them to a city at the desert's edge, near the border between Egypt and Syria.


In Ptolemaic Egypt Rinocoroura was considered the last city of Egypt, on the border with Coele-Syria.

During the second invasion of Antiochus IV in the spring of 168 BC, an embassy of Ptolemy VI met him near Rinokoloura, which in about 79 BC came under the rule of the Judaean Kingdom of Alexander Jannaeus, while in 40 BC, Herod I sought refuge in Rinokoloura on his way to Pelusium, where he received news of his brother's death.

The papyrus from Oxyrhynchus, traditionally referred to as 'an invocation of Isis' or 'a Greek Isis litany,' is believed to have been transcribed during the reigns of Trajan or Hadrian, but its composition dates back to the late 1st century. This text contains numerous invocations of Isis and mentions Rinokoloura, where she is called 'all-seeing' (Ancient Greek: παντόπτιν).

A number of funerary steles with a repeated consolation formula "nobody is immortal" (Ancient Greek: ούδείς άθάνατος) were found in and around the city.

Rinocoroura on the Madaba Map

The earliest reliable Christian reference to Rinokoloura can be found in Athanasius's Epistula ad Serapionem, in which Salomon was appointed as bishop of Rinokoloura, possibly in 339 AD. Sozomen also refers to Rinokoloura in the mid-5th century AD, stating that the city was a center of scholarship, with a meditation school (Ancient Greek: φροντιστήριον) located in the desert north of the city, a church illuminated by oil lamps, and an episcopal dwelling where the entire clergy of the city resided and dined together.

Hieronymus reported that in the early 5th century the inhabitants of Rinokoloura and other nearby cities spoke Syrian. However, as most of the epitaphs discovered in the area are written in Greek, and one is in Coptic, it is unclear which segment of the population Hieronymus was referring to.

According to John of Nikiu, in 610 AD the army of general Bonosos passed through Rinocoroura (mentioned under the corrupted name Bikuran) on its way to Athribis.

The Brook of Egypt

The story of Hesychios of Jerusalem reveals the existence of a wadi near Rinokoloura. In one instance, the Septuagint (Isaiah 27:12) translates 'the brook of Egypt,' which designates the southern border of Israel, as Rinokoloura, suggesting that the translators were perhaps aware of a similar 'brook' in the vicinity of the city. However, it appears that the association between Rinokoloura and the 'brook of Egypt' may be due more to the contemporary political border between Egypt and Syria, which had shifted further southward since the 8th century AD.

After the Arab Conquest

In the Middle Ages, pilgrims misidentified the site as the Sukkot of the Bible.New fortifications were constructed at the original site by the Ottoman Empire in 1560. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French laid siege to the fort, which fell after 11 days on February 19, 1799. During World War I, the fort was destroyed by British bombers. It was later the location of the 45th Stationary Hospital which treated casualties of the Palestine campaign. The remains of those who died there were later moved to Kantara Cemetery.

Staff of Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein at el-ʻArīsh, 1916

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, proposed ʻArīsh as a Jewish homeland since neither the Sultan nor the Kaiser supported settlement in Palestine. In 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary, agreed to consider ʻArīsh, and Herzl commissioned the lawyer David Lloyd George a charter draft, but his application was turned down once an expedition, led by Leopold Kessler had returned and submitted a detailed report to Herzl, which outlined a proposal to divert some of the Nile waters to the area for the purpose of settlement.

First World War

Australian Light Horse camp beside the seaside at ʻArīsh, 1915–18

El-ʻArīsh Military Cemetery was built in 1919 marked the dead of World War I. It was designed by Robert Lorimer.

El-ʻArīsh airfield, World War II.

On December 8, 1958, an air battle occurred between Egyptian and Israeli air forces over ʻArīsh. ʻArīsh was under military occupation by Israel briefly in 1956 and again from 1967 to 1979. It was returned to Egypt in 1979 after the signing of the Egypt–Israel peace treaty.

In the Sinai mosque attack of 24 November 2017, 305 people were killed in a bomb and gun attack at the mosque in al-Rawda, 45 kilometres (28 mi) west of ʻArīsh.

On 9 February 2021 six locals were killed by ISIL militants.


Arish is in the northern Sinai, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) from the Rafah Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip. North Sinai is targeted by Egyptian government planners to divert population growth from the high-density Nile Delta. It is proposed that by completing infrastructure, transportation and irrigation projects, three million Egyptians may be settled in North Sinai.

Arish is the closest city to Lake Bardawil.


The city is served by el Arish International Airport. The Northern Coastal Highway runs from el-Qantarah at the Suez Canal through Arish to the Gaza border crossing at Rafah. The railway line from Cairo is under re-construction with formation works completed only as far as Bir al-Abed, west of Arish. The route was formerly part of the Palestine Railways built during World War I and World War II to connect Egypt with Turkey. The railway was cut during the formation of Israel.

A street in el-Arish in 1954

The city is the site of a deep-water seaport capable of serving ships up to 30,000 tonnes, the only such port on the Sinai Peninsula. Its major exports are cement, sand, salt and marble. The Sinai White Cement Company plant is 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of the city.


Its Köppen climate classification is hot desert (BWh), although prevailing Mediterranean winds moderate its temperatures, typical to the rest of the northern coast of Egypt.

The highest record temperature was 45 °C (113 °F), recorded on May 29, 2003, while the lowest record temperature was −6 °C (21 °F), recorded on January 8, 1994.

Climate data for Arish
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30.5
Average high °C (°F) 18.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.6
Average low °C (°F) 7.6
Record low °C (°F) 1.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 28
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 1.7 1.2 1.0 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 1.0 6.1
Average relative humidity (%) 71 70 71 67 68 68 70 71 73 72 70 72 70
Source 1: NOAA
Source 2: Climate Charts

See also

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