For travelers interested in heading to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, don’t believe what you read on social media, or you may cancel your trip. According to news from Egyptian media, it was alleged that Google removed Sinai from Google Maps for political reasons. We discovered the real story, so wait to unpack your bags.
Social media was flooded with pictures that claimed to show Google deleted the name “Sinai” after discussions about the displacement of Palestinians to the desert region. Egypt’s leadership has rejected any such migration of the embattled Palestinians from Gaza and other regions. Voice of America reported that Egypt officials are wary of opening the border between their country and Gaza so that refugees can escape Israel’s bombardment and blockade.
Large demonstrations have occurred in Egypt so President Sisi might protect national security and support the Palestinian cause. Sisi rejected any such Palestinian refugees moving into Sinai. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that trucks full of aid to Gaza are piling up at the border with supplies to help hospitals that are overflowing because of the conflict.
As for Google, the company said Google Maps does not name counties and regions on its maps platform unless a user searches for the region. We did a manual search and found the Sinai Peninsula geolocated with the red pin, named, and with the description, ratings, and photos from the region. (screenshot above)
Egypt’s President told reporters that Israel can transfer Palestinians in Gaza to the Negev Desert, but that the Sinai is out of the question. This Southernmost part of Israel is characterized by its limited rainfall; some areas receive only 24 mm (0.94 in) of rainfall a year, and there are regions where it never rains. Vegetation is sparse, and temperatures can reach 46C or 115F (record). However, Israeli development plans for the region would make moving Palestinians there improbable or even impossible. Blueprint Negev, a Jewish National Fund project introduced in 2005, is a $600 million project to attract 500,000 new Jewish residents to the Negev.
The United States Department of State has issued an Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Travel Advisory warning and a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) warning for Egypt. There’s also an advisory for U.S. citizens traveling anywhere in the Middle East.