A beautiful geographical feature of South Sinai is the secluded, hidden basins found in the granite high mountain ranges. Called ‘farsh’ in Arabic, basins are also found in the desert, and the flat top of the Guna and Tih plateaus also consists of basins. Although they are very different, these basins are all water catchment areas, usually containing more soil and lusher vegetation than you find in the surrounding areas.
Looking at the towering granite mountains from their bases, you would think there is nothing on the top. But usually little basins are found just below the peaks, hiding a lush, closed ecosystem. While you can hardly see traces of life on the steep granite rock faces, the basins contain soil, bushes and trees. Catching water from the surrounding slopes, sometimes you find permanent water sources and even little gardens in them. Steep and narrow gullies descend from the high basins that either continue in long wadis or lead to other basins. These lower-lying basins are very similar to the ones at the mountain tops, but are wider and bigger, and gardens in them are more common. The most beautiful basins in the high mountains include Farsh Safsafa, Farsh Raba, Farsh Abu Mahashur, Abu Jidda and El Freish. There are also very big basins, such as Farsh Rummana.
Basins are not as common in the sandstone areas of the desert, but there are a few beautiful examples. The most striking sight, without any doubt, is Jebel Matamir. Here, again, looking at the range you wouldn’t think it hides little secluded basins. There is no vegetation in them, all you find is sand, but they are spectacular with a very special atmosphere. At the foot of Jebel Mileihis the little basin of Moyat Mileihis is another lovely spot, with a few springs, palm trees and an acacia. Off Ras Shaitan towards the Coloured Canyon, the basin of El Freya is a beautiful example of a bigger desert basin, featuring two clusters of palm trees, several acacias and seasonal water pools with thick vegetation.
The Tih Plateau, its southernmost head, Jebel Dalal, and the plateau next to them, Jebel Guna, are long ranges that from a distance seem to be flat-topped. However, if you make the effort to get up to the top, you realise it is made up of a complex system of shallow basins. It looks like the cross-section of the lung: a series of very similar little craters. The basins are connected and drain through some spectacular gullies. It is a very interesting, but very confusing terrain.