Among proponents of the theory that Jabal Maqla/al-Lawz is Mount Sinai, three proposed Red Sea Crossing candidates have emerged. Most proponents equate the body of water that the Israelites crossed, named Yam Suph in the Biblical account, with the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, limiting the number of options available for crossing candidates.
The most comprehensive study of the Red Sea Crossing possibilities in modern times was done by Dr. Glen Fritz, author of The Lost Sea of the Exodus: A Modern Geographical Analysis. Fritz, who has a Ph.D. in Environmental Geography, personally visited the locations in question.
Based on his research, he concluded that the Bible and historical accounts outside of the Bible “clearly” point to the Gulf of Aqaba as Yam Suph. It contradicts the mainstream theory that the Exodus account actually refers to “Reed Sea,” rather than the Red Sea, in order to justify potential crossing sites within Egypt, such as lakes, instead of a body of water large enough to be identified as a sea.
Dr. Fritz writes:
The confusion began over 2,000 years ago with the Greek Septuagint Bible, which equated the Hebrew Yam Suph with the Greek concept of the Red Sea. The Greeks were unaware of the Gulf of Aqaba, which caused the Gulf of Suez to become the default site for Yam Suph. The geographical ignorance of the Gulf of Aqaba persisted until the 19th century, allowing the Red Sea tradition to dominate without challenge.
The various ‘Reed Sea’ theories, which are now favored over the Red Sea tradition, mainly hinge on the linguistic theory that suph referred to vegetation. But, these supposed botanical meanings are readily discredited by basic linguistic analyses of the Hebrew vocabulary related to suph.[i]
So what is the alternative explanation? There are several available that could have led the Israelites into the Saudi peninsula.
The Red Sea’s Nuweiba Beach
The most-favored theory among those who believe Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia is that the Red Sea Crossing happened across the Gulf of Aqaba at Egypt’s Nuweiba Beach, which is located about half-way down the Sinai Peninsula. Dr. Fritz is a leading advocate of this site.
The large size and placement of Nuweiba Beach makes it distinct to viewers using Google Earth. It is large and flat, and isolated by mountainous terrain on three sides, but is reachable through an indirect, narrow path through the mountains from the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
The book of Exodus says that the Israelites crossed at a place where “the wilderness had shut them in” (Exodus 14:3). The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus clarified that the crossing point was mountainous, which would have trapped the Israelites in on three sides. If Nuweiba Beach is the correct crossing point, the Israelites indeed would have been trapped if Pharaoh’s army was following them through the Wadi Watir entry to the beach.
Nuweiba Beach is approximately 10.9 square miles large, theoretically providing adequate space for the Israelite population. Dr. Fritz concludes that this is the spot where the Israelites crossed. After studying the Gulf of Aqaba candidates, he concludes:
[T]he Nuweiba beachhead is the only Gulf of Aqaba location geographically suited to the biblical sea crossing in these three aspects:
- Accessible and spacious opposing beachheads with travel routes to or from the interior regions.
- Topographical barriers limiting escape routes from the beachhead encampment.
- Intervening seafloor terrain that exhibits a wide potential path, with mild slopes, and the absence of obvious obstructions.[ii]
Questions have arisen as to the ability to walk along the land bridge, “Is it feasible for this land bridge be safe enough to walk along?” The most comprehensive analysis was done by Dr. Glen Fritz in his book, “The Lost Sea of the Exodus.” His analysis relied upon data from John Hall and Zvi Ben-Avraham of the Geological Survey of Israel (1979) and John Hall independently (2000), which he writes “is the most detailed bathymetry data published for the Gulf of Aqaba.” An advanced analysis was then done using that data to calculate the slope. He concluded,
“[N]one of the slope calculations at the Nuweiba crossing would present an insurmountable impediment to foot or wheeled vehicle movement. In fact, the 10.5% average downhill slope on the west is identical to the 10.5% (6 degree) maximum usually allowed for an intestate highway. On the east, the 13% uphill slope is similar to the 12.5% (1:8 or 7.125 degree) wheelchair ramp regulations.”
Alleged Evidence of Pharaoh’s Army Along Nuweiba Crossing Point
Unprecedented explorations of the seabed along the Nuweiba underwater land path to Saudi Arabia was conducted in the spring of 2001 by Dr. Lennart Möller and a team operating specialized, remote-controlled cameras for videography.
Dr. Möller is a professor of medical sciences in Sweden with an interest in marine biology and archaeology and author of the tome, The Exodus Case. He says that the coral formations are unique from corals in other parts of the world he’s observed. He described the seabed as resembling a “junk yard” with coral formations having 90-degree angles and circular shapes that indicate man-made objects.
He believes that the debris of the Egyptian army became encrusted by the coral, which retained the shape of the objects it grew upon. The most distinct coral formations resemble chariot wheels and chariot cabins. (See gallery below).
In his book, Möller refers to two coral formations that resemble chariot wheels with six spokes and others with four and eight spokes. He believes these formations support a placement of the Exodus around 1450 BC, as that’s the only time where Egypt’s army utilized all three types of chariot wheels. He also points to possible remains of human and horse skeletons, among other coral shapes.
A researcher named Aaron Sen has dived at Nuweiba hundreds of times, and has observed the coral shapes. He agrees that the coral formations are unique from other locations with coral that he has seen while diving.
Sen brought a metal detector on own expedition to test some of the formations resembling wheels. He says that the positive readings within the formation are consistent with the shapes of chariot wheels.
There is a strong local tradition within northwest Saudi Arabia of the crossing happening in this general location, including rumors about Saudi officials having found chariot wheels deep in the waters.
Dr. Fritz is more cautionary about linking the finds to the Exodus story because of the great difficulty in proving the connection. It is possible that encrusted chariot wheels and skeletal remains are attributable to shipwrecks or other seaborne activity in the area.
Unfortunately, proper research is prevented by Egyptian and Saudi regulations. The Egyptian government prohibits the retrieval of coral or underwater objects. The Saudi government is more prohibitive of such explorations in general.
In 2017, Ryan Mauro and associates of the Doubting Thomas Research Foundation visited the Saudi site of the alleged crossing site. Saudi police appeared and prevented any diving in the specific location of most interest. The Saudi police maintained their presence until the researchers left the area.
The Red Sea’s Sharm El-Sheikh/Straits of Tiran
Bob Cornuke of the Biblical Archaeology, Search, and Exploration (BASE) Institute proposed a 12-mile crossing from the southern Sinai Peninsula from Sharm El-Sheikh into Saudi Arabia via the Straits of Tiran in the early 1990s.
Cornuke points to a shallow, underwater land path from Egypt into Saudi Arabia and has pictures of him standing in it, demonstrating how Moses and the Israelites could conceivably walked into Saudi Arabia if the waters parted.
The theory is most persuasive when looking at satellite imagery from Google Earth. An overhead view of the terrain shows a possible route heading south along the western side of the Sinai Peninsula, then eastwards towards the crossing point at Sharm El-Sheikh. It visually appears that this route is wide enough to have accommodated the large Israelite population and the Pharaoh’s army.
Critics of this theory argue that there is a large gap interrupting the proposed underwater land path. Unless this gap came into existence after the Exodus, the Israelites would not have been able to cross due to this deep gap.
Proponents have suggested that gap may not have existed during the time of the Exodus, as the land may have shifted with tectonic movements. Critics counter that the theory does not align with current knowledge of tectonic plate movements. If the proponents are right, the Straits of Tiran are then certainly a plausible candidate for the crossing site.
[i] Fritz, Glen A. (2016). The Lost Sea of the Exodus: A Modern Geographical Analysis, Second Edition. Geotech: San Antonio.
[ii] Ibid., 203.