Pharaoh's Island, so-called because it was first used during the reign of Ramses III (1194–1163 BC), is a long, rocky island surrounded by reefs and the turquoise waters of the gulf. The dramatic remains visible from shore mark the best-known period in the island's occupation. These are the ruined walls of the Crusader outpost created here in 1115 by Baldwin I. For 55 years, the Crusaders controlled both the trade and pilgrimage routes that passed this way from the safety of the island. But in AD 1171, shortly after coming to power in Egypt, Salah al-Din attacked the fortress by surprise, having transported his dismantled ships secretly through the Sinai on camelback. Despite repeated attempts, the Crusaders never again regained control of the island. Most of what now remains dates from the Mamluk period (14th century).
Diving or snorkeling is good around the excellent reefs off the north end of the island (though currents are strong). With its ruined Crusader castle and Ottoman additions, Pharaoh's Island (also known as Coral Island) attracts many a roadside photographer. Boats to the island run from the Salah El-Deen Hotel; in high season the island can get quite crowded with travelers from Eilat and Aqaba.