A region of rolling limestone hills dissected by numerous wadis. The most important of the latter is Wadi El Gedeirat, a narrow, winding wadi bounded by steep hills. To the north is Gebel El Ain (509 m). A small, perennial creek flows from the spring of Ain El Gedeirat, creating an elongate oasis with dense swamp vegetation dominated by Phragmites and Tamarix. Old olive-groves and cultivated fields cover most of the wadi bed. Some water from Ain El Gedeirat is piped further downstream to irrigated fields and orchards near the village of Quseima. The surrounding desert is formed of hills interspersed with medium-sized gravel-plains with good vegetation cover. The flora of the region has a strong Irano–Turanian influence. Thymelaea is a prominent plant in this landscape. The ruins of the ancient fortress of Qadesh Barnea are found in the centre of the wadi. Ain Qadis is a further, smaller spring located c.7 km south-east of Ain El Gedeirat. This spring flows only a short distance into the desert and lacks the vegetation cover that Ain El Gedeirat supports.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. This unique area holds a diverse avian community, including many of Egypt’s Sahara–Sindian biome-restricted species. Ain El Gedeirat and Ain Qadis are two very important drinking-water sources for three sandgrouse species; Pterocles senegallus, Pterocles coronatus and Pterocles orientalis. Pterocles alchata is also known from the area, but in smaller numbers. Several hundred of these birds come from a vast area of desert, including the western Negev, to drink at the springs, although the latter two species generally visit the area only during autumn and winter. This is also the only known site in Egypt where Aquila chrysaetos regularly breeds.In addition, the area falls within one of the most important flyways for soaring birds, particularly birds of prey. Although the migration here is on a rather broad front, large numbers are regularly seen over Wadi El Gedeirat during the spring and autumn migrations. Many birds are attracted to the water and vegetation and descend to drink and roost.
Non-bird biodiversity: Flora: Many Irano–Turanian floral elements, of limited distribution in Egypt, are found here. Crustacea: the perennial creek in Wadi El Gedeirat is the only known locality in which the freshwater crab Potamon potamios palaestinensis is found in Egypt. Reptiles: The rare Walterinnesia aegyptia is known from the area. Mammals: A small population of Capra nubiana (EN) still remains in adjacent hills.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site has been proposed for protection as a Protected Area. Hunting takes place on a regular basis. Target species are largely sandgrouse Pterocles and Alectoris chukar, but other species are also taken. The population of the latter species has sharply declined in recent years (it is also regarded as an agricultural pest in the region). Nests of Aquila chrysaetos have been raided regularly, and the few local pairs might have ceased nesting. Falcon-catching is prevalent throughout the region, as is the case in most parts of North Sinai in autumn. Many non-target birds of prey fall victim to this practice. Overgrazing has degraded much of the desert habitats in the vicinity.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Quseima. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2023.