Driving On Route 10 — Israel’s Spectacular Road Along The Egyptian Border

This weekend I — and a few other daring motorists — took the IDF up on their offer to open sections of Highway 10 to civilian access for a few days.

For those who don’t share my fascination with international borders, Highway 10 is an Israeli road that parallels the Egyptian border from near Eilat through to its termination near Rafah and the Gaza Strip in the west.

The start of Highway 10 near its intersection with Route 101 in southern Israel. An IDF base is located at the intersection of these two roads and the beginning of Highway 10’s course. Unless you arrive at a specific data or coordinate your arrival with the army before embarking upon the trip, you will find the road shuttered and impassable.

After a number of cross-border attacks from Sinai-based militia, the IDF now only allow civilians to drive on the road during specific dates of the year.

These days — given the very sparse use it sees — Highway 10 is a somewhat challenging surface to drive on.

It consists of one windy road across meandering desert mountain territory with unspoiled views across Israel’s Negev desert, and of the border fence, every few hundred meters.

During the 90 minutes it took my wife and I to drive the windy stretch between Tzomet HaSayarim and the day’s exist near Nitzana we encountered only a handful of other vehicles, most of those bearing the black registration plates of the IDF. Regular layoffs are positioned along the road and needed to let approaching traffic pass.

Various sightseeing posts are positioned alongside it offering incredible views across the Egyptian northern Sinai (territory that Israel held for a period).

These include the viewpoint post at Mount Horesha which has a small staircase leading to the mountain’s peak which is located almost 1,000 meters above sea level.

These were easy to find by Googling in Hebrew (“כביש 10”) although — not wanting to drive several hours through the desert for no reason — I also confirmed these by calling the IDF. To my surprise they picked up the phone within seconds and confirmed the upcoming opening date.

Despite this, the IDF situated several informal checkpoints along the road and we had to explain where we got on and where we were heading a few times over. This is done in order to confirm that civilians do not remain in the area — which is otherwise a closed military zone.

Immediately across the border — a few dozen meters from the course of the road — is Egypt.

The Egyptian army maintains a lengthy network of border posts which are adorned with the colors of the Egyptian flag and (for bases) a mixture of cream and red. Occasionally, Egyptian soldiers can be seen on foot patrol along the fence.

The border fence itself, between Israel and Egypt, is an imposing seven meter high steel structure. Attacks during its construction led to the army’s decision to close the road off for regular civilian access (an old signpost near its entrance testified to the fact that, before this event, civilians were required to be armed in order to drive along the road).

An army signpost positioned on Road 171 which leads to Road 10 in southern Israel. Other than a few army firing ranges and camping spots, there is nothing for dozens of kilometers except for barren desert wilderness. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.

Israel’s border with Egypt has long been associated with both human trafficking and drug smuggling.

In response to these factors — and the threat posted by ISIS and other militant groups active in the north of the Sinai Peninsula — Israel completed a major upgrade to the border fence in 2017, raising its height to 8 meters in part. The border was first fully completed in 2014.

Next to a signpost for Route 10 near Nitsanei Sinai which hosts a winery. The border fence with Egypt can be seen in the background. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
A roadsign for Beer Sheva via Route 10. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
“Stop border ahead” — a border signpost near Israel’s boundary fence with Egypt just outside Nitsanei Sinai, a few hundred meters from the border. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Northern Sinai and Egyptian territory, along with the border fence, as seen from Route 10. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Looking westwards to the Negev Desert. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Israel’s steel border fence cuts a dramatic course through the barren desert land that lies between Israel and Egypt. The course of the boundary follows a 1906 agreement between the Ottoman and British empires. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
The Israel-Egypt border fence can be seen in the middle-ground, alongside an IDF position to the right, and the Egyptian Sinai in the background. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Israel’s upgraded barrier with Egypt seen meandering through the desert. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Various interesting rock formations can be seen at various points along Route 10 including this one near the Mount Horasha Observatory along the route’s course. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Egyptian army positions are located just across the border throughout the road’s course. They all look like this one which can be seen in the background — bearing creme and read colors. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Highway 10 through the desert. The border fence, parallel, is on the left. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
More border warning singposts just in front of the Egypt-Israel border off Road 10. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.
Background: border fence and the Egyptian Sinai. Foreground: author. Photo: Daniel Rosehill.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com