The Sinai Trail is Egypt’s 1st long distance hiking trail. It is a 550km, 42 day circular hiking trail that starts and ends by the Gulf of Aqaba, connecting old trade, travel and pilgrimage routes through one of the Middle East’s most iconic wildernesses. When the Sinai Trail launched in 2015, it was much shorter: originally, it began as a 220km trail, that took just 12 days to complete. The new, extended version of the trail launched in 2018, following two years of development and many thousands of kilometres of exploration. The main incentive for extending the route was showing more of the beautiful places of the Sinai to the world, and creating a trail that truly brought opportunities to all of the region’s tribes. At the beginning, the Sinai Trail involved just three Bedouin tribes. Today, the trail runs through the territories of eight Bedouin tribes, and all the tribes work on the new route. People have followed these old ways of the Sinai for centuries, passing between Africa and Asia and the Sinai Trail preserves this tradition of movement across the peninsula into modern times. It is also rebuilding old tribal alliances: it is over 100 years since the eight tribes of South Sinai worked together on a travelling route in the way they do on the Sinai Trail today. The Sinai Trail is reviving old paths, alliances, and history.
The Sinai Trail has received international recognition for its work. In 2016, the Sinai Trail won a BGTW Tourism Award, as the best new project in the Wider World. In 2017, the project was listed one of the greatest six new trails in the world by Wanderlust Magazine. The tribes who work on the Sinai Trail today are the Tarabin, Muzeina, Jebeleya, Awlad Said, Garasha, Sowalha, Hamada and Alegat. Members of these tribes manage the trail in a small, intertribal cooperative; each tribe manages a particular part of the Sinai Trail and decisions that affect the whole trail are taken collectively.
The Sinai Trail has several long term goals:
- To improve access to Egypt’s spectacular wilderness and showcase the country’s beauty to the world, helping it compete as a world class destination for sustainable outdoors tourism.
- To build a strong, resilient economy around the Sinai Trail, creating legitimate jobs and opportunities for local people and communities to earn a fair living.
- To develop trail resources that inspire, enthuse and educate, promoting Egypt’s wilderness as a place for safe, responsible outdoor tourism for people of all backgrounds.
- To preserve traditional Bedouin knowledge of the Sinai, documenting the landscape’s ways, place names, stories and poems, and the traditional skills needed to pass through it.
- To give a space for safe, positive interactions between people of all backgrounds, challenging the mainstream perception of the Sinai as a place of danger.
Tourism has struggled across the whole of Egypt since the 2011 revolution, with the Sinai the hardest hit region of all. The Sinai Trail is still working through the struggle: the first start to finish hike of the trail happened in 2016 and since then hikers from Egypt to the UK, New Zealand, India, the USA, the Czech Republic, Jordan, Spain, China, Switzerland and beyond have all visited to walk the trail. Impacts on the community have been positive. More than 50 regular jobs have been created for guides, cameleers, cooks, drivers, with 10 young apprentice Bedouin guides training to work on the trail. New trail networks are being developed to bring more Bedouin communities into the project all the time. There are still places to go and still communities that remain on the sidelines who the trail intends to bring in as we go forward.