The Bedouin Trail
The Bedouin Trail is a new intercontinental travelling passage that runs more than 1200km between Africa and Asia, of which most can be hiked. Starting at the rock-hewn Nabataean capital of Petra in Jordan and ending at Egypt’s legendary kingdoms of the Pharaohs on the banks of the River Nile at Luxor it connects two of the great capitals of the ancient world, traverses some of the most spectacular wilderness of the Middle East and runs through the territories of seven Bedouin tribes on the way. The Bedouin Trail is a trail project of unparalleled scope created over more than 10 years and the three sister trails of the Sinai Trail, Wadi Rum Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail stand at its heart today. It brings these routes together into a connected passage, aligning with sections of each and extending them into neighbouring regions. It is the longest hiking route in the Arab World and the first to run between Africa and Asia. Along with the Wadi Rum Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail the Sinai Trail has a central place in the intertribal collective that oversees the Bedouin Trail today and oversees the great, intercontinental land bridge section of the passage between Africa and Asia. Walking between two different continents with different Bedouin tribes, hikers will discover something of the great depth and diversity of the region’s nomadic heritage, along with the ever-changing identity of fthe Bedouin modern times. The trail will show how tribal culture changes but also retains commonalities across the region, underlining how the Bedouin exist in a wide cultural block that transcends modern borders and which remains a real, living part of the region. The Bedouin Trail opens a modern passage through the heart of an ancient nomadic nation and represents one of the most unique and extraordinary journeys that can be made both in the Middle East and the wider world.
The Bedouin Trail connects the ancient capitals of Petra and Luxor, running between Africa and Asia, Jordan and Egypt and the territories of seven different Bedouin tribes along the way. It is a 1200km route that will take most hikers over two months to walk and whilst it can be traversed in either direction, the best option is to start in Petra, ending at Luxor on the banks of Egypt’s River Nile. Along with the Wadi Rum Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail the Sinai Trail is an integral part of the Bedouin Trail, representing the key, middle part of the route; the great ntercontinental land bridge that connects the African and Asian sides of the route.The Bedouin Trail aligns with a 300km, 20 day section of the Sinai Trail, with newly-developed sections also connecting it to Nuweiba – where most hikers will arrive by sea from Jordan – and Sharm el Sheikh, from where they will travel on to Hurghada. An outline of the classic thru hike route of the Bedouin Trail is given below. Other route options also exist to make it a shorter or longer route across the region.
Bedouin Trail, classic thru hike
The Bedouin Trail aligns with the first part of the Sinai Trail’s main circuit, following it south from the coastal settlement of Ras Shetan to a peak called Jebel Barqa It departs the main circuit shortly after this, following a secondary route to the highlands of St Katherine; actually the original 220km route taken by the Sinai Trail when it first opened in 2015. From St Katherine the Bedouin Trail follows the mountainous, western part of the Sinai Trail south to Wadi Sabbah, where an exit is made to a coastal area known as the Nabq Protectorate, which stands on the northern edge of Sharm el Sheikh. Starting at Ras Shetan, hikers traverse the Sinai’s coastal ranges to a dramatic sandstone chasm known as the Coloured Canyon. Wide, sweeping wadis lead south from here to the oasis of Ein Hudera, passing the high peak of Jebel Mileihis. Hikers continue onwards to Jebel Mutamir, after which a tract of gently rising foothills is traversed upwards to St Katherine. The holy peak of Mount Sinai is ascended along with Jebel Katherina: the highest peak on the Bedouin Trail, whose 2642m summit gazes back to the mountains of the Wadi Rum and on to those of the Red Sea Mountains. Hikers traverse the wild, westerly mountains of the Sinai, climbing several of its high peaks before arriving in Wadi Sabbah. This section of the Sinai Trail crosses the lands of four different tribes, including the Tarabin, Muzeina, Jebeleya and Awlad Said.
Shorter, longer and more tribally diverse passages can be taken along the Sinai Trail. The shortest, easiest option is to traverse the entirety of the Sinai Trail’s eastern section, following it south from Ras Shetan to Wadi Sabbah, where the Bedouin Trail exit route can be taken to the northern edge of Sharm el Sheikh. Moving mostly between the Sinai’s coastal mountains and the sandstone deserts of the interior, this is a 180km route crossing the lands of the Tarabin and Muzeina tribes that will take most hikers 10 days to complete. Traversing high tablelands and vast, sweeping sand deserts, a longer option is to follow the Sinai Trail’s northern section west from Ras Shetan to Serabit el Khadem, where a temple built by Egypt’s Pharaohs stands crumbling slowly into the dust. From Serabit el Khadem hikers follow the Sinai Trail’s western section south to Wadi Sabbah, traversing the entirety of peninsula’s high mountain chain via St Katherine half way along. A route of exceptional beauty and history crossing the territories all eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai, this is a 380km route that will take most hikers 32 days. Another option is a coast to coast crossing in which the Bedouin Trail’s classic route is followed to Jebel Rimhan, after which Wadi Isleh is followed through the spectacular narrow gorge of Wadi Isleh to the town of El Tur. It runs from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Gulf of Suez and Sharm can be reached from El Tur in local transport.
BEDOUIN TRAIL: PART 1
The Bedouin Trail section of the Sinai Trail can be divided into two parts; the first from Ras Shetan to St Katherine, the second from St Katherine to the Nabq Protectorate. Hikers will arrive from Jordan in Nuweiba & taxis or local transport can be used to get to the trailhead in Ras Shetan. An shorter, more direct route can also be taken from Nuweiba to Jebel Mileihis on the Sinai Trail, but it is not as scenic.
DAY 1 – Hikers start from Ras Shetan, traversing the Sinai’s coastal ranges to a pretty sandstone chasm called the Coloured Canyon.
DAY 2 – The route continues in long, winding wadis to Ein Furtaga.
DAY 3 – Hikers carry on south, entering the Sinai’s sandstone deserts in a rugged tract of hills known as Um Hadabat.
DAY 4 – An ascent is made of the rugged peak of Jebel Mileihis, whose high summit gazes out to the highlands of St Katherine. Hikers continue onwards to the fabled oasis of Ein Hudera.
DAY 5 – Canyons & plains are traversed to Jebel Mutamir, passing a cluster of prehistoric burial chambers known as the Nawamis.
DAY 6 – Hikers continue to the peak of Jebel Barqa.
DAY 7 – The route continues to Wadi Matura, exiting the Sinai’s sandstone deserts & entering foothills that rise to St Katherine.
DAY 8 – Hikers continue rising through foothills to Wadi el Fara.
DAY 9 – The route exits the foothills to bring hikers out onto the Plain of El Sened, on the margins of St Katherine. Often known as the Blue Desert, this area is dotted with blue-painted rocks.
DAY 10 – Hikers continue into the St Katherine highlands, reaching the holy peak of Mount Sinai, which stands at 2285m.
DAY 11 – Hikers traverse lesser known parts of Mount Sinai & descend to a Bedouin orchard in Wadi Arbain for a half day rest.
DAY 12 – The 2642m peak of Jebel Katherina is ascended: the highest summit in Egypt & anywhere on the Bedouin Trail.
BEDOUIN TRAIL: PART 2
The Bedouin Trail runs from Jebel Katherina to the southernmost tip of the Sinai Trail in Wadi Sabbah. This is the exit point from which the Bedouin Trail follows long wadis down to the Nabq Protectorate, on the northern edge of Sharm. It is a section of the route that will take most hikers 2 days to walk & it can also be accelerated by using 4x4s. From Nabq, taxis can be arranged by the Sinai Trail to downtown Sharm.
DAY 1 – Hikers start from the top of Jebel Katherina: the highest point in Egypt, whose summit gazes out to Africa & Asia.The highlands of Wadi Rum are visible in the east, with the jagged summits of the Red Sea Mountains on the next section of the Bedouin Trail west. The route continues over Jebel Katherina to Wadi Rutig, where camp is made.
DAY 2 – The route continues over the sweeping spaces of El Rahaba, approaching the highlands of Jebel Um Shomer.
DAY 3 – Hikers scramble to the top of the 2587m Jebel Um Shomer, Egypt’s second highest mountain, descending to Wadi Rimhan.
DAY 4 – Wadi Rimhan is followed south to Wadi Thebt, which is ascended to the foot of a peak called Jebel Thebt. Hikers who want to do the coast to coast variation of the Bedouin Trail can follow Wadi Rimhan towards the Gulf of Suez, via the spectacular gorge of Wadi Isleh. This brings hikers to the town of El Tur.
DAY 5 – Jebel Thebt’s high summit is ascended. An alternative route allows it to be bypassed via the springs of Ein Um Sayeeda.
DAY 6 – Hikers continue to the oasis of Ein Halayfia, traversing long, winding wadis & rugged camel passes.
DAY 7 – An ascent is made of Jebel Sabbah, whose summit gazes out to the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Hikers will need to carry backpacks with water, food & sleeping gear on this peak.
DAY 8 – Jebel Sabbah is descended to Wadi Sabbah.
Thru hike: need-to-know
The Bedouin Trail section of the Sinai Trail must be organised through the tribal cooperative of the Sinai Trail, which oversees all journeys on the route today. The Sinai Trail will also fix support for other parts of the Bedouin Trail, including the exit route from Wadi Sabbah to Nabq on the northern edge of Sharm el Sheikh and any transfers for urban sections, including those from Nuweiba to Ras Shetan and anywhere in Sharm el Sheikh at the end. Anybody thru hiking the Bedouin Trail must think carefully about the weather and how seasons will shift over the period of time it takes to traverse the passage from one end to the other. The Sinai Trail represents the highest section of the Bedouin Trail and its winters will be significantly colder than other parts of the passage in winter, with heavy snowfalls sometimes falling in St Katherine. December, January and February are the depths of the Sinai’s winter, with January usually the coldest month of all. Anybody who wants to avoid the winter should aim to finish the Sinai part of the Bedouin Trail by the end of November or to start it after the end of February. It takes around two weeks to traverse the first part of the Bedouin Trail from Petra to the Gulf of Aqaba via Wadi Rum. On the next section of the route in mainland Egypt, hikers will reach several high peaks on the Red Sea Mountain Trail but more time will be spent at lower, warmer elevations. Hikers who are prepared to hike in winter can hike the Bedouin Trail through a much wider seasonal window. Winter is a time with its own unique beauty in the region and a season in which a deep sense of solitude prevails all over the mountains.