Minimum Impact Hiking
The Sinai is beautiful, and we want to keep it that way. Sustainable hiking is about leaving the landscape as you find it for others. Actually, on a Sinai Trail hike, we don’t just want you to leave the Sinai as you find it: where you can, where possible, we want you to leave it better than you find it. As you walk through the Sinai, remember its landscapes are home to Bedouin communities who use its water and plants, whether for their goats, camels or themselves, every day. The Bedouin will be in the Sinai long after we pass, and we must be aware that we are guests in their lands, giving their environment the full respect, it deserves. Below are some guidelines on how we can minimize our impact on this hike: these are extra important given that we will be walking in a group, rather than as individuals. Please stick to these guidelines and encourage all others to do the same.
Litter and waste
Litter takes a long time to decompose in the wilderness. Especially in a dry, desert environment like the Sinai. Plastic bags can take over 10 years, aluminium cans over 85 years, and glass bottles thousands of years. Please never drop litter on the Sinai Trail: not even small things, like ring pulls, matches, cigarette butts etc. Please give any litter to your guide, who will carry a rubbish bag. If you see any litter on the way, you won’t be obliged to pick it up, but you’ll be helping the region and setting an excellent example if you do. Where possible we will burn waste: at other times, we will carry it off trail. Never leave graffiti; do not write your name on any rocks, even with natural materials, like charcoal or mud.
Water is precious in the desert – every drop. Both its quantity and quality. Please treat it as the precious resource it is. First, don’t waste water, or use it for things that are unnecessary. Also, please remember water we find is often used for drinking by the Bedouin. With designated drinking sources, which we’ll pass and perhaps use, it’s important to keep them pristine. Don’t wash hands, or faces, or brush teeth in them etc. Small cans by drinking sources are for scooping water out. Do not submerge drinking bottles in water sources. If you’re not sure whether a source is a drinking source or if you have doubts on how to use it, ask your guide.
Respect local wildlife
Desert wildlife has narrow margins for survival and is sensitive to disturbance, so there’s an extra onus to respect it. Don’t pick wild herbs or flowers; insects live in them, herbivores graze on them, and some are critically endangered now. Take care not to tread on plants and avoid taking shortcuts between trails: this erodes slopes, which is bad for plants. Please don’t feed wildlife as it weans them out of natural foraging and predation habits, which they need to survive. Don’t linger around any wildlife, or make noise, especially if it has young. Human presence is stressful for wild animals and we must give animals all due respect.
Going to the toilet
There are only a few spots with designated toilets on the Sinai Trail: even then, they are basic, hole-in-the-ground toilets. When you need to go to the toilet, please find a secluded spot – e.g. behind a boulder – at least 100m from the nearest water source. For solid excrement, try to dig a small trench with the heel of your boot and bury it as deep as you can, ideally over 30cm below the surface (this is easier done in sandy areas). Otherwise, cover the excrement with rocks. Carry a cigarette lighter and burn any toilet paper you use on the spot – it can often burn even if wet – or put it in a sealable plastic bag to carry it out. Please always tell your guide or leader if you are taking a toilet break, so they can ensure you don’t get separated from the group.
Support local communities
We have the privilege of going to remote places and interacting with communities most tourists will never see. We ask hikers to dress according to local norms, wearing long trousers to cover legs like the Bedouin do. Permission should be asked before taking photos of local people, especially Bedouin women. Occasionally, we will visit Bedouin camps. Sometimes, Bedouin women and children may sell handicrafts on the hike. These are locally made and buying something small helps preserve traditional skills and supports people in tough times. As far as we can on a Sinai Trail trip, food you eat is sourced locally, from local producers in the Sinai. The Sinai Trail is also developing a line of products – including traditional handicrafts and local produce from Bedouin gardens such as mountain honey and olive oil – that you can buy at the end of your trip. Local people are paid a fair wage to produce these products and profits will go to the Sinai Trail Bedouin Cooperative, allowing it to continue its work in developing the trail and supporting the Bedouin communities along it.