The Sinai Trail is Egypt’s 1st long distance hiking trail. It launched in 2015 as a 220km route, taking 12 days to complete, and involving three Bedouin tribes. The original trail ran from the Gulf of Aqaba to the top of Jebel Katherina – Egypt’s highest mountain – and was completed by hundreds of hikers from Egypt and around the world. It was voted the best new tourism project in the world at the BGTW Tourism Awards in 2016.
Later, in 2017, Wanderlust and Outdoors magazines both ranked it one of the world’s best new trails. The trail was successful, but the Bedouin behind it did not want to stop. They wanted to continue developing the trail it until it showed as much of the Sinai as possible and created opportunities for all its tribes.
Following two more years of work – and thousands of kilometers of exploration on foot – the three tribes who began the trail worked with other, new tribes to extend the route. Today, it is a 550km trail, taking 54 days to complete, involving eight tribes.
From the beginning, the aim of the Sinai Trail has always been the same. It is a community project that aims to support the region in tough times. Its mission is to create a sustainable tourism economy, in which legitimate jobs and opportunities paying fair wages are available to Bedouin communities in remote, marginalized areas. Bedouin work on the Sinai Trail in many occupations, including guides, cameleers and cooks. Today, the Sinai Trail gives regular work to nearly 50 people.
The Sinai Trail also aims to save the Sinai’s endangered Bedouin heritage.
Bedouin knowledge of the Sinai’s old ways, water sources, place names, legends, tribal history and culture is critically endangered in the modern era. Much has been lost as the Bedouin leave the desert to settle in urban communities like Nuweiba and St Katherine. The Sinai Trail helps make this knowledge relevant again: Bedouin working on the Sinai Trail use this knowledge in a real way. The Sinai Trail ensures it is passed between young and old as it always has been, keeping it alive.
Today, eight Bedouin tribes work on the Sinai Trail: these tribes are the Tarabin, Muzeina, Jebeleya, Awlad Said, Gararsha, Sowalha, Hamada and Alegat.
These tribes work in a co-operative, taking decisions collectively about issues that affect the Sinai Trail as a whole. When guiding on the Sinai Trail, each tribe is responsible for its area; and each tribe guides travellers through its territory to the borders of the next. It is over 100 years since all the tribes of South Sinai worked on a travelling route in the manner they do on the Sinai Trail today. The trail is reviving old history and alliances.
For the Sinai Trail to really support the Sinai, people need to know about it. If you have decided to walk part of the trail, you are already helping! We encourage everybody to spread the word as widely as possible; talk about it, share your pictures and stories, and let the world know is here! If the Sinai Trail grows, it will help more communities, creating opportunities, helping to preserve their ancient culture, and showing the world the beautiful side of the Sinai that is so rarely seen.