Which way should I walk?
The Bedouin Trail can be hiked in either direction but it is recommended hikers start in Petra, going towards Luxor. Petra stands elevated at 1000m, meaning the first part towards the Gulf of Aqaba involves more downhill. Going this way feels like a slow walk back in time from newer to older civilisations and ending on the lush, banks of the River Nile after a long desert approach is extra special.
Does it all go overland?
Do I have to walk urban parts?
No. These sections might appeal to committed foot travellers seeking to walk as much of the intercontinental passage between Africa and Asia as possible but most hikers will prefer to accelerate them in local transport. The present reality means whatever way hikers move between Africa and Asia towns must be passed but they serve primarily as gateways between different sections.
What if the ferry is closed?
No. The Red Sea has to be crossed twice on the Bedouin Trail. Once from Aqaba in Jordan to Nuweiba in the Sinai & once from Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai to Hurghada, in mainland Egypt. Two ferries connects Jordan with the Sinai & whilst one used to run between Sharm & Hurghada it stopped in 2020. This offers a quick passage between the two cities and is said to be returning soon.
Can I take a private boat?
Perhaps, but not easily. Some commercial diving boats have licences to take tourists between the Red Sea reefs of Sharm & Hurghada but special permits must be made weeks in advance; a slow, bureaucratic process that most will prefer to avoid. Hiring a private boat will also be expensive & would only become affordable for a bigger group splitting the costs of a journey between them.
Do I have to thru hike it all?
The ferry between Aqaba & Nuweiba is reliable & sails daily except in storms. If it is closed, an overland route exists to the Sinai via Israel. If the ferry between Sharm & Hurghada is closed the best option is a GO BUS service from Sharm to Cairo, then another one from Cairo to Hurghada, perhaps with a night in between. Each leg is around eight hours. Egypt Air also operate flights.
Are there other foot routes?
None that are feasible. Crossing between Africa and Asia by foot is appealing, but tricky. The age old overland route goes from Aqaba in Jordan to Suez in Egypt via Nakhl in central Sinai, but it remains officially off limits to walkers, both foreign and Egyptian. North Sinai has old overland routes but is also off limits with some areas unsafe. The Bedouin Trail gives the best modern route.
How long will it take?
No. Only a minority of hikers will consider traversing the entire intercontinental passage in a single thru hike. One option is to thru hike it over several visits; the Asian section in Jordan could be hiked on the first visit, the Sinai section on the next with the trail in Africa and mainland Egypt done at the end. Highlight sections in each region could also be done on one accelerated visit.
Is the East or West Bank best?
The Nile's East Bank has more transport links including trains and buses. The West Bank feels quieter. Each has its own historical sites, but those of the West Bank are more impressive before Luxor is reached, especially the Temple of Dendera. Several monasteries stand on the West Bank too. A good crossing point exists between the two banks at Qift giving a superb passage through both.
Travelling the entire 1200km intercontinental passage of the Bedouin Trail will take most hikers around 65 days. This includes walking days for every wilderness section of the route including sections connecting its main three hiking circuits to the edge of nearby towns. It includes two days for sea passages and 10 rest days along the way. It assumes urban sections will be done in local transport.
What other ways to the Nile?
The Bedouin Trail traverses Egypt's Eastern Desert from Red Sea Mountain Trail to the upper parts of Wadi Qena, where a road is followed down to Qena in the Nile Valley. Alternative routes of great beauty & history exist through the Eastern Desert but Egypt's authorities keep large parts of the region off-limits, making them unfeasible. If and when it opens up, a new route will be developed.
Are there climbing sections?
On the main thru hike route of the Bedouin Trail, no. The Wadi Rum Trail involves a climbing section on Jebel Rum but the Bedouin Trail exits for Aqaba before this is reached. Climbing is involved only if hikers follow the Wadi Rum Trail west where the Bedouin Trail joins it from Petra, but this can be avoided on an easy walking route, as can every difficult section of scrambling.
Can I avoid difficult parts?
Yes. Every section of scrambling and other technical difficulty on the Bedouin Trail is 100% avoidable. Easier walking routes give alternatives around tricky sections, always traversing similarly spectacular landscapes. The whole route can be done as a more straightforward hike with adaptations made en route according to how any hiker feels at the time, rather than being set in advance.
What about scrambling?
Scrambling is found across the Bedouin Trail. The Red Sea Mountain Trail is an especially rugged route on which steep, exposed scrambling is involved on several sections including Jebel Shayib. Bolts have been inserted to ensure they can be protected with ropes. The Wadi Rum Trail section has exposed scrambles too, most of which are also bolted, making rope protection easy.
Can I walk it independently?
Generally, independent hiking is allowed in all areas of Jordan. Everything is different in Egypt, where it is for the most part forbidden. Whether hiking sections of the Bedouin Trail in Jordan or Egypt, the route was created to be guided by Bedouin tribes of each area and hikers should always use Bedouin support. The Nile Valley section of the route can be travelled independently.
How do I organise a hike?
It depends which part of the Bedouin Trail you want to hike. Hikes on the Red Sea Mountain Trail and Sinai Trail sections must be fixed through the tribal organisations managing them. The Wadi Rum Trail sections can be organised by Bedouin from Wadi Rum Village. Between Wadi Rum and Petra, several Bedouin groups organise support. The Nile Valley can be travelled independently.
Which part is the hardest?
Generally, the Red Sea Mountain Trail section. The Red Sea Mountains are an aggressive range in which ascents are bigger, steeper & rougher. Some parts of the route involve exposed scrambles, usually done with backpacks. The Wadi Rum Trail has short, exposed scrambles & sections on sand but is generally easier. The Sinai Trail has steep, rough sections but is overall a little gentler.
What is the most historic?
Are there other route options?
Yes. The classic thru hike route of the Bedouin Trail follows the main circuits of its three sister trail projects one way around. These circuits can be followed in the opposite direction too. Secondary routes within the wider network of trails around each circuit give other options. The Bedouin Trail is a wide corridor & hikers can combine its many routes to take their own special line through.
Which is the most beautiful?
Everybody sees it differently. Wadi Rum is a unique region of majestic sandstone massifs & rippling red sands. The Sinai is a diverse land of wide deserts & high, fabled & holy peaks. The Red Sea Mountains have a harsh, jagged & foreboding beauty. The Eastern Desert is a realm of vast, sweeping plains & the most varied, colourful section of all is between Petra & Wadi Rum.
And what about the holiest?
Petra, Wadi Rum, the Monastery of St Katherine & ancient Luxor are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Eastern Desert is rich in Roman roads, towns & temples. Nabataean history is visible in Jordan & also the Sinai & Egypt. Early Christian sites are found in the Sinai & Red Sea Mountains & prehistoric tombs & ancient inscriptions all over. Every region is unique & historically connected.
Which part is the highest?
The mountains of the Sinai, with Jebel Katherina the highest point at 2642m. The Red Sea Mountains are a little lower, with the 2187m Jebel Shayib the highest peak in mainland Egypt. Wadi Rum is elevated at 1000m but it has the lowest peaks, with Jebel Um Adami the highest at 1854m. The Bedouin Trail traverses the three highest peaks in Jordan, the Sinai & mainland Egypt.
What about bad weather?
The Sinai is the Biblical Wilderness of the Wanderings & one of the most fabled lands on earth. Mount Sinai is a holy peak for Jews, Christians & Muslims & many parts of the Sinai resonate with legends of The Exodus. Petra is home to Biblical sites such as Ein Musa - The Springs of Moses - & Jebel Haroon; Aaron's Mountain. Each part of the path has its own, sometimes competing traditions.
Are there dangerous animals?
Yes, but encounters are rare. Scorpions and snakes are active mostly in hot months. Take care when picking up rocks or firewood and when walking or sitting near trees or bushes. Keep tents zipped up & do not lay sleeping bags out until sleeping. Wolves & hyenas are present across the whole trail but almost never approach people. Shepherd dogs can be aggressive & are a bigger risk.
What if there's an emergency?
Bad weather can come. Flash floods are dangerous & must be taken seriously in every season, especially when hiking narrow wadis. Winter storms can blow in, limiting visibility & giving spells of rain and snow lasting days, especially in mountain regions. Springtime sandstorms can limit visibility too. Check long-term forecasts when you can, listen to guides & always carry waterproofs.
Is there phone reception?
The Bedouin Trail runs deep into wilderness areas where there is no phone signal & where help is always faraway. Air rescues might happen in Jordan but do not expect them to come fast. Any kind of official rescue in Egypt's deserts is unlikely. The Bedouin will handle first aid & evacuations as best they can but in remote areas these can take at least two days. Be aware of the extra risks.
Is water safe to drink on trail?
Mostly, no. The Bedouin Trail is a wilderness route & hikers remain mostly off grid in both Jordan & Egypt. Only a few areas have a phone signal. Even then, it is variable; sometimes strong, often absent. Orange has the best signal in Jordan's deserts; in the wilderness of Egypt, Vodafone. Satellite phones are illegal in Egypt. GPS devices that can communicate are the best option.
Are there any good maps?
Very few. Topographical maps at a suitable scale for navigation are hard to find for Egypt & Jordan. The best publicly available maps are Soviet ones, which can be found at various scales including 1:50,000 on the website Vlasenko Maps. The downside is these are all in Cyrillic. Public satellite imagery of the kind available on Google Earth can be extremely useful for navigation too.
Is there power for charging?
Outside gateway towns, generally not. For the most part there are no camps, villages or other amenities on desert sections, except for a few Bedouin camps on the Wadi Rum Trail. There are two main options: re-stock batteries in gateway towns or buy a solar panel to charge devices on the trail. Most days are sunny and solar panels can be strapped on a backpack, to charge when walking.
Can solo women hike?
Sexual harassment is a problem in urban parts of Egypt, but not so much in Jordan. Walking with the Bedouin is different. They are a traditional, conservative people whose reputations matter in a small community & this breeds a natural respect & reverence towards women hikers. When guides are arranged officially through tribal organisations, women should have no concerns.
Wells, dripping springs & other types of water source dot the Bedouin Trail, usually spaced a few days apart. The Bedouin drink from these sources & hikers can use them too, but we recommend treating them with some kind of purification system to be extra safe. Generally, the Bedouin support team on any hike will bring a sufficient quantity of bottled mineral water for each trail section.
Are there other ways to travel?
Camels can be ridden on some sections. Hikers who want to go on camels will need to hire extra ones to those used for porterage & will often traverse different paths more suitable for riding. The Sinai Trail & Red Sea Mountain Trail have sections that can be mountain biked & Wadi Rum is good fat biking country. On the Nile Valley section many different forms of transport can be used.
Is there vegetarian food?
Bedouin support teams handle cooking across different sections of the Bedouin Trail. They are used to catering for vegetarians, vegans, people with gluten intolerance & other kinds of diets but it is important to make any special requirements known well before organising a trip so everything can be fixed. Whatever you eat, Bedouin cooking is generally excellent, with meals a highlight.
How busy will the trail get?
Only a few parts will ever be busy. Hundreds of pilgrims hike to Mount Sinai's summit at sunrise. Wadi Rum & its sandstone heartlands can get busy with 4x4 tours too. Other sections of the route are much more little-trodden & it is common to go days without seeing anybody; when people are found they will usually be local Bedouin. Autumn & springtime are the busiest, peak seasons.