Other route options
A classic thru hike is just one way to discover the Bedouin Trail. The Wadi Rum Trail, Sinai Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail all cover their home regions with a wide network of hiking trails, opening many possible ways through the passage. Hikers can adjust the route to make it a significantly longer, shorter, more easy or challenging passage, traversing the territories of more or less Bedouin tribes and following lines with a different historical appeal. One straightforward option is simply to follow the main circuits of the Wadi Rum Trail, Sinai Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail the opposite way to that taken by the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike route. If the Wadi Rum Trail is followed the opposite way around to the point it is exited to Aqaba it becomes five times shorter, but a lot more technically challenging, involving serious rock climbing up Bedouin hunting routes on Jebel Rum's towering east face. By contrast, the Red Sea Mountain Trail becomes significantly easier if its southern half is followed instead of its northern one, allowing hikers to avoid the demanding scrambling ascents of its three highest peaks. The Sinai Trail becomes more tribally diverse if it is followed the opposite way, with the lands of eight Bedouin tribes traversed as opposed to four. Secondary routes allow hikers to avoid the main circuits of each trail almost entirely, taking different ways through any given region and still accessing landscapes of great beauty and history. Hikers might also choose to avoid the Bedouin Trail thru hike altogether, walking each of its three main circuits as stand-alone thru hike routes in their own right instead; whilst this would not give one continuous intercontinental passage, it would allow hikers to go deeper into each constituent region of the path in Africa, Asia and the Sinai.
Wadi Rum Trail
After running south from Petra the Bedouin Trail connects with the Wadi Rum Trail in Wadi Um Ashreen, following its circuit main clockwise towards the east. It traverses the best of Wadi Rum's sandstone heartlands along with lesser-trodden tracts of outlying wilderness and crosses four mountains on the way, including Jordan's highest peak; the 1854m Jebel Um Adami. This is a 100km route that will take most hikers seven days to walk and whilst it shows the best of its region it also represents the long way around. An alternative is to follow the Wadi Rum Trail anti-clockwise to the west. Going this way to the point the Wadi Rum Trail is departed on its exit route to the Gulf of Aqaba is a short, 20km section that can be both easier or significantly more difficult than going the other way. A classic thru hike of the Wadi Rum Trail ends with a rock climbing traverse of Jebel Rum, whose sheer, eastern crags are descended with multiple long abseils. Following its circuit anti clockwise means these sheer crags have to be climbed up instead of abseiled down. Whilst the climbing routes up these crags are well-established all are serious, sustained and exposed rock climbs, requiring Bedouin guides and safety equipment. Hikers who want to follow the Wadi Rum Trail this way but avoid the rock climbing can take a walking passage through Jebel Rum's southern crags, via a Bedouin hamlet known as Abu Eina. Walking this part of the Wadi Rum Trail from Wadi Um Ashreen to the exit route for Aqaba goes involves passing Wadi Rum Village and will take one or two days. When done with rock climbing, two or three days. A network of secondary routes within the Wadi Rum Trail's main circuit allow hikers to take different lines through the region too. For more information, see Wadi Rum: Bedouin Trail.
Red Sea Mountain Trail
The Bedouin Trail aligns with the northern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail, joining it in Wadi Abu Zagat and following it over the high peaks of Jebel Shayib el Banat, Jebel Abu Dukhaan and Jebel Gattar. It is a 100km route involving nearly 5000m of ascent and a similar amount of descent that will take most hikers 10 days to complete and which counts as one of the most challenging sections of the Bedouin Trail, with steep scrambling and overnight bivvies on each of the three summits. A shorter, easier alternative is to follow the southern section of the Red Sea Mountain Trail; a 70km route that will take most hikers four days. This traverses, sweeping plains, narrow gorges and the peaks of Jebel Um Anab and Jebel Um Samyook, after which the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike route is regained. Secondary routes around the Red Sea Mountain Trail's main circuit offer more direct routes through the region. Approaching from Hurghada is a route that forks in two after passing an area known as El Farsh; one route passes the Roman town of Mons Porphyrites and takes a more northerly line through Egypt's Eastern Desert, with the other following a Roman road through Wadi Billi and continuing towards the old waystation of Deir el Atrash. A more southerly route crosses the sweeping plain of El Graygar and follows Wadi Abu Hassan el Iswid to rejoin the main Bedouin Trail thru hike route through the Eastern Desert before Deir Ghuza, allowing hikers on the southern parts of the Red Sea Mountain Trail to avoid ascending any peaks whatsoever. A more direct route runs through the central parts of the region, crossing the pass of El Thilma to Wadi Ghuza in a near-straight line from Hurghada, where the main Bedouin Trail thru hike route is regained. For more information on these options see RSMT: Bedouin Trail.
The Bedouin Trail thru hike route aligns with the first part of the Sinai Trail from Ras Shetan to Jebel Barqa, after which it continues on a secondary trail to St Katherine; from here it follows the western part of the Sinai Trail down to Wadi Sabbah, where an exit is made to the Nabq Protectorate on the Gulf of Aqaba. This is a 300km route that will take most hikers 20 days and shorter, longer, more challenging and tribally diverse routes can all be taken too. Hikers can avoid the first part of the route from Ras Shetan, moving onto the Sinai Trail directly from Nuweiba; this gives a shorter but less scenic route through the Sinai's coastal ranges to a peak called Jebel Mileihis, where the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike route is regained. Another option is to follow the main eastern section of the Sinai Trail south from Ras Shetan to Wadi Sabbah, via the pretty oasis of Ein Kidd. This is a shorter walk of 180km that will take most hikers 10 days; it is a beautiful, varied route scenically, but less diverse culturally, passing the lands of just two tribes. An altogether longer route can be taken by following the Sinai Trail's northern branch west from Ras Shetan to Serabit el Khadem, before traversing its western leg the entire length of the Sinai's mountain chain - crossing the highlands of St Katherine and summitting seven major peaks on the way - to Wadi Sabbah. This is a 370km route crossing the lands of all eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai that will take most hikers 34 days to complete. A Gulf to Gulf crossing of the Sinai can also be made by following the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike route, exiting its western section after passing Jebel Rimhan on a trail that leads to the town of El Tur via the beautiful narrow gorge of Wadi Isleh, where creeks trickle all year round. For more on all options see: Sinai Trail: Bedouin Trail.
The Bedouin Trail can be thru hiked on many different lines but at the same time, it does not have to be thru hiked at all. Hikers can avoid the intercontinental thru hike, focusing instead on any one of the three trail projects at its heart. The Wadi Rum Trail, Sinai Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail all function as independent hiking circuits that step by step, kilometre for kilometre and from one region to the next, show the absolute best of their homeland's landscapes, history and heritage to the world with. Each gives its own spectacular journey and hiking the trails in this way gives an alternative way of discovering the Bedouin deserts between Africa and Asia. Alternative routes exist for linking each one of the three main circuits to gateway towns along the way but the options are more limited and the routes currently taken by the Bedouin Trail represent both the best and sometimes only viable hiking options. Alternative routes exist between Petra and Wadi Rum, but none so scenic as that taken by the Bedouin Trail. Between Wadi Rum and Aqaba the best alternatives to the Bedouin Trail follow Wadi Saabit west from Jebel Um Adami to the Bedouin hamlet of Titin, from where the nearby coastal ranges are traversed more directly to Aqaba's port; this is a scenic area whose routes are well known to the Bedouin and an alternative exit can be arranged this way if it is fixed in advance. Routes of great beauty and history traverse Egypt's Eastern Desert between the Red Sea Mountain Trail and Nile Valley but Egypt's authorities mark most of the region off limits, making the current route followed by the Bedouin Trail - a 50km tarmac road between the upper parts of Wadi Qena and the town of Qena - the only viable option. When other areas open up, this part of the Bedouin Trail will be re-routed.