Red Sea Mountain Trail
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is a 170km, 14 day hiking circuit in the northern parts of Egypt's Eastern Desert. Traversing the vast, sweeping wilderness between the River Nile and the Red Sea it stands outside the modern town of Hurghada and takes hikers on a challenging journey over the highest peaks in mainland Egypt. It was developed over five years by Bedouin of the Khushmaan - one clan of a bigger tribe known as the Maaza - and opened to the world in 2019. Tourism was not new in this part of Egypt; it had existed before the Red Sea Mountain Trail was created but mostly a mass market, package kind of tourism focusing on hotels and beaches on the Red Sea. The majestic mountain wilderness further inland was little more than a backdrop and the Bedouin remained sidelined in the industry; they took mostly low paid service roles in purpose-built tourism camps framed as traditional Bedouin villages to which quad bike tours would be run by outside operators. The Red Sea Mountain Trail was created to go beyond this kind of tourism, in the belief things could be better. It sets out to give a way into one of the great wildernesses of the world; one that still remains almost entirely off the adventure tourism map and virtually unseen by outsiders. One of its goals is to create a kind of tourism in which the Bedouin are legitimate industry leaders and to open a space in which the great depth and beauty of their age old Arab culture can be better shared and understood. The Red Sea Mountain Trail has been hiked by people from all around the world and is one of Egypt's leading community tourism initiatives. It is headed by the Bedouin Sheikh of the Khushmaan and it is usually the last of the three sister trails to be hiked on the 1200km passage along the Bedouin Trail.
Bedouin of the Eastern Desert
The Red Sea Mountains are one of the great ranges of Africa and the Middle East; a chain of high, jagged peaks that rise in the northern parts of Egypt's Eastern Desert running almost the full length of its Red Sea coast towards Sudan. Peoples practising a nomadic way of life have moved in these deserts since the earliest ages and the region is the homeland of a Bedouin tribe called the Maaza today. The Maaza trace their roots to the Arabian Peninsula, where they are known as the Bani Atiya, and branches of the tribe, with a common Arab heritage and identity, still live in Saudi Arabia and Wadi Rum today. Beyond the Maaza's southern borders is a tribe called the Ababda. Nearer to Sudan are the Bisharin, who have different traditions and a language of African origin.
Highlights of the trail
The Red Sea Mountain Trail traverses a wilderness that remains little-known and virtually unvisited by outsiders. Tourism of this kind is new here and its landscapes are much less trodden than those of the Sinai Trail and Wadi Rum Trail; its greatest point of difference and perhaps appeal. A deep sense of solitude prevails all over and hikers will pass everything from dramatic gorges to water-filled canyons, whaleback summits and jagged peaks like Jebel Shayib el Banat; the highest mountain in mainland Egypt. Petroglyphs of giraffes and lions, prehistoric leopard traps, 2000 year-old Roman forts and the hermit cells of early Christians fleeing persecution by faraway Emperors dot the trail too, showing a more human side of a region whose story is mostly untold.
The Bedouin Trail
The Bedouin Trail integrates the northern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail's circuit, running 100km between Wadi Abu Zagat and Wadi Ghuza. The route summits Jebel Shayib el Banat, Jebel Abu Dukhaan and Jebel Gattar - three of mainland Egypt's highest peaks - and additional trail sections connect it to Hurghada on the Red Sea and the Nile Valley. Walking between Hurghada and the Red Sea Mountain Trail involves a day's hike over a wide plain. On the Luxor side the route traverses a 2000 year-old Roman road between Wadi Ghuza and the upper parts of Wadi Qena. This is where the wilderness and modern, settled parts of the Bedouin Trail meet. Hikers continue from here to the Nile Valley, which is traversed to Luxor. For more see Bedouin Trail: Thru Hike.