The Sinai Trail is Egypt's first-ever long distance hiking trail. It opened in 2015 as a 220km trail connecting the Gulf of Aqaba with the high mountains of St Katherine, taking 12 days to walk and crossing the territories of three Bedouin tribes. Three years later in 2018 it was extended into a 550km trail taking 48 days to complete, which traversed the lands of all eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai. The Sinai Trail was developed by Bedouin tribes as a community tourism initiative and it remains locally owned and managed today, with an intertribal cooperative of eight tribes overseeing its operations. Every tribe on the Sinai Trail guides hikers through its own territory to the borders of the next tribe, which then takes over; this coming-together was a historic moment for the Sinai, representing the first time its tribes had collaborated on a travelling route in this way for over 100 years. The Sinai Trail was founded in perhaps the hardest chapter Egypt's tourism has ever known; a time in which the country was recovering from years of civil unrest and revolution, with an insurgency unfolding in the northern parts of the peninsula. Tourism collapsed but offering a journey that showed a more positive, hopeful and ultimately more accurate side of a misunderstood region with its Bedouin tribes, the Sinai Trail blossomed in adversity to become Egypt's flagship adventure tourism project. It has today been hiked by hundreds of people from all around the world, boosting a grassroots tourism economy in some of Egypt's most remote, marginalised deserts, creating a kind of work that helps keep the region's endangered cultural heritage alive and inspiring the development of its Bedouin-led sister projects; the Red Sea Mountain Trail in mainland Egypt and Jordan's newly-opened Wadi Rum Trail.
Bedouin of the Sinai
The Sinai is home to more than 20 Bedouin tribes, most of whom trace their origins to the neighbouring deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. These tribes have been present in the region for many centuries and modern borders transect some of their territories today, often dividing single tribes between two separate nations. North Sinai is home to the majority of the region's tribes. Eight tribes hold land in South Sinai, all of whom form part of a historical tribal alliance known as the Towara. The Sinai Trail crosses the lands of all these tribes, who own the project collectively today, managing it in an intertribal cooperative in which each one is equally represented. Amongst them are the Tarabin, Muzeina, Jebeleya, Awlad Said, Garasha, Sowalha, Hamada and Alegat.
Sinai Trail: highlights
The Sinai Trail runs through the heart of the world's most fabled wilderness, traversing everything from winding canyons to vast, sweeping sand deserts, deep, shadowy gorges, lush hidden oases and iconic peaks, such as the holy summits of Mount Sinai and Jebel Katherina; Egypt's highest mountain. Hikers traverse a travelling passage of great antiquity through which early humans walked out of Africa, following sections of ancient pilgrim routes to St Katherine, Jerusalem and Mecca and passing everything from prehistoric tombs to temples of the Pharaohs, mountain-top Ottoman palaces and Byzantine monasteries. The Sinai Trail links natural and historic highlights together and gives a way through the lands of different tribes, showing the absolute best of its region.
The Bedouin Trail
The Sinai Trail represents the key, middle section of the Bedouin Trail; the bridge between its African and Asian sections. The Bedouin Trail follows an interior, secondary route of the Sinai Trail from Ras Shetan on the Gulf of Aqaba to the highlands of St Katherine; actually the original 220km pathway the Sinai Trail took when it opened in 2015. It then aligns with the western section of the Sinai Trail following it to the southernmost tip of its main circuit in Wadi Sabbah, where an additional route connects it to Sharm. The full 550km circuit of the Sinai Trail crosses the lands of eight tribes but the sections integrated by the Bedouin Trail cross the territories of four; the Muzeina, Awlad Said, Jebeleya and Tarabin. For more information, see Bedouin Trail: Thru Hike.