Bedouin Trail: a thru hike
The Bedouin Trail is a travelling passage running 1200km between Africa and Asia, of which most can be hiked. It brings the Wadi Rum Trail, Sinai Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail together into an intercontinental hiking route, aligning with extended sections of each and connecting them to gateway towns, through which hikers travel between different parts of the passage. The traditional territories of seven Bedouin tribes are traversed on the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike, with the lands of 11 tribes crossed if alternative ways are taken. It is a guided hiking route, with every Bedouin tribe guiding hikers through its lands to the borders of the next, whose tribesmen then take over. Anybody thru hiking the Bedouin Trail will traverse some of the most beautiful, fabled wilderness in the Middle East, from the majestic sandstone massifs of the Hisma Desert and the foothills of the Hejaz in Jordan to the rugged highlands of the Sinai, the foreboding ranges of Egypt's Red Sea Mountains and the vast, sweeping wadis that wind through its Eastern Desert to the banks of the River Nile. It is a walk of extraordinary length and beauty that seeks to show the great depth, diversity and beauty the Middle East's Bedouin heritage between different regions, nations and continents. As well as walking Bedouin deserts, hikers will cross areas where some of the earliest kingdoms of the settled world first emerged and will also traverse the great intercontinental corridor through which our ancestors first walked out of Africa, continuing on journeys over many thousands of generations to the farthest flung horizons of the world. A thru hike of the Bedouin Trail is a unique journey that will illuminate the rich culture of Bedouin tribes across the region, whilst also telling a broader origin story of humanity itself.
The Bedouin Trail runs between Africa and Asia, linking the ancient Nabataean capital of Petra in Jordan with the legendary Pharaonic kingdoms of Luxor in Egypt. As a travelling passage it totals 1200km from end to end; 900km if crossings of the Red Sea and urban sections through gateway towns are excluded. At 900km, the Bedouin Trail is the longest hiking route in the Arab World and the first modern passage of its kind to go between Africa and Asia. Thru hiking the 900km route will take most hikers a minimum of 55 days; not including rest stops. Nevertheless, most hikers will need to break between different sections of the route and if 10 rest days are factored in from beginning to end a window of around 65 days - around two and a half months - should be given for thru hiking the Bedouin Trail end-to-end. Hikers who want to complete every walkable part of the passage on foot including urban sections would need an extra week, making for a 70 day traverse at a minimum. The Bedouin Trail can be hiked in either direction, from Luxor to Petra or the opposite way. The easier of the two options is to start in Petra and head south to Luxor. Petra stands 1000m above sea level with hikers starting high and descending to the coasts of the Gulf of Aqaba after passing Wadi Rum. Starting from Luxor involves more uphill. Moving from the newer capital of Petra to the older kingdoms of the Pharaohs feels like a slow walk back in time and brings hikers to the River Nile at the end of the passage which, with all its water and lush greenery, feels more striking and special after a long approach in the desert wilderness. Every part of the Bedouin Trail must be hiked with Bedouin tribes, except for the last section through the Nile Valley.
Wadi Rum Trail
The Wadi Rum Trail is a 120km, 10 day hiking circuit that centres squarely on the deserts of Wadi Rum in southern Jordan. It traverses the territories of the Howaytat and Anaza tribes, although three other tribes also live in their lands, including the Billi, Tarabin and Bani Atiya. Hikers walking the Bedouin Trail from Petra will connect with the northern parts of the Wadi Rum Trail in Wadi Um Ashreen before following its circuit clockwise, towards the east. Hikers continue around the Wadi Rum Trail for 100km, traversing the best of the wider region; from the majestic heartlands of Wadi Rum to a remote tract of tablelands in the east known as the Juloof. The 1854m summit of Jebel Um Adami - Jordan's highest peak - is scaled near the border with Saudi Arabia before hikers finally move up the Wadi Rum Trail's western section to Wadi Abu Baytherana, where an exit is made onto a 50km route leading through the Hejaz mountains to Aqaba. The Bedouin Trail aligns with almost the whole of the Wadi Rum Trail, missing only the very first section on which a rugged pass known as Um Ejil is crossed from Wadi Rum Village to Wadi Um Ashreen and its final section: a climbing and abseiling traverse of Jebel Rum. This is a stretch of the Bedouin Trail that will take most hikers seven days to walk and whilst no rock climbing is involved and scrambling sections can all be avoided it is nevertheless a challenging hike involving around 4000m of ascent and a similar amount of descent. The Wadi Rum Trail is a project harnessed to the Bedouin community of Wadi Rum Village upon which any of its five tribes can work. For more information on organising this section, see Wadi Rum: Bedouin Trail. For more on the exit route towards Aqaba see Bedouin Trail: Petra & Aqaba.
Red Sea Mountain Trail
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is a 170km, 14 day hiking circuit that traverses the highest summits in mainland Egypt and which centres in the territory of a Bedouin tribe known as the Maaza. The Bedouin Trail follows the northern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail and is a 100km route that will take most hikers 10 days to complete. The Bedouin Trail runs west from the outskirts of Hurghada to join the Red Sea Mountain Trail in Wadi Abu Zagat. Hikers continue over a rugged pass to Wadi Abu Eren, from where an ascent is made of Jebel Shayib el Banat; mainland Egypt's highest mountain at 2187m. Hikers descend to the plains of Um Anfia, moving north and crossing a high mountain pass to the Roman quarrying settlement of Mons Porphyrites, whose town and temple are still standing today. The high peak of Jebel Abu Dukhaan is traversed next with the route continuing south towards Jebel Gattar; a spectacular granite massif whose whaleback summits are crossed to the south. A descent of Jebel Gattar brings hikers to the deep, winding gorge of Wadi Ghuza, where the Bedouin Trail exits the Red Sea Mountain Trail. It continues west on a 70km, three day route that traverses the vast sweeping plains of Egypt's Eastern Desert to the upper parts of Wadi Qena, which leads down to the Nile Valley. Alternative routes allow the Red Sea Mountain Trail to be departed earlier or later, with different lines taken towards the Nile too. Getting to Wadi Abu Zagat from Hurghada involves a 15km journey through the town, followed by a 30km walk over the coastal plain of El Qa, which can be done in one, long day. The town section is best accelerated in local transport and 4x4s can also be used to cross El Qa. For more, see RSMT: Bedouin Trail.
Bedouin Trail: Petra to Rum
This is a 140km section of the Bedouin Trail that will take most hikers six days to walk. It runs almost entirely through the territory of the Howaytat - one of the biggest, most widely dispersed Bedouin tribes of the Middle East - and will be the first section hikers complete after Petra. It begins with a walk through the dark, shadowy chasm of a gorge known as the Siq, which leads from the modern town of Wadi Musa to the heart of ancient Petra. Hikers go south from Petra, entering a tract of labyrinthine badlands that divide the high tablelands of the Sharah Mountains in the east from the vast, sweeping lowlands of Wadi Araba to the west. Known as 'El Haddab', this is an area of extraordinary geological variety that represents one of the most scenically diverse, beautiful parts of entire Bedouin Trail. The Bedouin Trail follows the most spectacular line through it, traversing winding wadis, rugged passes, colourful sandstone cliffs, winding, dramatic canyons and high peaks, over the course of four days. A winding gorge known as Wadi Haymir leads out of El Haddab to a Bedouin hamlet called Humeima, which stands in the northernmost fringes of the Hisma; a huge desert of rugged sandstone massifs and sweeping red dunes of which the greater part stands in Saudi Arabia today. The Bedouin Trail continues south towards Wadi Rum, winding past rock bridges, petroglyphs and ancient inscriptions. The deserts of Wadi Rum will be reached by most hikers in two long days, with the Bedouin Trail joining the main stretch of the Wadi Rum Trail in Wadi Um Ashreen before following its circuit 100km, going clockwise to Wadi Abu Baytherana. For more information on the Petra section, see Bedouin Trail: Petra & Aqaba.
The Sinai Trail is a 550km, 48 day hiking trail traversing the territories of eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai. The Bedouin Trail aligns with the first part of the Sinai Trail's circuit, following it from Ras Shetan to a peak called Jebel Barqa, after which a secondary route is joined towards the highlands of St Katherine; actually, the original 220km route the Sinai Trail followed when it opened in 2015. From St Katherine, the Bedouin Trail aligns with the western section of the Sinai Trail, following it to the southernmost point of the circuit in Wadi Sabbah, where an exit is made onto a new route running down to the Nabq Protectorate on the Gulf of Aqaba. The Bedouin Trail section of the Sinai Trail is a 300km route that will take most hikers 20 days to walk. The exit route connecting it to the Gulf of Aqaba is 30km and requires a two day walk. Hikers will cross the territories of four Bedouin tribes on the route including the Tarabin, Muzeina, Jebeleya and Awlad Said. Rugged coastal mountains, sweeping sandstone deserts, winding wadis and shadowy gorges are all traversed, along with the holy peak of Mount Sinai and Jebel Katherina; the highest mountain in Egypt and anywhere on the Bedouin Trail at 2642m. Most thru hikers will arrive in the Sinai at Nuweiba, coming by sea. Ras Shetan is 20km north of Nuweiba and getting between the two is best done in local transport. An alternative trail leads more directly onto the Sinai Trail from Nuweiba, but it misses the beautiful first section of the route from Ras Shetan. At the other end hikers will arrive in the Nabq Protectorate, on the northern edge of Sharm. Getting to downtown Sharm is another 35km urban stretch that can be done in local transport. For more, see Sinai: Bedouin Trail.
Bedouin Trail: Nile Valley
The Nile Valley is the lush, fertile ribbon of land that borders the River Nile and the Bedouin Trail traverses an 80km stretch of it between Qena and Luxor. A realm of irrigated fields, countryside roads, sleepy hamlets, bustling villages and bigger towns dotted with mosques, monasteries and ancient monuments, the Nile Valley is a unique part of the Bedouin Trail, usually traversed at the end of the 1200km passage. This area is one of the great historic cradles of settled civilisation, where humanity took some of its earliest, most important steps in switching from a nomadic to a sedentary way of life. People began to sedentarise here thousands of years ago, with the first known settled cultures emerging around 4400BC. Over the millennia that followed the legendary kingdoms of the Pharaohs would blossom, re-shaping the entire world around them and laying the foundations for the development of the settled societies in which most of us now live. Moving from the desert to the Nile Valley feels like going between two different worlds; it is a transition that illuminates one of the age old cultural divides in humanity and which completes the wider human story the Bedouin Trail seeks to tell. From Wadi Ghuza on the Red Sea Mountain Trail, hikers move 70km through Egypt's Eastern Desert to the upper parts of Wadi Qena. The next section involves following a road 50km down Wadi Qena to the town of Qena, on the banks of the River Nile and is a section most hikers will accelerate with transportation. The Nile Valley section between Qena and Luxor is a part of the Bedouin Trail with no fixed route that can be travelled independently, by different means. For more on this part of the route, see Bedouin Trail: Nile Valley.
Towns & sea passages
The Bedouin Trail is an intercontinental travelling passage with sections in Africa, Asia and the Sinai and hikers will cross the Red Sea twice along the way. Two passages are made over or around the Red Sea, including one between Jordan and the Sinai and another between the Sinai and mainland Egypt. Altogether, 150km of the 1200km route is travelled over sea. Travelling sections through intermediary gateway towns such as Aqaba, Nuweiba, Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada account for another 150km, meaning the desert hiking sections of the route amount to around 900km in total. Ferry crossings between Jordan and Egypt are generally reliable; they will only be cancelled in the event of bad weather and can be booked on the day of travel. The sea passage between Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada is currently suspended but is said to be returning soon so check for updates. One alternative to the sea passage between Jordan and Egypt is an overland route via Eilat in Israel but this is mostly closed to hikers of Arab nationalities and even for those who can cross, the Egyptian border at Taba only issues 14 day visas valid for travel on the Sinai's east coast, making the sea passage the best overall option for thru hikers. If the sea passage between Sharm and Hurghada is not open the best option is a bus from Sharm to Cairo, then Cairo to Hurghada, with a night's break in between. Egypt Air also operate a direct flight between Sharm and Hurghada taking 25 minutes. Travelling through gateway towns along the route is best done using transport and with the Bedouin Trail usually arriving or departing from obscure suburbs on the outskirts of these towns the best option is to fix transfers through the Bedouin organisers who will support adjacent desert sections of the route.
THRU HIKE: A QUICK OUTLINE
PETRA TO WADI RUM: The Bedouin Trail starts from Wadi Musa; the modern town adjoining Petra. Going between Petra & Wadi Rum is a 140km section of the Bedouin Trail that will take most hikers six days.
WADI RUM TRAIL: The Bedouin Trail connects with the northern parts of the Wadi Rum Trail in Wadi Um Ashreen, following it clockwise for 100km. This section will take most hikers seven days.
TO AQABA: The Bedouin Trail exits the Wadi Rum Trail in Wadi Abu Baytherana, following a 50km, two day route down to Aqaba. It brings hikers to Aqaba's northern suburbs, from where a 20km urban journey must be made into town. Fix taxis with Bedouin operators ahead.
TO NUWEIBA: The Gulf of Aqaba is crossed to Nuweiba. Ferries depart Aqaba daily & hikers cross the border between Jordan & Egypt.
TO RAS SHETAN: A 20km journey must be made north on roads to Ras Shetan. Use local buses or fix a taxi with the Sinai Trail.
SINAI TRAIL: The Bedouin Trail follows a 300km section of the Sinai Trail from Ras Shetan to Wadi Sabbah. This is the longest single section of the Bedouin Trail & will take most hikers 20 days.
TO SHARM EL SHEIKH: The Bedouin Trail exits the Sinai Trail in Wadi Sabbah, following a 30km, two day route to the Nabq Protectorate on the northern edge of Sharm. It is a 35km journey into downtown Sharm. Fix taxi pick ups with the Sinai Trail ahead.
SHARM EL SHEIKH TO HURGHADA: If ferries are operational, the Red Sea can be crossed to Hurghada. If not, buses via Cairo or short, direct flights between Sharm & Hurghada are the best options.
HURGHADA TO THE RED SEA MOUNTAIN TRAIL: A 15km journey is made through Hurghada to the desert edge. After this, a 30km, long day's hike leads to Wadi Abu Zagat on the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Fix Hurghada taxis through the Red Sea Mountain Trail.
RED SEA MOUNTAIN TRAIL: The Bedouin Trail joins the Red Sea Mountain Trail in Wadi Abu Zagat, following its northern half around anticlockwise on a 100km route that will take most hikers 10 days.
TO WADI QENA The Bedouin Trail exits the Red Sea Mountain Trail in Wadi Ghuza, following a 70km, three day route to Wadi Qena.
NILE VALLEY: A road leads 50km down Wadi Qena to Qena, for which the Red Sea Mountain Trail can fix a taxi. Walking from Qena to Luxor will take around three days & can be travelled in other ways too.