Bedouin Trail: who are we?
Th Bedouin Trail has three, Bedouin-created hiking trails at its heart: the Wadi Rum Trail in Jordan, the Red Sea Mountain Trail in mainland Egypt and the Sinai Trail in between. The Sinai Trail was the first to open, launching in 2015; the Red Sea Mountain Trail followed in 2019, with the Wadi Rum Trail the last to be inaugurated in early 2023. Each was created as a grassroots, community tourism initiative in its home region and all are managed by their own tribal organisations today. The Wadi Rum Trail is harnessed to the families of five Bedouin tribes from Wadi Rum Village and the management of the trail project is overseen by one of the region's Sheikhs. The Red Sea Mountain Trail is managed by a tribal organisation headed by a Sheikh from the Khushmaan clan of the Maaza tribe, in whose lands the trail is centred. The Sinai Trail is managed by an intertribal cooperative of eight Bedouin tribes, all of whom have an equal say in its operation, taking decisions by majority vote. The Wadi Rum Trail, Red Sea Mountain Trail and Sinai Trail have been loosely connected as sister projects from the very beginning, with each supporting the development and growth of the other in contexts that have often been challenging for tourism. The Bedouin Trail represents a more formal coming together of the three projects, with the tribal organisations that oversee each having a part in a new, transnational collective known as the Bedouin Trail Association. Each trail continues to function as an independent tourism project in its own, home area; the Bedouin Trail Association oversees their broader collaboration across the intercontinental route. Each one of the three trail projects has an equal place within the Bedouin Trail Association, with an appointed Sheikh representing each one in the collective.
Faraj Mahmoud is a Bedouin tribesman of the Jebeleya, from the highlands of St Katherine in the Sinai. He grew up working as a mountain guide and is known widely for his deep knowledge of the Sinai, its mountains, deserts, history, culture and tribes. Faraj is one of the Sinai's most prominent Bedouin leaders, having a influence not just within his own tribe but across the wider region. He is a founder of the Sinai Trail who took a leading role in overseeing the development of the project from the beginning and who continues to have a major role in its management today. He is a founder of the Bedouin Trail, who helped to frame the broad vision with which its development started more than 10 years ago. Faraj hopes the Bedouin Trail will continue to grow into a wider network of international routes, involving more Bedouin tribes in the future. His dream is to see the route continue one day to Islam's holy city of Mecca.
Musallem Abu Faraaj
Musallem Abu Faraaj is a tribesman of the Tarabin, who grew up in the deserts of the Sinai's Gulf of Aqaba coast. He spent most of his early years living a mobile pastoralist life before starting his work in tourism. He has walked with people from all over the world and counts as one of the Sinai's most experienced and popular guides. Musallem is a founder of the Sinai Trail who played a central role in both creating the project and overseeing its expansion from a three tribe project in 2015 to an eight tribe project representing the whole of South Sinai's Bedouin community in 2018. He represents the Tarabin tribe in the cooperative that oversees the Sinai Trail today and helps represent it outside the region too. He believes tourism can be a force for positive change in the Bedouin community and currently represents the eight tribes of the Sinai Trail in the Bedouin Trail Association.
Ben Hoffler has played a supporting role with communities creating trail projects across the Middle East for over a decade. Author of Trailblazer's Sinai: The Trekking Guide he arrived in the region 15 years ago from the UK and has been based here ever since. He has walked with Bedouin tribes all over the region and volunteers as much time as he can to raising a wider awreness of the depth, beauty and ongoing value of their cultural heritage and the way traditional knowledge and skills are being increasingly lost today. He believes tourism can play an important role keeping at least parts of this heritage relevant and alive in new ways for our times. He is currently based a short way south of Wadi Rum in the northern deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia, where he is working on guidebooks to a collection of new hiking trails set to launch in the region over the next year.
Sabbah Eid is a Bedouin elder from the Zalabia clan of the Anaza tribe. Born in the deserts of Wadi Rum, he grew up in a family practising a traditional mobile way of life before moving to Aqaba in his teens to study. He became the first Bedouin from Wadi Rum to enter medical school in Amman before returning to the south of Jordan to work in a small clinic. Feeling pulled back to the mountains, Sabbah left his medical career in the 1980s to work with some of Europe's leading climbers in developing Wadi Rum's rock climbing scene. A highly trained climbing guide with a deep knowledge of his region and widely respected in his community, Sabbah led the scouting of the Wadi Rum Trail and its extension to Aqaba on the Bedouin Trail and works closely with Sheikh Awda Krayyim - the tribal head of the Wadi Rum Trail - in representing it in the Bedouin Trail Association. He is currently developing new trails in Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Merayi Abu Musallem hails from the Khushmaan clan of the Maaza tribe and grew up in the Red Sea Mountains of mainland Egypt. He comes from a long, historical line of Sheikhs, with his father holding the position before him and his grandfather before that. He holds his position by lineage but also merit, being widely respected within the region for his fair, intelligent leadership and representation of the clan. Sheikh Merayi is a founder of the Red Sea Mountain Trail who took a leading role in envisioning the project and developing it from the beginning and he oversees the organisation that manages it on behalf of the Khushmaan Bedouin today. Sheikh Merayi oversaw the development of new sections of the Bedouin Trail in the Eastern Desert, putting key parts of the intercontinental route together. He represents the Red Sea Mountain Trail within the wider collective of the Bedouin Trail Association today.
Bedouin tribesmen from other parts of southern Jordan took a leading role in scouting parts of the Bedouin Trail and growing it into the intercontinental passage it is today. Ibrahim Musa is a Bedouin from the Bidool clan of the Howaytat tribe near Petra. He was born near Petra's Royal tombs and grew up in a cave at the heart of the ancient city until the Bidool were resettled in the nearby village of Um Sayhoun. Ayman el Bidool belongs to the same clan as Ibrahim and has worked most of his life in tourism in Petra and its surrounding mountains. Salem Salama is a Bedouin from the Saiyidiyeen clan of the Howaytat tribe from a remote area south of Petra known as El Haddab, where he still lives a traditional mobile life with his tent today. Ibrahim, Ayman and Salem developed the route between Petra and Wadi Rum and count among the Bedouin Trail's founders, with all having a place in the Bedouin Trail Association.
Bedouin of the three trails
The Bedouin Trail represents a coming together of three Bedouin-created trail projects, each of which became what it is today with the input of many people over nearly a decade. Deserving of special mention on the Sinai Trail are Salem Abu Ramadan, Nasser Mansour and Sheikh Ahmed Abu Rashid of the Jebeleya from St Katherine; Hussein Abu Masri of the Garasha from Wadi Feiran; Salem Khedr of the Awlad Said from Wadi Solaf, Mohammed Salem of the Sowalha from Abu Zenima; Ibrahim Abeid and the Sinai Trail's first Bedouin woman guide, Um Yasser, of the Hamada from Wadi Sahu, and Youssuf Barakat and Sheikh Seleem Barakat of the Alegat and Mohammed Abu Faleh of the Muzeina, all from Serabit el Khadem. On the Red Sea Mountain Trail, Mohammed Muteer, Hassan Musallem, Suleman Salem, Omar Merayi, Khaled el Khushmaani and Awayyid Abu Mahmoud from the Khushmaan clan of the Maaza, all from the deserts outside Hurghada. On the Wadi Rum Trail, Sheikh Krayyim Eid, Awda Krayyim, Eid Sabbah, Khaled Salem, Rakan el Zalabia and Faraj el Zalabia. Many others had roles in creating the trails too, including some who have died since the Bedouin Trail's founding, including Hajj Eid of the Tarabin, Mohammed Abu Faleh of the Muzeina and Mahmoud Awayyid of the Maaza. The Bedouin Trail will stand in their memory.