Sinai Trail: Bedouin bet on Egypt’s first thru-hike

Seen from above, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is a dun-colored triangle of desert, a vast wedge that splits Asia from Africa.

Move in closer, and the desert resolves into a landscape of high peaks and sandy valleys, dunes and rocky peaks.
Tracing a route across that terrain is the Sinai Trail, Egypt’s first long-distance hiking path, which was established in 2015 and winds roughly 143 miles from the Gulf of Aqaba into the mountainous interior.

This past November, 17 men and women undertook a 14-day thru-hike of the Sinai Trail, the first crossing of the full length of the trail. Led by male members of three Bedouin tribes and an Italian organizer, the group was as varied as the topography, a convivial assortment of novice hikers and fit backpackers, mainland Egyptians and foreigners.

They started near the Red Sea community of Beer Sweir, climbing the Sinai’s coastal mountains with hazy views of Saudi Arabia at their backs. After two weeks of hiking, their travel reward was a frosty 6 a.m. sunrise from the slopes of Mount Katherine, the highest mountain in Egypt.

The Sinai Trail crosses the territories of three Bedouin tribes – the Tarabin, the Muzeina and the Jebeleya – pastoral nomads whose lives have traditionally been shaped by the search for rain-fed grazing land and other desert resources, and who have guided Sinai travelers for generations.

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