The Bedouin Trail
The Bedouin Trail is a new intercontinental travelling passage running more than 1200km between Africa and Asia, of which most can be hiked. Starting at the rock-hewn Nabataean capital of Petra in Jordan and ending at Egypt's legendary kingdoms of the Pharaohs on the banks of the River Nile at Luxor it connects two of the great captials of the ancient world, traversing some of the most spectacular wilderness of the Middle East and crossing the territories of seven different Bedouin tribes. It is a trail project of unparalleled scope created over a period of more than 10 years and the sister projects of the Red Sea Mountain Trail, Sinai Trail and Wadi Rum Trail stand at its heart today. It brings these three routes together into a connected passage, aligning with sections of each and extending all into neighbouring regions. It is the longest route of its kind in the Arab World and the first to run between Africa and Asia. Along with the Sinai Trail and Wadi Rum Trail, the Red Sea Mountain Trail has a central place in the intertribal collective that oversees the Bedouin Trail and it helps organise all journeys along it between Hurghada and Egypt's Nile Valley. Walking between two different continents with the Bedouin of different tribes, hikers will discover something of the great depth, beauty and diversity of the region's nomadic heritage, along with the changing identity of the Bedouin in contemporary times. The trail helps show how tribal culture changes but also retains commonalities across the region, underlining how the Bedouin exist in a wide cultural block that remains invisible on modern maps, but which is nevertheless a real part of the region, transcending its modern borders. The Bedouin Trail opens a modern passage through the heart of an ancient nomadic nation and represents one of the most unique, extraordinary journeys that can be made both in the Middle East and the wider world.
The Bedouin Trail connects the ancient capitals of Petra and Luxor, going between Africa and Asia, Jordan and Egypt and the territories of seven Bedouin tribes. It is a 1200km route that will take most hikers over two months to walk and whilst it can be traversed in either direction the best option is to begin in Petra, ending with a passage through the Nile Valley to Luxor. Along with its sister projects the Wadi Rum Trail and Sinai Trail, the Red Sea Mountain Trail is an integral part of the Bedouin Trail and the centrepiece of of the intercontinental route on its African side. The Bedouin Trail aligns with a 100km, 10 day section of the Red Sea Mountain Trail, following the northern half of its circuit from Wadi Abu Zagat to Wadi Ghuza. Additional sections connect it to Hurghada and the Nile Valley. For more, see the website of the Bedouin Trail.
Bedouin Trail: classic route
The Bedouin Trail begins by striking out over a wide coastal plain from Hurghada, joining the Red Sea Mountain Trail at Wadi Abu Zagat and following the northern half of its circuit around anti-clockwise to Wadi Ghuza. It counts as the most challenging section of the entire Bedouin Trail, involving the ascent of three high mountains on which backpacks of water, food and sleeping gear must be carried for overnight bivvies. From Wadi Abu Zagat hikers move west to Wadi Abu Eren, from where an ascent is made of Jebel Shayib el Banat: mainland Egypt's highest peak at 2187m. Hikers continue down the deep, winding gorge of Wadi Showug, coming out onto the great, sweeping plains of Um Anfia, which are traversed northwards. A high pass is crossed to Wadi Abu Maamil, where the ruins of the Roman quarrying town Mons Porphyrites still stand today. The high peak of Jebel Abu Dukhaan is ascended via its north ridge before the route descends its southern crags, continuing into the spectacular granite wilderness of Jebel Gattar, where prehistoric petroglyphs and the chapels and hermit cells of early Christians who retreated here nearly 2000 years ago are still standing. The wild wadis and high whaleback summits of Jebel Gattar are traversed to Wadi Ghuza, where the Bedouin Trail exits the Red Sea Mountain Trail to continue over the vast sweeps of Egypt's Eastern Desert to Wadi Qena, which leads south to Qena in the Nile Valley.
Other possible passages
Within the Red Sea Mountain Trail's main circuit is a wide network of secondary routes offering several alternative passages for Bedouin Trail thru hikers. The most direct one strikes a near-straight line between Hurghada and Wadi Ghuza, crossing the rugged pass of Naqb el Thilma. A 50km route that will take most hikers two or three days to walk it crosses coastal plains from Hurghada to Wadi Faalig el Waa, which leads through low rugged hills to the Plain of Um Anfia. Hikers continue over Naqb el Thilma to Wadi Ghuza, whose dramatic winding course is followed west to join the Bedouin Trail's main route through the Eastern Desert. Another option is to follow the first part of the Red Sea Mountain Trail's southern half past Um Dalfa, leaving it on a secondary trail that traverses the plains of El Graygar. It rejoins the Red Sea Mountain Trail's southerly half in Wadi Abul Hassan el Ahmar, before departing it again through Wadi Abul Hassan el Iswid to align with the Bedouin Trail's main thru hike route through the Eastern Desert. This route allows hikers to avoid ascending the two high peaks on the Red Sea Mountain Trail's southern half. A more northerly route follows an Roman road dotted with forts through Wadi Billi to the waystation of Deir el Atrash. The most northerly option of all continues west from Jebel Abu Dukhaan, traversing low, rugged hills before veering south to join the Bedouin Trail's main route through the Eastern Desert.
A southerly alternative
The southern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail offers a significantly shorter, easier alternative to the northern half of the route for thru hikers of the Bedouin Trail. A 70km route that will take most hikers four days to walk, it involves the ascents of two peaks, each of which can be climbed comfortably in a day without carrying heavy gear for overnight bivvies. From Wadi Abu Zagat, hikers follow the route south to Um Dalfa, continuing over Wadi Abu Abid to the dripping springs of Ein Um Anab. The rugged sides of Jebel Um Anab are climbed and its ridge followed towards the summit before its southern crags are descended to a labyrinth of lowland wadis known as Talla Hussein. Hikers continue to scramble up the small peaklet of Jebel Nasb Umsayri, after which the route runs to the Roman quarrying town of Mons Claudianus, whose old streets can still be walked today. A traverse is made of the sweeping plains of El Graygar before hikers enter a rocky gorge known as Wadi Abul Hassan el Ahmar, in whose shadowy course deep waterpools can lie for several months after rain and where it might be necessary to swim. The route continues over the high peak of Jebel Um Samyook - whose summit gazes out over the Eastern Desert to the faraway tablelands of Egypt's Nile Valley - before descending to Wadi Ghuza, where the classic Bedouin Trail thru hike route is regained and followed onwards to the upper parts of Wadi Qena.
Onwards to the Nile Valley
The Bedouin Trail runs from Wadi Ghuza to the upper parts of Wadi Qena via the vast, sweeping plains of Egypt's Eastern Desert. It is a quiet, solitary realm today, but this area once bustled with wagons pulling gigantic blocks of quarried stone to the River Nile in Roman times and several Roman roads still cross the region today; all dotted with cairns, watchtowers and fortified waystations. Hikers begin through low, rugged hills, following gentle wadis west towards an ancient waystation known as Deir Ghuza, where camp is usually made on the first night. On the second day the route continues over wide sweeping plains, with camp made on the eastern margins of Wadi Qena. A tract of high tablelands known as El Jilf is seen ahead to the west, with the spectacular peaks of Jebel Gattar and Jebel Abu Dukhaan towering up behind in the east. The upper parts of Wadi Qena are reached on the third day, which are traversed south to a tarmac road which must be followed 50km down to Qena in the Nile Valley. Other routes of great beauty exist to the Nile Valley but officials mark them off limits making this road the only current viable option. Most hikers will choose to accelerate this section with transport, which can be organised by the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Once in Qena, hikers traverse the last part of the Bedouin Trail: an 80km passage through the Nile Valley to Luxor, which can be done independently. For more, see Bedouin Trail: Thru Hike.
Thru Hike: need-to-know
The Bedouin Trail section of the Red Sea Mountain Trail must be organised through the Red Sea Mountain Trail Association, which oversees all journeys along the route today. The Red Sea Mountain Trail Association will also fix support for adjacent sections, including the crossing of the coastal plain from Hurghada to Wadi Abu Zagat, the traverse of Egypt's Eastern Desert to the upper parts of Wadi Qena and the final 50km passage down the tarmac road to the town of Qena in the Nile Valley. Hikers must continue through the Nile Valley independently, going between the towns of Qena and Lxuor. Anybody thru hiking the Bedouin Trail must think carefully about the weather and how seasons will shift over the period of time it takes to go from one end of the route to the other. The Red Sea Mountain Trail is traversed on the final part of the passage and hikers will typically reach it around six weeks after starting from Petra. Winters in the highlands of the Sinai can be bitterly cold and most hikers aim to avoid this section of the route between December and February. Whilst these months can be cold in other regions too - including on the high peaks of the Red Sea Mountains - hikers remain mostly at lower elevations, making winter generally easier to manage. Starting at Petra in early October would bring hikers to the Red Sea Mountain Trail by mid-November, when the weather is still often pleasant. Starting from Petra in mid February would give an early April arrival time, when the weather is generally still pleasant in both the Red Sea Mountains and the Nile Valley, which is traversed afterwards. Anybody who does not mind the cold can be more flexible with the seasonal timings. Winter is a season with its own special beauty when a sense of solitude prevails.
BEDOUIN TRAIL THRU HIKE
Getting onto the Red Sea Mountain Trail involves crossing a coastal plain from Hurghada which will take a full day's walking. On the other side hikers traverse the Eastern Desert to the upper parts of Wadi Qena, where a tarmac road must be followed 50km down to the town of Qena, after which hikers will continue independently, traversing the final section of the Bedouin Trail's 1200km passage through the Nile Valley between Qena & the ancient Pharaonic capital of Luxor.
DAY ZERO - Hikers walk 30km over a coastal plain, between the outskirts of Hurghada & the edges of the Red Sea Mountains.
DAY 1 - Hikers connect with the Red Sea Mountain Trail at Wadi Abu Zagat, crossing a rugged pass to Wadi Abu Eren & camping at the foot of Jebel Shayib el Banat: mainland Egypt's highest peak.
DAY 2- The 2187m Jebel Shayib el Banat is ascended, carrying full backpacks of water, food & sleeping gear for an overnight bivvy. It is a challenging ascent involving sections of exposed scrambling.
DAY 3 - Jebel Shayib is descended via the gorge of Wadi Showug.
DAY 4 - Hikers continue north over the plains of Um Anfia, sleeping below the spectacular northerly peaks of Jebel Gattar.
DAY 5- A zigzag Roman footpath is followed over the rugged pass of Naqb Abu Maamil to Mons Porphyrites; a Roman quarrying town.
DAY 6 - Jebel Abu Dukhaan is ascended via its north ridge, carrying full backpacks of water, food & sleeping gear for an overnight bivvy.
DAY 7 - Abu Dukhaan is descended to Wadi Um Towaat.
DAY 8 - Hikers continue up Wadi Gattar, passing petroglyphs of prehistoric origin & the chapels & hermit cells of early Christians.
DAY 9 - Jebel Gattar's high, whaleback summits are ascended with full backpacks of water, food & sleeping gear for an overnight bivvy.
DAY 10 - Jebel Gattar is descended to the gorge of Wadi Ghuza.
EXIT - Hikers follow a Roman road through the Eastern Desert to upper parts of Wadi Qena,on a 70km, three day route.