Hike the trail
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is the first long-distance hiking trail in mainland Egypt and the sister project of the award-winning Sinai Trail. Connecting a series of ancient trade, travel, smuggling and shepherd routes into a single trail for modern times it is a 170km path that will take most hikers 14 days to complete. Created by Bedouin of the Maaza tribe - who manage the trail today on behalf of the wider Bedouin community - the Red Sea Mountain Trail gives a way into one of the most untrodden, little-known and beautiful wildernesses in the Middle East and perhaps the world. From vast desert plains to deep gorges and high summits and from crumbling Roman towns to prehistoric rock art and chapels of Egypt's Desert Fathers, the trail shows the best of the region's inimitable beauty and seeks to open new kind of tourism that truly benefits its communities.
The main route
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is a 170km circuit near Hurghada, that will take most hikers 14 days to complete. Hikers doing the whole trail rather than short sections will journey deep into a wilderness almost unseen by outsiders, experiencing the best of its landscapes, history and Bedouin heritage. The main thru-hike route of the Red Sea Mountain Trail is not an easy proposition. Daily distances are not excessive - count on 15-20km/ day - but there is considerable up and down over a typical section and paths are often broken and in disrepair. Progress is slower than it would be on an easier, better-trodden hiking trail. Some sections also require steep, exposed scrambling. Hikers must carry all their equipment - food, water and sleeping gear - for three separate two day, one night bivouac stages on the main trail, which adds to the challenge.
An easier alternative
Alongside the main 170km thru-hike route, shown on the map above, an easier alternative exists at every point. Wherever you are bad paths, high peaks, difficult scrambles and unsupported overnight sections can be replaced with easier, more comfortable alternatives. The trail can be adapted all the way and nothing has to be finalised before you start hiking: decisions can be made on the spot and at short notice, according to how you feel. You could start the main route and switch to an easier alternative at any time. You could also mix the two, alternating between the main and alternative trails over the 14 day hike. The two versions of the trail stay close and their landscapes remain similarly spectacular throughout. As well as long 14 day hikes, any part of the main or alternative trail can be done in shorter one day or multi-day journeys in the region.
Alongside the 170km thru-hike route, six special 'hiking hubs' are found along the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Each hiking hub is a self-contained hiking region centered on its own section of the trail - usually a specific mountain massif - and every hub offers a wider, more extensive network of secondary hiking routes around the main trail. Each hub has its own signature kinds of landscapes and history and hiking these 'hubs' offers a chance to go much deeper into any given part of the Red Sea Mountain Trail. A further 600km of trails is encompassed in these hiking hubs, making the Red Sea Mountain Trail and its secondary routes one of the biggest continguous networks of hiking trails in the Arab world.
There are six separate hiking hubs on Red Sea Mountain Trail. The first centres on Jebel Shayib, the highest peak in mainland Egypt. Next is the hub of Um Anab, where the triple-peaked massif of Jebel Um Anab towers high over sweeping lowlands and the crumbling Roman town of Mons Claudianus. Jebel Abul Hassan is the third hub, centering on a wild, rugged region of high summits and deep wadis, where waterpools and green meadows form after rain. Next is Jebel Gattar: a labyrinth of huge summits and deep gorges with prehistoric rock art, leopard traps and ancient chapels. Jebel Abu Dukhaan's hub follows, centering on the Roman town of Mons Porphyrites and the last hub opens around the sweeping hills of Wadi Faalig. Regional circuits have been created to show the best of each hiking hub, each of which hikers can complete in 4-5 days.
Along with one multi-day hiking circuit showing the very best of each region, every hiking hub has an even more extensive network of secondary trails. These trails form an interlocking web of routes in each hub and allow hikers to combine trails however they want, designing their own, individual itineraries. Hiking hubs also overlap, meaning hikes can be designed that connect the trail network in one hub with the networks in neighbouring hubs. Hikers do not have to walk solely within a single hub: they can design programmes moving between as many hubs as they want. This gives significant scope beyond the 14 day thru hike. The Red Sea Mountain Trail's hiking hubs offer many different hiking possibilities: routes could be designed to create longer, more meandering journeys that run deep into several hubs that will take many weeks.