Jebel Shayib: Overview

Outside the Sinai, Jebel Shayib - or Jebel Shayib el Banat, as it's also known - is the highest mountain anywhere in Egypt. A towering bulwark of rugged peaks and ravines, its 2187m summit gazes over the Red Sea to the Hejaz ranges of Arabia and the Sinai to the east. To the west, the desolate tablelands of the Nile Valley are visible. Legend has it a Bedouin maiden called Selima was the first person to climb Jebel Shayib, probably a few hundred years ago. Only later, in the first half of the 20th century, did Europeans finally scale its summit, guided by the Bedouin. Shayib means Old Man and its name is said to come from the light-coloured granite summit block of the mountain, which it's said resembles an elderly man's white hair. A magical tree is said to grow on the slopes of Jebel Shayib, illuminating its rocky crags every few years although nobody has ever found the tree. Jebel Shayib is one of Egypt's most remarkable summits, but it remains little-known and is seldom climbed. The Red Sea Mountain Trail begins and ends near Jebel Shayib and is the centre for one of six hiking hubs along the trail. The mountain can be climbed from all sides, but no approach counts as easy. For more on climbing the mountain, read our special Jebel Shayib section. As well as climbs on Jebel Shayib, beautiful old Bedouin trails crisscross this district, ranging in difficulty and offering hikes of different length, from a few hours to multi-day routes. Generally, this region is characterised by high, aggressive peaks, deep, shadowy gorges, and wide, sweeping plains; it has a hard, unforgiving feel without the water, greenery, and softness of other sections. Jebel Shayib is one of the easiest parts of the Red Sea Mountain Trail to access, with jeeps from Hurghada taking just over one hour. 

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Highlights

Jebel Abu Abid

Jebel Abu Abid is one of the major peaks of this district, rising opposite Jebel Shayib. Its summit offers beautifiul views to the Sinai and the Red Sea and looks down on the sweeping plains of Graygar and Monfia, which together divide the eastern and western halves of the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Jebel Abu Abid is easier than Jebel Shayib, but it still counts as a demanding scramble. Ascents are best started from the tomb of Sheikh Hamdullah, an old tribesman of the Ababda. The great gorge of Wadi Showug gives a descent route to the plain of Monfia. Wadi Abu Abid can also be descended. These routes can be combined in any order, ascending one and descending the other, to make a wider circuit around Jebel Abu Abid. 

Wadi Showug

Wadi Showug is one of several great gorges that tumble down the rugged crag sof Jebel Shayib. A deep, shadowy ravine draining Shyaib's northern slopes, it eventually opens onto the Plain of Monfia. Along the gorge are many high, unscaleable waterfalls, all of which can be bypassed on old Bedouin paths or by scrambling along the nearby crags. Wadi Showug gives an adventurous hike with spectacular cliff scenery and can be an ascent or descent route for scrambles up Jebel Shayib and Jebel Abu Abid. It can walked as part of a lowland circuit around Jebel Shayib and also integrated on a hike connecting the Plains of Graygar and Monfia. Beautiful green creeks, pools and waterfalls can be found in Wadi Showug after rain. 

Sheikh Hamdullah's tomb

Sheikh Hamdullah was a tribesman of the Ababda, who occupied these rugged mountains many centuries ago, before the Maaza arrived from Arabia. From place names to legends, abandoned campsites, old fireplaces and tombs like this, relics of the Ababda are found across the region today. Although the Ababda occupy the deeper, more southerly regions of the Red Sea Mountains, from Qusier down towards Egypt's border with Sudan, some still visit Sheikh Hamdullah's tomb today to make sacrifices. The tomb stands in the sweeping spaces of the Graygar plain. It is one possible starting point for ascending Jebel Abu Abid and can be visited on lowland circuit hikes around Jebel Shayib, or between the plains of Graygar and Monfia. 

Um Dalfa

Um Dalfa is a small spring marking the beginning and end of the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Water is found in two small pools, which have for millennia sustained nomads and travellers. A cluster of Bedouin homes stands around Um Dalfa today, along with a graveyard. It is easy to access from Hurghada and is a popular tourist spot, but few people venture into the  mountains on its doorstep. Hikes feel adventurous and remote, with a mix of walking and scrambling and beautiful views to Jebel Shayib. An good day hike/ scramble traverses rugged mountains between Um Dalfa and Wadi Abu Irn, returning over a high pass which gazes out to the Red Sea, and the foreboding pinnacles of Jebel Kalahaya.