The Sinai Trail is Egypt's first-ever long distance hiking trail. It opened in 2015 as a 220km trail connecting the Gulf of Aqaba with the high mountains of St Katherine, taking 12 days to walk and crossing the territories of three Bedouin tribes. Three years later in 2018 it was extended into a 550km trail taking 48 days to complete, which traversed the lands of all eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai. The Sinai Trail was developed by Bedouin tribes as a community tourism initiative and it remains locally owned and managed today, with an intertribal cooperative of eight tribes overseeing its operations. Every tribe on the Sinai Trail guides hikers through its own territory to the borders of the next tribe, which then takes over; this coming-together was a historic moment for the Sinai, representing the first time its tribes had collaborated on a travelling route in this way for over 100 years. The Sinai Trail was founded in perhaps the hardest chapter Egypt's tourism has ever known; a time in which the country was recovering from years of civil unrest and revolution, with an insurgency unfolding in the northern parts of the peninsula. Tourism collapsed but offering a journey that showed a more positive, hopeful and ultimately more accurate side of a misunderstood region with its Bedouin tribes, the Sinai Trail blossomed in adversity to become Egypt's flagship adventure tourism project. It has today been hiked by hundreds of people from all around the world, boosting a grassroots tourism economy in some of Egypt's most remote, marginalised deserts, creating a kind of work that helps keep the region's endangered cultural heritage alive and inspiring the development of its Bedouin-led sister projects; the Red Sea Mountain Trail in mainland Egypt and Jordan's Wadi Rum Trail.
The Sinai stands at the great continental crossroads between Africa and Asia and ranks as one of the most majestic and fabled desert wildernesses on earth. It is the age old passage land through which our ancestors made their earliest journeys out of Africa and its old legends of Biblical prophets and kings have echoed through the ages. The Sinai has for many millennia been home to peoples practising a mobile pastoralist way of life and more than 20 tribes live as neighbours across the peninsula today. Most tribes in the Sinai trace their roots to the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and some tribes who live in the Sinai hold lands in other parts of the wider region too. Historically, the Sinai grew faraway from the great powers of both Africa and Asia and has always had a strong sense of its own identity, standing as one of the great Bedouin homelands of the Middle East.
The Sinai Trail today
The Sinai Trail has grown into Egypt's most successful community tourism project since opening in 2015. It has boosted hiking tourism in some of Egypt's most remote, marginalised deserts, creating legitimate new jobs and opportunities across a wide region. Bedouin women have started to guide hikes in one tribal community, representing a historic first for the region. Young apprentice guides once mentored by older Bedouin on the trail now lead trips, representing a gradual passing of the project to a new generation who represent its future. The Sinai Trail's intertribal cooperative remains active, with its leaders representing it in high profile spaces across Egypt and beyond. The Sinai Trail operates in a highly challenging environment for tourism but it continues to take forward steps, supporting its region in the most impactful way it can.
Bedouin Trail: a family of three
The Sinai Trail and newly-launched Wadi Rum Trail are sister projects of the Red Sea Mountain Trail and each has contributed to the development and ongoing growth of the others. Each has a different tourism model designed for its own home region and all function independently, but they are united through common values, working principles and the broad goal of showing the great depth and beauty of their common Bedouin heritage to the wider world. The Red Sea Mountain Trail, Sinai Trail and Wadi Rum Trail came together more formally in spring 2023 to form a new, intercontinental hiking passage that runs more than 1200km between Africa and Asia, known as the Bedouin Trail. Each trail oversees a key part of the route in a transnational Bedouin cooperative today. The Sinai Trail is the land bridge section, connecting its African and Asian sides.