When to hike
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is a wilderness route. There are no settlements, lodges or accommodation along the way. From beginning to end, day and night, hikers are exposed to the big, wide desert skies, so it's important to consider how the seasons change. Summer should be avoided as temperatures get uncomfortably and even dangerously hot. Any other time of the year is possible. Every season has its own character and the look of the mountains and the behaviour of living things in the landscapes - from the plants to the animals and the Bedouin themselves - changes accordingly. When planning a visit it's also important to think about when religious festivals like Ramadan and Eid will fall. Few Bedouin will work in these times and finding a guide can be very difficult.
Autumn arrives in late September and is the switchover between the harsh months of summer and the cooler climes of winter. Temperatures become suitable for walking around mid-October. Clouds are commonly seen in this time – throwing a beautiful broken light over the mountains – and rain is more likely than in any other time. Desert rains are a blessing happily greeted by the Bedouin. They fill waterpools used by people and animals and rejuvenate plants and trees giving food and shade. Occasionally, they produce spectacular floods too. Autumn can also bring excellent visibility – giving far reaching mountain views – and flocks of migratory birds are often seen flying high overhead.
Winter sets in around December. Hikers might wake up to frosts on the trail and – in the most exceptional times (usually no more than every 100 years) – snows may blanket the highest mountaintops. The Bedouin view the winter as a hard time and although snaps of very cold weather can come – with sub zero temperatures and bitter winds – most days are comfortably warm, at least compared to winters in Europe. As temperatures rise through the latter months of winter plants begin to bloom, becoming ever more colourful. Animals also become more active. Winters are especially beautiful when the preceding autumn brings rain, with the wadis harbouring deep green pools and waterfalls.
Spring is another excellent time to hike, with the best period mid-February to mid-March. Known as rabeeya to the Bedouin, it is the most fabled season of the year and is eagerly awaited, especially after good winter rains. Dry, dusty plants come to life, covering the desert in sweeping meadows of green and beautiful blossoms of pink, yellow and purple. Nomadic families search out grazing and drive their herds between it. It is the most beautiful time to hike and temperatures are usually comfortable. As in the autumn, flocks of migratory birds fly overhead, passing between Africa and Eurasia. The only downside is the seasonal khamasin wind, which can sweep over the region, whipping up dust to turn the skies a deep yellow and limiting visibility to a few hundred metres ahead for several days at a time.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the holiest times of the year for Muslims. It is believed God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed during this time. Observant Muslims fast daily, foregoing food, water, cigarettes and any other temptations from sunrise to sunset. Owing to the Islamic calendar – whose months align with new phases of the moon and shift between seasons – Ramadan falls at a different time every year. Most Bedouin of the mountains fast during Ramadan and the chances of finding guides, cameleers or anybody else willing to work in this period is typically slim. If they do work, they will cover lesser distances. Over the next years Ramadan is scheduled to fall in peak hiking months, between February and April.
Eid el Kibeer
2020 April 24-May 23 July 31
2021 April 13-May 12 July 20
2022 April 3 - May 2 July 10
2023 March 23-April 21 June 29
2024 March 11-April 9 June 17
2025 March 1-March 30 June 7
2026 February 18-March 19 May 27
2027 February 8 - March 9 May 17
Ramadan & Eid el Kibeer are forecast to fall on these dates during the coming years. Dates can be predicted to within a few days of accuracy years in advance but are confirmed with complete certainty only after the sighting of the moon before the festivals begin.
Along with Ramadan are two Eid festivals, referred to as the Little and Big Eids. The Little Eid – Eid el Fitr or Eid el Sughair – falls at the end of Ramadan and involves three days of unbridled feasting. The Big Eid – Eid el Adha or Eid el Kibeer – arrives two months after the Little Eid and involves a similarly unrestricted feast over three days. These festivals are both important family times for the Bedouin and it is hard to find guides when they fall. Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on the 7th December every year, which is a national holiday but not one that will affect hiking with the Bedouin of the Red Sea Mountains. Easter falls at different times every year in Egypt but again, whenever it falls will not have an impact on hiking in the region. Hotels and buses will be more busy.