Who are we?
The Red Sea Mountain Trail is a community tourism project, managed by members of the Khushmaan. The Khushmaan are a clan of a Bedouin tribe called the Maaza, who occupy the northern half of Egypt's Red Sea Mountains and who trace their roots to the Hejaz of Arabia. A small, tribal organisation headed by a Sheikh of the Khushmaan - Sheikh Merayi Abu Musallem - oversees the operation and ongoing development of the Red Sea Mountain Trail. This organisation is known as the Red Sea Mountain Trail Association (RSMTA). The Red Sea Mountain Trail is the sister project of the award-winning Sinai Trail and was developed by the same team, according to the same tourism model. The founders of the Red Sea Mountain Trail, along with co-founders who had a central role in putting final parts of the project together over the last year, plus members of our wider community of volunteers and helpers, are introduced below.
Sheikh Merayi (Founder & Chair)
Sheikh Merayi Abu Musallem heads the Bedouin clan of the Khushmaan. The Khushmaan are part of a bigger tribe known as the Maaza, whose territory covers a huge swathe of the Red Sea Mountains. Sheikh Merayi Abu Musallem comes from a family of tribal leaders. Before him, his father was a Sheikh; before his father, his grandfather. He grew up in the mountains but spent extended periods of his childhood at a school in Minya, a town in Upper Egypt. Sheikh Merayi manages the RSMTA and oversees its operations on behalf of the Khushmaan, dividing work and overseeing the process by which decisions are made on the trail. Alongside his work on the trail he is passionate about educating Bedouin children and recently built a school in the mountains.
Ben Hoffler (Founder & Ambassador)
Ben is a founder of the Sinai Trail: Egypt's first long-distance hiking trail. He oversaw its development into one of the Middle East's leading hiking trails from the very beginning. He authored Trailblazer's 2014 guidebook Sinai: The Trekking Guide and founded the Three Peaks Egypt Challenge and Sinai is Safe campaign, which aims to create a counter-narrative to the bad news about the Sinai. Originally from the UK, Ben has lived in Egypt 10 years, walking over 10,000 km with its Bedouin tribes. He created the RSMT over five years with the Maaza Bedouin and volunteers today, helping to bridge it with the outside world. His focus is on exploring how modern tourism can be mobilised to conserve the critically-endangered heritage of the Middle East's Bedouin communities.
Mohammed Muteer (Founder & Guide)
Mohammed Muteer grew up in the mountains, living the nomadic life with his family. Over the early years of his life he moved the traditional Bedouin way, following the rains and grazing with his family, getting to know the paths, water sources, place names and stories of the landscape extremely well. He walked further than anybody else, covering thousands of kilometres on foot in scouting the route network of the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Mohammed will be one of the head guides on the trail and is passionate about passing his knowledge onto younger guides for the future. He is in his early 30s and still lives in the mountains with his wife and two small daughters. Mohammed is a voice for the Bedouin guides, cameleers and cooks on the trail in the RSMTA.
Hassan Musallem (Founder & Guide)
Hassan Musallem is the brother of Sheikh Merayi Abu Musallem and grew up between the mountains and the town of Hurghada. He has been working in tourism for over 20 years, helping with the management of Bedouin camps or 'mahattas' in the foothills of the mountains. Hassan helped advise on the development of the Red Sea Mountain Trail and scouted some sections of the route. He will work close to Sheikh Merayi in overseeing its future development for the wider Bedouin community. Alongside his work off trail, he will work as a guide. Hassan splits his time between the mountains and Hurghada - but much prefers the mountains - and his knowledge of the region and its people are admired by both other Bedouin and tourists alike.
Omar Samra became the first Egyptian to climb Everest in 2007. Over the next years he would also become the first Egyptian to climb the highest mountain on every continent - the Seven Summits Challenge - and to ski to the Geographic North and South Poles (collectively known, with the Seven Summits, as the Explorers Grand Slam). Omar founded Egyptian outdoor adventure company Wild Guanabana and is one of Egypt's and the Arab world's best known adventurers. He is passionate about getting more Egyptians connected to the outdoors and is known for his inspirational public speaking. He joined the RSMT in 2019 and has been instrumental in advocating and growing support for it at every level, from hikers in Cairo to officials from Egypt's Ministry of Tourism.
Tony Howard & Di Taylor
Tony and Di have been building grassroots tourism for decades. Tony led the British first ascent of Norway’s unclimbed Troll Wall in 1965. He co-founded climbing company Troll and created the climbing sit harness design still used today. In 1984, Tony and Di’s team discovered then developed climbing and trekking in Wadi Rum, helped by Rum’s Zalabieh Bedouin. Exploration of Jordan’s trekking, canyoning, climbing and caving culminated in their initiation of the award winning Jordan Trail. They also climbed in Sinai and the Red Sea Mountains in the 1990s. Their books include climbing and trekking guides, Tony’s award-winning Troll Wall and his autobiography, Quest into the Unknown. They are a source of advice to the RSMTA and we hope will scout parts of the route in the future.
Originally from the Czech Republic, Martina has spent most of the last decade working in different parts of Europe and the Middle East. An Arabic speaker, she worked at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Cairo, before switching to Holland to manage projects for SPARK; a charity supporting access to education for refugees. Her entry to the world of trails came in 2015, when she managed a World Bank grant assigned for Masar Ibrahim Al Khalal: a long-distance hiking trail in Palestine. She also worked on developing the Sinai Trail and a new trail in Saudi Arabia. Martina's focus is on growing tourism projects that focus ownership firmly in the hands of local communities. She helped strengthen the ownership body of the Red Sea Mountain Trail and gives ongoing advice.
Mostafa Abul Fadl
Originally from Egypt, Mostafa spent long parts of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, where he developed an enduring love for the Middle East's deserts. In 2016, he was part of the first group crossing of Egypt's Sinai Trail. He began working for the Sinai Trail soon after and today he fixes trips, assesses hikers and organises community events for the Sinai Trail in Cairo. He is a member of the core team that has driven the project to success. Mostafa organised the inaugural hike on the Red Sea Mountain Trail - attended by hikers from Egypt and around the world - and will take a leading role in the management of hikes on the trail. His dream is to introduce more people to the beauty of his homeland's deserts and to build a tourism that helps its communities.
Nour el Din
Nour grew up in Sharm el Sheikh, in the Sinai. Although most of his time was spent in the town, it was to the mountains outside he always felt most connected. Moving to Cairo aged 18, he took with him a lasting love for the desert. A similar love of film saw Nour leave his field of study at university to pursue a career as a filmmaker. His dream is to create films that show the beauty of Egypt's wilderness and tell the stories of its little-known communities. Nour has made short films about the Sinai Trail and Red Sea Mountain Trail, helping to tell their stories to wider audiences. Nour is a visual storyteller for the Red Sea Mountain Trail and will continue following the project and telling its stories as it grows over the coming years into a longer, 1000km trail
Sara was born in Hurghada and grew up on the doorstep of the Red Sea Mountains. Nevertheless, it was not until the inaugural hike of the Red Sea Mountain Trail in 2019 that she walked the mountains of her hometown. Sara is a medical doctor - working in Alexandria - and alongside hiking, she competes as a tri-athelete in events across Egypt. She is raising the profile of the Red Sea a wider community of volunteers around the Red Sea Mountain Trail in Hurghada. She is currently helping us develop a first-aid training programme for Bedouin guides and is working on developing the route for trail running events. Sara hopes the trail can benefit her hometown, creating a new tourism industry that shows Egypt's beauty to the world, whilst supporting its Bedouin communities.
Nour El Din
Born and raised in Cairo, Hamsa has always been fascinated with nature and wilderness. As she grew older, she felt compelled to escape the city, seeking opportunities for adventure. Hamsa worked in the outdoor industry for four years as a trip leader and Muricata manager, the children's wing of Wild Guanabana, Egypt's leading adventure company. In 2017 she solo cycled around the Red Sea and the Sinai on a bicycle. Her journey was covered on CNN and BBC Arabic. Today, she works alongside Nour, building film and photography skills as a budding documentarian. She was the first Egyptian woman to hike any part of the Red Sea Mountain Trail and produced the full short film on the trail with Nour el Din. Hamsa hopes to tell more stories about its Bedouin communities of Egypt in the future.