Headed to Egypt? If this country is on your list for the fall, or into the near future thereafter, you have to check out the Sanai Trail. It is a MUST. This trail may very well become the world’s most popular and most enjoyable hike. It was Egypt’s first long distance hiking trail when it was originally built in 2015, and now it is much longer. It starts and ends by the Gulf of Aqaba, and it takes 42 days to complete in full.
The trail was first launched in 2015, but it was shorter, taking about 12 days to complete. This year, in 2018, it has been expanded into what it is today, after two years of development and exploration. The idea behind extending the trail was to show off more of the Sinai to the world and to bring opportunities to all of the region’s tribes. There are eight tribes participating in the trail tourism and they have already been reuniting over the planning of it. When the trail fully opens in October, it will unite the Towarah Alliance, the collective name of the 8 participating tribes. These include the Alegat, Awlad Said, Garasha, Sawalha, and Hamada tribes.
Egypt’s tourism industry was hit hard after these last several years of political turmoil, ever since the Egyptian revolution in 2011. South Sinai was hit especially hard, since tourism was central to its economy. You might remember the ongoing Islamist insurgency in North Sinai and the downing of a Russian plane in 2015 from the news. It was tragedies like these that kept hitting the Sinai economy.
The founders of the new trail felt that working together and uniting in such times would help to improve the tourism industry for the area, and in turn help boost the economy for the people. Members of the alliance have worked together before in such endeavors, so it only makes sense that they join together again to bring tourists back to Egypt through showing them the beauty of Sinai as they’ve never seen it before.
The trail has cultural and historical significance to the tribe alliance. It has always been part of their deeply rooted identity to escort travelers and pilgrims through Sinai. They helped Muslims reach Mecca and Christians reach St. Catherine’s Monastery and Jerusalem. It is this tradition that will be restored, as one tribe escorts a group, and then hands the group off to the next tribe to be on their way, all the way through to the end of the hike.
The trail itself will walk you through desert landscapes and Mount Sinai itself. It is 342 miles long and starts in Nuweiba, a coastal town on the Gulf of Aqaba in the eastern part of Sinai Peninsula. While the trail is said to feature magnificent views of the beautiful landscape, it is the history that has tourists most enthralled.
The trail goes to Elijah’s Basin and also up Mount Sinai’s 750 Steps of Repentance. Groups will hike to Mount Catherine via ancient paths laid by the Byzantines. The Sacred Monastery there is said to house the burning bush of the story of Moses.
Other sights and stops along the way include Ein Hudera: The Green Spring, the biblical Hazeroth, and a historical watering point for pilgrims; the Rock of Inscriptions; the Valley of the Pilgrims. Travelers will walk through the Blue Mountain (or Blue Desert), where the red mountains look blue rather than red.
The Bedouin Orchards are also part of the trail, where hikers will begin to near St. Catherine and find everything from apricots to pomegranates, pears and almonds. Once there were 400 orchards, but now there are only 40. The tribes hope to revitalize them with the new boost in tourism.
Mount Sinai itself is, of course, part of the trail as well. One of the world’s holiest summits, it is where Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God spoke with Moses and gave him the 10 Commandments. Pilgrims have been visiting this location for over 1500 years. Atop the mountain, you can see a hollow where it is said that Moses once took shelter.
So much history is wrapped up in this trail that it’s no wonder it is already winning awards. The Sinai Trail won a BGTW Tourism award as the best new tourism project in the world in 2016. Then, in 2017, it was named one of the greatest new trails in the world by Wanderlust Magazine. The first hike on the new trail will be on October 26, 2018, but the first hike that covers the entire 42-day length of the trail will be held in 2019.