The Sinai Trail is Egypt’s 1st long distance hiking trail. Running nearly 250km from the Gulf of Aqaba to the highlands of St Katherine – the ‘Roof of Egypt – it connects old trade, travel and pilgrimage routes through one of the Middle East’s most iconic wildernesses. People have followed these old ways of the Sinai for centuries, passing between Africa and Asia; today, the Sinai Trail preserves this ancient tradition of movement across the peninsula in the modern era. The trail launched in late 2015, following a year of development; it has attracted hundreds of hikers, it is creating jobs and a small, sustainable economy for local communities, and has received international awards and recognition. In 2016, the Sinai Trail won a BGTW Tourism Award, as the best new project in the Wider World. In 2017, the project was listed one of the greatest six new trails in the world by Wanderlust Magazine.
Three Bedouin tribes built the Sinai Trail; the Tarabin, Muzeina and Jebeleya. Members of these tribes manage the trail in a small, intertribal cooperative; each tribe manages a particular part of the Sinai Trail and decisions that affect the whole trail are taken collectively.
The Sinai Trail has several long term goals:
- To inprove access to Egypt’s spectacular wilderness and showcase the country’s beauty to the world, helping it compete as a world class destination for sustainable outdoors tourism.
- To build a strong, resilient economy around the Sinai Trail, creating legitimate jobs and opportunities for local people and communities to earn a fair living.
- To develop trail resources that inspire, enthuse and educate, promoting Egypt’s wilderness as a place for safe, responsible outdoor tourism for people of all backgrounds.
- To preserve traditional Bedouin knowledge of the Sinai, documenting the landscape’s ways, place names, stories and poems, and the traditional skills needed to pass through it.
- To give a space for safe, positive interactions between people of all backgrounds, challenging the mainstream perception of the Sinai as a place of danger.
Tourism has struggled across the whole of Egypt since the 2011 revolution, with the Sinai the hardest hit region of all. The Sinai Trail is still working through the struggle: the first start to finish hike of the trail happened in 2016 and since then hikers from Egypt to the UK, New Zealand, India, the USA, the Czech Republic, Jordan, Spain, China, Switzerland and beyond have all visited to walk the trail. Impacts on the community have been positive. Jobs have been created for guides, cameleers, cooks, drivers, local camps and local farms, and 10 young apprentice Bedouin guides have been trained to work on the trail. New trail networks are being developed to bring more Bedouin communities into the project and projects to document the cultural heritage of the Sinai Trail route are also underway.