The Sinai Trail is a 100% Bedouin-run community project. At the beginning, when the Sinai Trail first launched, the trail was a 220km route, taking 12 days to complete, involving three Bedouin tribes: the Tarabin, Muzeina and Jebeleya. Today, it has grown into a 550km route, taking 42 days to finish, and involving five more Bedouin tribes: the Awlad Said, Garasha, Sowalha, Hamada and Alegat. Today, altogether, there are eight Bedouin tribes involved in the Sinai Trail. Each tribe manages the particular part of the trail in its own land. The Tarabin manage it in Tarabin territory; the Muzeina and Jebeleya, and every other tribe, in their areas too, for example. Every tribe guides travellers across its lands to the borders of the next tribe. When something affects the trail as a whole, decisions are made collectively. All decisions about the trail and its future development are made by local Bedouin tribes. The tribes of South Sinai have long existed in an alliance called the Towarah and it is over 100 years since all these tribes collaborated on a travelling route in the way they do today on the Sinai Trail. The Sinai Trail is reviving old paths, alliances, and history. The Bedouin coopearative is supported by a wider Sinai Trail Team, including men and women from across mainland Egypt and Europe, who add extra skills and strengthen the project in key areas.
Faraj Mahmoud (Co-founder & tribal leader Jebeleya) Faraj grew up in St Katherine and belongs to a tribe known as the Jebeleya: the Mountain People. One of the Sinai’s most respected outdoorsmen, what he doesn’t know about hiking isn’t worth knowing! He is a consultant for several NGOs, he organises research programmes for universities, and he helped fix the BBC documentary The Frankincense Trail. Faraj is one of the original founders of the Sinai Trail and plays a key role in off trail operations today, working within the Sinai Trail Bedouin Cooperative and reaching out to involve new communities.
Musallem Abu Faraj (Co-founder & tribal leader, Tarabin) Musallem is one of the Tarabin tribe’s most experienced guides. As well as hiking, he has been a pioneer for mountain biking in Sinai. One of his greatest passions in life is passing his knowledge of the Sinai and its Bedouin culture to young generations. Alongside his work on the Sinai Trail, Musallem has his own hiking business and his own desert garden, to which he often retreats. He owns a camp on the Red Sea and he is another one of the original founders of the Sinai Trail. He works as a guide on the trail and is the leader of his tribe in the Sinai Trail cooperative.
Nasser Mansour (Head guide & tribal leader, Jebeleya) Nasser grew up in Abu Seila, a village near St Katherine. He began guiding when he was young and has a formidable knowledge of the Sinai highlands. His other area of expertise is the Sinai’s plants and animals. He is the brother of the famous Dr Ahmed – a Bedouin herbalist – from whom he learnt. When he’s not guiding, Nasser still spends his time in the mountains, walking with his children, caring for his camels and tending to his orchard, near his home. Along with Faraj Mahmoud – also from the Jebeleya – Nasser sits on the Sinai Trail Bedouin Cooperative today.
Sheikh Ahmed Abu Rashid (Sinai Trail Cooperative President, Jebeleya) Sheikh Ahmed grew up in the mountains of St Katherine, working as a guide until his mid 30s, after which he became one of the youngest Sheikhs in the Sinai. As well as a Sheikh, he is the chief bridge between the Monastery of St Katherine and the Bedouin community. He is a key part of the Sinai Trail team, helping with outreach to new tribal areas and representing the trail in official circles. In 2016 he travelled to England to represent the Sinai Trail at the BGTW awards. Today, he is the leader of the Sinai Trail Bedouin Cooperative.
Ben Hoffler (Co-founder & Chair, UK) Originally from the UK, Ben has been based in Egypt since 2008. With Bedouin leaders he co-founded the trail and oversaw every aspect of its development with the Bedouin cooperative from 2014 to the present. He wrote Trailblazer’s Sinai: The Trekking Guide and founded the Egypt Three Peaks Challenge – Egypt’s 1st mountain challenge – and the Sinai is Safe Initiative, which aims to show a positive, hopeful side of the Sinai. He has walked over 10,000km with the Sinai’s Bedouin tribes and is involved in several initiatives to preserve the Sinai’s endangered nomadic heritage.
Cristina Gheza (General Office Manager, Italy) Cristina grew up in Italy, on the edge of the mountains in the north. She abandoned an accounting job in her 20s and travelled to Egypt, where she has spent almost all her time ever since. She worked in Sharm el Sheikh as a diving instructor for over 20 years and managed several diving centres. More recently she began to hike and explore the deserts away from the coast and she was a member of the first team to thru hike the original 220km Sinai Trail in 2016. Cristina joined the Sinai Trail team in 2017 and today organises and joins trips and manages the off trail team.
Mostafa Abu el Fadl (Volunteers Coordinator, Cairo, Egypt) Mostafa was born in Egypt and spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia, where he began walking the great outdoors. Since then he has hiked all over the Sinai and as far away as the Himalayas. Mostafa was a member of the first ever thru hike of the Sinai Trail in 2016 and today he is the Sinai Trail’s ‘man in Cairo’. He handles building the volunteer community and he assesses and trains individuals wanting to join thru hikes. From 2018, Mostafa will have a more hands-on trail role, organising trips on the Sinai Trail as a key member of the Sinai team too.