The Sinai Trail is Egypt's first-ever long distance hiking trail and a sister project of the Wadi Rum Trail. It opened in 2015 as a 220km route taking 12 days to walk and crossing the territories of three Bedouin tribes. In 2018, the Sinai Trail was extended into a 550km route, taking 48 days to complete and traversing the lands of all eight Bedouin tribes in South Sinai. The Sinai Trail is operated as a community tourism project and is managed by an intertribal cooperative in which each of the region's eight Bedouin tribes is equally represented. This coming together of the region's tribes was overseen by a Bedouin Sheikh and formalised in traditional Bedouin law and it represented the first time these eight tribes had agreed to collaborate in guiding travellers this way in South Sinai in over 100 years. The Sinai Trail was founded in one of the hardest chapters Egypt's tourism has known; a time in which the country was recovering from years of revolution and civil unrest as an insurgency unfolded in the northern parts of the Sinai. With the support of a community of people in Egypt and around the world the Sinai Trail continued to grow through these difficulties and it ranks today as the country's flagship adventure tourism initiative. It has been hiked by thousands of people since opening, boosting the grassroots tourism economy in some of the country's most marginalised deserts, creating a kind of work that helps keep the region's endangered cultural heritage alive, and showing a more positive, hopeful and accurate side of a region that has been chronically misrepresented over the last decade. The Sinai Trail has received the backing of Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and its pioneering model for sustainable, community-based tourism stands widely commended around the world.
The Sinai stands at the great continental crossroads between Africa and Asia and ranks as one of the most majestic and fabled desert wildernesses on earth. It is the age old passage land through which humans made their earliest journeys out of Africa and its deserts have for many millennia been home to peoples practising mobile pastoralist ways of life. Today, the Sinai is home to more than 20 Bedouin tribes, many of whom trace their roots to the mountains and deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Some tribes with lands in the Sinai today are also found in the deserts of Wadi Rum. The Sinai and Wadi Rum are separated by less than 50km and the regions remain strongly connected by a common Bedouin heritage, the best of which it is hoped each one's trails will show.
The Sinai Trail today
The Sinai Trail is Egypt's most successful community tourism project. It has boosted hiking tourism in some of the country's most remote, marginalised deserts, creating legitimate new jobs and opportunities. Bedouin women have started to guide hikes in one tribal community, representing a historic first for the region. Young apprentice guides once mentored by older Bedouin on the trail now lead trips, representing a gradual passing of the project to a new generation. The Sinai Trail cooperative remains active, with its leaders representing it in high profile spaces across the region. Although the Sinai Trail operates in a highly challenging context for tourism in Egypt it continues to take forward steps, supporting its region in the most impactful way.
Bedouin Trail: a family of three
Along with the Red Sea Mountain Trail, the Sinai Trail is a sister project of the Wadi Rum Trail, with the three existing in a connected trail family. Each has a different tourism model designed for its own home region and all function independently, but they remain united through common values, working principles and the broad goal of showing the great depth and beauty of the Middle East's Bedouin heritage to the wider world. The Red Sea Mountain Trail, Sinai Trail and Wadi Rum Trail came together more formally in spring 2023 to form a new, intercontinental hiking passage that runs more than 1200km between Africa and Asia, known as the Bedouin Trail. Each collaborate to oversee the route and the Sinai Trail links its Asian and African sides together.