Trekking Sinai’s Summits
“Hussein steps off the path, walking into a cluster of identical-looking boulders. Whilst a little perplexed, over the past few days I have learnt to trust our Bedouin guide implicitly so I follow, picking my way over the rugged ground. As I near him Hussein stands up, turns to face me, and hands me a tin can of cold water, plucked as if by magic from a secret spring. Having walked these mountains all his life and having worked as a guide in them for over 30 years, he has consistently surprised me with insights and hidden gems in the deep wadis, soaring peaks and steep gorges of the High Mountain region of South Sinai.
We had set off two days previously, picking our way up a quiet path above St Catherine’s village. As we came to the Abu Jeefa viewpoint, my previous trepidation of fitting a 5 day trekking itinerary into 3 days was completely forgotten as the first secret of the Bedouin was revealed. The view down into two beautiful, impossibly lush gardens was almost shocking, set in such juxtaposition to the sheer cliffs, rocks and sand that we had been moving through. Whilst the terrain here is harsh and the landscape utterly unforgiving (at first glance), with a little exploration and excellent local knowledge, the softer side of the High Mountains is revealed.
Having trekked and climbed across the UK, Europe, south America, and east Africa, I am truly taken aback at just how unique this area is to travel through. Without a guide, it would be almost impossible to survive more than a couple of days, and what miserable days those would be!
Hussein not only guided us through the mountains (keeping track of where we were on my home-made map was extremely challenging!), pointed out secret water sources, and kept us safe over small sections of scrambling, but he also cooked every meal – freshly prepared and utterly delicious (barbecue chicken and spiced rice was a particular highlight for me). Watching him make flatbreads over the fire in the evening was almost hypnotic and I can say, hand on heart, that the evenings spent with Hussein by the camp-fire were the most relaxing of my life. Lying in my sleeping bag, toasty warm and looking up at the huge canvas of stars, with the crackle of the fire and the smell of fresh bread teasing the senses, it was impossible not to feel a sense of deep contentment, and quiet joy.“
Josh Thorn is Expedition Manager and Leader at Wind Sand & Stars. He was in Sinai to complete a recce of a route through the High Mountain region for our Sinai Summits trek, running in October 2018 and April 2019.