A Backpacker's Guide to Egypt's Sinai Trail
Although we know Egypt as the Land of Pyramids, there is one feature of this country that is any backpacker’s dream. Yes, we are talking about the Sinai trail that stretches from the rim of the Red Sea to the highest peak in Egypt. Hiking up this trail, you will come across biblical monasteries, scorched desert landscapes, and windswept mountain passes. And the best part? You get a chance to get acquainted with the time-honored Bedouin culture.
Collectively founded by three Bedouin tribes in 2015, this sinewy trail (approximately 250 km in length) is the first long-distance hiking track in Egypt. Before that, the Sinai trail was simply the trodden path for believers who traversed all the way through the mainland to reach the summits of Mount Sinai. Various drawings made by the Crusader-era pilgrims that lie scattered among the desert’s rocks are the proof of this long journey. Hiking along the Sinai trail nowadays comprises accompanying a group of camels and a Bedouin guide. You can choose between a short hike that lasts for a few days or go the entire distance, which usually takes two weeks. However, tackling the Sinai is not easy; you must prepare to tackle extreme weather conditions and tricky ground surfaces. To help, here are some pointers.
Choice of Footwear
Most Bedouin guides prefer wearing light sandals made of plastic; however, that is because their feet are accustomed to the abrasive desert surface laden with pebbles and thorns. You should go for lightweight hiking shoes or boots, which offer better protection on the difficult terrain. Likewise, it is essential that you pack a worn-in pair otherwise you will have to face foot blisters because of the high temperatures. You should also skip any footwear that has mesh panels, simply because they let in sand and grit - an annoying proposition. To cushion your feet better, you can add blister-prevention tape and light wool socks.
Looking the Part
In case you are on a self-supported backpacking trip across the Sinai, you should look at keeping the travel gear to a minimum and choose multi-purpose clothing items. You can stock a combination of base-layer clothing made from synthetic material or merino wool, warmer garments and a windproof shell. Go for loose-fitting base-layer clothes that cover all limbs to get added protection from the harsh sun. Though the Sinai Peninsula experiences little annual rainfall, an occasional drenching downpour can turn the surrounding dangerously chilly, therefore, be sure to pack rain gear or a poncho.
Spending the Night
It is a known fact that the dry desert air cools more quickly than the mainland when the sun goes down. Likewise, a dramatic change in elevation also means that night will be freezing cold. Therefore, you’ve got to prepare for such situation. The key here is to supplement a warm sleeping bag with a silk or synthetic bag liner. Therefore, you can use the liner as a sheet when you’re near the coast and the complete setup as you near the summits. Moreover, choose a foam sleeping mat - it is a better choice than the inflatable versions, in a desert terrain where thorns and sharp rocks are in abundance. The Bedouin guides usually sleep out in the open, wrapping themselves in thick blankets, therefore, you can follow suit to better enjoy the bright night sky in the desert.
Sensitive electronics are not of much use in the harsh surroundings of the Sinai Peninsula. Therefore, you must carry camera cases that have sealable, plastic liners to better protect the gear. Moreover, you can swap your phone with robust traveler’s smartwatches to stay connected during the hike and strap small solar panels to your backpack to keep the batteries charged.
First Aid Kits
It is important that you carry an emergency kit complete with cotton gauze, tape, plasters, antibiotic ointment and usual medications including anti-inflammatories, antidiarrhoeal medicine, and rehydration salts. Likewise, be sure to pack emergency water treatment utilities such as iodine tablets, or a UV purification system along with hand sanitizers, and wet wipes.
(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)