The rugged beauty of Egypt’s long-distance hiking trails

“It’s a part of Egypt that’s been neglected, and to some extent we don’t know anything about it,” Ms. El Samra motored through the gravelly sand. “This is a part of Egypt where you feel very safe with the people. It’s very cool, it’s beautiful, it’s undiscovered. It’s very different from what we do in the rest of Egypt. I want to build some muscles.

Ms. El Samra was one of a small but growing group of Egyptian adventure travelers and endurance athletes who competed in hiking, running and triathlons. A failed revolution and subsequent military takeover At the beginning of the last decade. Many saw the acts as a way to release frustrations, exercise their freedom, or simply find their country.

Hiking is still a major activity in Egypt. The Sinai Trail hosted a few hundred hikers before the pandemic, which forced the trails to be closed for much of 2020. The number is down to dozens in 2021 due to travel restrictions. But more climbers returned this year, including 70 from around the world who came for a weekend hike in October that coincided with the United Nations’ annual climate conference. Known as COP27, held the following month in Sharm El Sheikh. If all goes as planned, the Sinai Trail will offer its first end-to-end hike of the 350-mile route next October.

For the Bedouin, the trails are a way to return to their roots and life in the mountains.

During droughts in the 1990s, many Sinai Bedouin migrated to coastal towns or farms in the Nile Valley for work, said Youssef Barakat of the Aleghat tribe. Guide during the COP27-related hike in October. Modernization and the decline of tourism at the beginning of the last decade drove away the Sinai Bedouin. 36 year old Mr. Barakat returned to the mountains to work on the trail after working as a chef at his family’s restaurant in Abu Genima on the west coast.

The Bedouins are forced to change, Mr. Barakat told us after a dinner of roast mutton and vegetable soup, followed by Mr. Paragat beats the tabla drums and sings a traditional love song.

“We have the Internet, we have telephones,” he said. Very quickly, he said, he and his people “became like the Egyptians.”

However, through the Sinai route, Mr. Paragat and his fellow tribesmen have a chance to return to their time-honored lifestyle.

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