Hiking is one of the best activities to do in Egypt if you are into new experiences and want to hit the off-beaten tracks. The climate in Egypt is always great for one day to two days hike all around the year. Most of the hiking routes and tracks in Egypt are easily accessible and has nearby facilities such as hostels, lodges and local guides who are expert in leading hiking tours.
The best area for mountain hiking is the national park of St. Catherine, which provides several routes and over 4 summits to reach. The area also contains historical sightseeing, hot springs, Bedouin villages, and most importantly the holy track of prophet Moses.
Why hiking in Egypt is a unique experience?
- Prophets hiked in Egypt including Moses
- Most of the hikes are mountain hikes, which provides an added value of a sense of achievements when you reach the mountain peaks.
- Most of the mountain peaks in Egypt are reachable within a one day hike.
- Most hikes are easy exit which is minimizing the risk factor
- Different mountain colors and geological natural
- Water could be found in the middle of now where
- Get close to the Egyptian Bedouin life
Interesting fact: Hiking in Egypt is older than Moses
Saint Catherine is a protected park with entrance fees of EGP5 which is less than one USD dollar or one euro. Entrance fees for Masai Mara is USD$150. Which is one of the oldest and yet cheapest national parks worldwide.
The Holy Mountains in Egypt
- Monastery, Moses story and a mosque inside the monastery
- Roads leads to the mountain bases are scenic enough
- Most of the trails are dried water rivers (Mamarat Seil)
- The mountains are not deserteous. Families live in the valleys of each mountain area.
The Local Culture of Saint Catherine Mountains
Mountains Bedouins all belong to won tribe called Jebaleya, which means Moutanineous in Arabic and they all came from Romania few centuries ago as Monastery Guardians, now all converted to Islam and have problems with the Monastery.
Few thousand people every day hike Moses mountains, some Russian ladies hike in high heels. We spotted several Russian blonde ladies hiking in high heals which we considered as a new/Russian hiking style.
Even in hot weather you need to cover up all your body, with lose light colored clothing to allow the air to circulate and create an air-conditioning system for yourself.
Top Tips for Hiking in Egypt
- Its important while choosing your path/trek to choose a slow rising slope for the first few hours of your hike so you could worm your body and muscles before ascending to mountain peaks. Don’t just hit the steep slopes right away!
- Sleep at least 8 hours before your hike
- Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. As the air breeze might make you feel not wanting to drink, while your body needs enough water lubricant supplies
- Straw are the best head cover, providing air breathing to your head while protecting your skin from direct strong sun light.
- Try sleeping on the rocks, its actually more comfortable than bed mats
- If you are new to hiking, its important to hike in a Jalabeya “local style”, to maintain the proper step size, for higher endurance level.
How to get to Saint Catherine Protected Park
How to get from Sharm El Sheikh to Saint Catherine: there is no public transportation from Sharm El Sheikh to Saint Catherine, you need to rent a taxi from the Airport, taxi fees is EUR50 per way. The ride lasts for 2 and half hours.
How to get from Dahab to Saint Catherine: there is no public transportation from Sharm or Nuweiba or Dahba or Taba to Saint Catherine. You would need to rent a private taxi from 4 seaters to 14 seaters. Public prices are not announced they are based on commonly known market values from hot spots. From Sharm city or airport USD$55 per way. From Dahab or Nuweiba USD$40 and from Taba USD$60.
How to get from Cairo to Saint Catherine: One company offers a public bus, East Delta Bus Company, that runs daily at 11am from Cairo to Saint Catherine. Costing USD$10 approximately per person. The ride also passes through Ras Sudr a famous city for Wave Surfing and Kite Surfing. Beware the bus does not stop loading locals even after all the seats are occupied. You can also rent a private car/van from Cairo usually costs USD$150 per way.
Regulations and Safety
Usually the hiking trails are safe in Egypt and easily accessible. Yet, it is really important to hire a local Bedouin guide to hike any of the mountains in Saint Catherine Park, which is a required by the Egyptian authorities.
Where to stay in Saint Catherine
Although once you arrive to Saint Catherine you will not be able to spot much buildings as most of the architecture is environmental using mountains stones and hence merges with the mountain background leaving you wondering as were do the inhabitants live. There are four options from which you can choose to accommodate yourself, depending on the purpose of your travel.
Ecolodges in Saint Catherine
Karma ecolodge, the only ecolodge in the area, which is run by Bedouins. We highly recommend, but of course as it’s a nice place, if you are focused on hiking then the peacefulness and the amazing accommodation will distract your trip. So we don’t recommend if you are on a tight schedule.
The two main base camps in Saint Catherine are Fox Camp near the entrance of the city on the left and Mousa Camp deep inside the city in the heart of a residential area. Both have basic rooms with shared bathrooms, but you can definitely lay your sleeping bag anywhere and just sleep.
At a Bedouin family
Some families are willing to host travelers in their outside visitors room, some of these rooms might have bathrooms. You need to contact a local operator to choose a family for you based on Bedouin regulations.
Hotels in Saint Catherine
Morgan Land Hotel or Catherine Plaza Hotel.
There are many hotels in the area, the most famous are Morgan Land which is few kilometers before the town and Catherine Plaza which is right at the center of town, facing Fox Camp. Both 4* hotels are boring, they are built with the same style but have poor furniture and bad facilities, freezing swimming pools, their identity is lost between Bedouin mountain style and beach resorts.
What do you need for hiking in Egypt: Gear & Equipment
European and western gear are cool for photos, but what you actually need is to copy the life style of the native Bedouins. Who survive the mountains areas of Sinai as you survive your compound life in the crowded city.
Important items to pack
- Sleeping bag, is vital, as the other option would be a wool blanket which is very heavy to carry for both individuals and camels. Try to get a small sleeping bag with -5 degrees to handle the cold weather at night. Mountain cold is different from what you are used to. Sometimes we wish it would snow to warm up a little.
- Either flipflops or very high quality mountains hiking boots. If you are a nature lover and willing to go, you should hike in Sandals or flipflops letting your feat integrate with nature, choose easy sandals to take off as on mountain treks small rocks can get inside your sand and all you would just dram off a the moment is to get rid of those tiny hurting stones killing your feet and your mood. If that’s not your choice, then you need to go to the other extreme, choose the best hiking boats, not even hiking shoes. Again those small rocks could be deadly, boots will not allow them to reach to your feet, also boots provide ankle support, which is vital.
- Headlights, some nights, more specifically the 13th, 14th & 15th of the Lunar Month are full moon nights, where the moon lights the mountain for you like the strong florescent lamps light soccer fields. Also depending on the angle of the moon. But the rest of the month is just dark from sunset to sunrise. Taking a piss, picking something form your backpack, shaking a friends hand or even recognizing your partner would only be possible with a good headlamp.
- Dates as a meal/snack backup. In the desert mountains dates and also nuts has proven to be quite sufficient and easy to carry. Both have nutrients enough to take care of your body during the entire hike.