Hiking in Sinai and Saint Catherine hike is considered as one of the top activities to do in Egypt. The region is a national park with the highest mountain in Egypt and the holy lands of Mount Moses, St. Catherine monastery, and Wadi El Arbeen. The village of Catherine is a small Bedouin community located between mountains with a road that connects the village with Nweuiba, Taba, and Sharm El Shekih road. Saint Catherine is home to the top hiking trails in Egypt with more than 7 popular trials and many more off the beaten track destinations.
The Hiking Trails in South Sinai
Hiking in Egypt always starts with St. Catherine Hike as it is the roof of Egypt and followed by Mount Moses, Mount Abbas, Red Mountain, and El Gelt Al Azraq. There is also Monastery, Moses’ story, and a mosque inside the monastery. Even the roads lead to the mountain bases are scenic enough. Most of the trails are dried water rivers (mamarat seil).
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.
If you are new to hiking, it’s important to hike in a Jalabeya, to maintain the proper step size, for higher endurance level. Even in hot weather, you need to cover up all your body, with losing light-colored clothing to allow the air to circulate and create an airconditioning system for yourself. Straw is the best head cover, providing air-breathing to your head while protecting your skin from direct strong sunlight.
It is 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. Try sleeping on the rocks, its actually more comfortable than bed mats.
How to get there?
How to get to Saint Catherine Protected park from
Sharm: there is no public transportation from Sharm 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.
Dahab: 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.
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: You need to hire a local beduine guide to hike any of the mountains in Saint Catherine Park, which is a required by the Egyptian authorities.
Gears & Equipments
European and western gear is cool for photos, but what you actually need is to copy the lifestyle of the native Bedouins. Who survives the mountain areas of Sinai as you survive your compound life in the crowded city. However, it is important to carry warm layers if you are hiking during the peak of the winter December to February as you might face snow at the top. Regular hiking clothes and shoes are important for the hike in Sinai.
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.
Where to stay?
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.
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 beduin mountain style and beach resorts.
Ecolodges: Karma ecolodge, the only ecolodge in the area, which is run by beduines. 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.
Base Camps: 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 beduine 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 beduin regulations.
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.