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Discover Sinai

A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai

This publication has been produced by to promote responsible tourism and to
support local communities. For this reason it is freely available as a pdf file and can be reproduced
and distributed, but only in its entirety. Using images or parts of the document, or any unauthorized
alteration, including deleting, editing or adding content, is prohibited. For personal use single pages
can be printed or photocopied. This publication should only be used planning your treks and
enhancing the experience; it is not a substitute for a local Bedouin guide, who is both necessary and
also mandatory for most treks. No responsibilities are accepted for any loss or damage occurred from
using this publication. Please feel free to point out inaccuracies or suggest necessary changes at All text and images remain the copyright of their respective owners.

2009 and Kelvin J. Bown, Mirjam Duymaer van Twist, Emily Eros, Dr. Francis Gilbert,
Andy Killey, Joshua Lohnes, Dave Lucas, Said Mahmoud Salah, Zoltan Matrahazi, Suliman Subail el Heneny,
Gordon Wilkinson, Dr. Samy Zalat and photographers of the fauna and flora section as named

The publication is available as a pdf file on:
Table of contents

PART I. Introduction 3

Discover Sinai 3
Orientation 4
Organizing a trek or safari 5
Ecotourism in Egypt 8

PART II. Sights in South Sinai 11

Around St. Katherine: the High Mountain Region 12

South of St. Katherine: towards Sharm el Sheikh and El Tur 34
East of St. Katherine: towards Nuweiba and Dahab 43
North-East of St. Katherine: towards the Nuweiba-Taba coast 60
North-West of St. Katherine: towards Abu Zenima and Ras Sudr 66

PART III. Fauna and flora of South Sina 74

Fauna 75
Flora 89

PART IV. Dictionary 101

Map of the High Mountain Region 128 A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 2
PART I. Introduction

Discover Sinai

South Sinai is a truly diverse and unique land that cannot fail to captivate any visitor that allows its
blend of history, culture and nature to wash over them. We hope this guide will help you to experience
the less well known parts of what makes this land so special.
The most immediately striking aspect of this area is the incredible natural beauty. The South
Sinai massif is an isolated block of some of the worlds oldest rocks dating back 700million years. Yet
for such a barren land there really is wondrous variety. Within short distances visitors can find
themselves walking through beautiful canyons to lush green oases; or, hiking down rugged sandy
wadis, across stunning dunes and up incredible granite mountains. The natural beauty, and contrast
that exist here, constantly take your breath away.
The Sinai peninsula has been at the crossroads of much of world history. The pharaohs,
Alexander the Great and Romans all left their mark here. In 641 AD the Muslim army that conquered
Egypt, and would begin the spread of Islam throughout North Africa, marched through Sinai. The
crusades fought here and in the 20th century Sinai would become the battlefield for the conflict
between Israel and Egypt. Yet the peninsula is best known for its association with biblical tradition. The
Exodus, the New Testaments descriptions of the flight into Egypt and the return of the Holy family to
Palestine all have the desert of Sinai as their backdrop. Most famous, of course, is Mt Sinai, the
mountain from which Moses spoke to God and brought down the ten commandments. This is an area
of immense spiritual significance.
At the foot of Mt Sinai stands the Monastery of St Katherine, the worlds oldest continuously
inhabited monastery. Christian monasticism has its origins in Sinai. In the 3rd century, fleeing
persecution from the Roman emperor Diocletian, Sinai was a logical location of retreat for many
Christians who found safety in the remote wilderness, settling around the sites of religious significance
in the South. The remains of small monasteries and chapels, dating back to this period, can still be
seen in this area, some of them are still in use.
But it is not only early Christianity that has left its archaeological footprint in South Sinai. The
pharaohs built a temple at Serabit el Khadim, the area where they mined turquoise. The first roofed
stone structures, the mysterious nawamis buildings, are only found in South Sinai; they are believed to
date back to the copper age (4000 3150 BC). Rock inscriptions using ancient scripts Proto-Sinaitic,
Nabatean, ancient Greek, Hebrew and Arabic can be seen in many places. Linking all of these
incredible archaeological sites are the ancient caravan routes and desert trails that have been used
since prehistoric times. In South Sinai you really are walking in the footpaths of history.
Tying all this natural beauty and history together are the Bedouin people of South Sinai.
Traditionally they belong to 7 tribes, although some tribes from the North are also present at some
places. The Bedouin are mostly descended from people of the Arabian peninsula who arrived in Sinai
in several waves along the centuries. The one exception to this is the Jabaleya tribe who live in the
High Mountain area around St Katherines monastery. The tribe trace their origins back to when
families from around the Black Sea were sent by Emperor Justinian to aid the building and running of
the monastery.
The lifestyle of these Bedouin is in a constant state of flux; traditionally water, herding, and in
the specific case of the Jabaleya, seasonal orchard gardening, dictated their lives. Today it is mostly
tourism. For many of the Bedouin of South Sinai their lives have become almost entirely sedentary.
This is not to say that their traditions have disappeared, just that they have become mixed with
modernity. The best way to experience the Bedouin way of life is to head out into the desert with a
local guide and a camel.
And this is precisely what this guide wants to enable people to do. Sinai is a land of wondrous
variety of nature, history and people. We hope this guide goes someway towards opening your eyes to
the possibilities offered here, and how to go about experiencing them. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 3

IMPORTANT: This is a reference book only. It is intended as an information tool, something that
sparks the imagination of the traveler. This guidebook should be used in collaboration with local

Each page on the sights is laid out as follows:

1) Brief overview of the specific area.

2) Non-specific information about South Sinai.
This section is designed to greater information to
the reader about a particular point of interest
regarding the history, culture and environment of
South Sinai.
3) Geographical description: detailing the location of
this site in relation to others.
4) Large Scale map: The red box marks the specific
5) Zoom map: Map showing the detailed geographic
location of the area.
6) Points of interest within this area.

Maps to South Sinai

The best way to use the guide is

with a map. There is only one
usable map available locally
(pictured) which you can get
from most bookshops in the
Sinai or Cairo. Some prints are
better, others are lower quality
check before buying. It is based
on an Israeli map. The main
places are all on it. Although the
smaller details may not be there,
it is still useful, and does help to
orientate. The Royal Geographic
Societys map of Sinai, coming in
many separate sheets, is more detailed, but is rather expensive and for the High Mountain Region the
local maps inset is the better. We used this inset for the sights around St. Katherine. For other
destinations we used Google Earth images. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 4
Organizing a trek or safari

Sinai, and Egypt in general, is not for the hard-core independent traveler; you cant just
wander alone off to the mountains or the desert, since in most areas it is prohibited. There are
various reasons for this, and your safety is one of them. Maybe you think you can do it alone,
like you are used to at home, but the environment is very different and confusing with extreme
weather conditions. A simple mistake could cost you your life: the Egyptian authorities don't
want to see you hurt, and also don't want bad publicity either. This law also supports local
communities in a direct way in most places you have to be accompanied by a local Bedouin
guide. And it makes sense; since they are the traditional inhabitants, they know the area best.
This also applies to companies; they have to have a local Bedouin guide in the Sinai. You can
organize your program through different operators or independently the options are
explained below, followed by some points on costs, what to expect along the way and what to
bring, when to come, dangers and annoyances, and recommendations.

Big international companies usually do not run treks and safaris off the beaten path they probably
include the Monastery of St. Katherine and Mt. Sinai and possibly a fast 4x4 visit to an oasis or canyon.
If they do Sinai, they do it through smaller local operators, so you might as well go straight to them.

There are smaller operators, based internationally and locally, who run treks and safaris or specialize
in other activities, such as yoga, meditation, rock climbing, desert mountain-biking as well as aspects
of religious, historical or nature tourism. They usually work closely with local Bedouin communities but
provide their own tour leaders, foreign or Egyptian, who are in charge of the operations on the ground.
These operators are very specialized in nature and located in many countries most of them have
websites, so you can easily find someone in your area of interest, who is based either in your own
country or in Egypt.

If you want to use a local operator, your best bet is someone based in the Sinai. Operators based in
Cairo are selling Egypt; the pyramids, pharaonic ruins along the Nile valley and felucca rides. Sinai is
of marginal interest for them if it is included, it is only the few main sites. Operators in Sharm el
Sheikh, although based in Sinai, are mostly into adventure of their own style quad bikes and 4x4s
and organize short superficial desert trips with reheated hotel food, which is exactly what their
customers want. As long as they keep out of protected areas, or stick to the rules if inside one, it is
fine, but this is not for those who want a genuine and quiet desert experience. Other local Sinai
operators, based either in Dahab, Nuweiba, St. Katherine or in the desert, often have a better
understanding of the desert and mountains and tend to be more dedicated and responsible. There are
several Egyptian- or Egyptian/foreigner-run companies, as well as a growing number of Bedouin-run
operations. Many of the smaller operations do not have offices of their own and are located in cheaper
hotels and camps.

There are independent Bedouin guides and it is possible to organize programs straight through
them. They are registered as a Bedouin guide and have a photo ID with these words written in
English. Some have other relevant qualifications as well. Hotels and camps which do not push their
own services can put you in contact with the guides and you can sit down and discuss the details with
them in person. The best places to find a good Bedouin guide who speaks English well, or other
languages, is in Dahab, Nuweiba, the camps on the Nuweiba to Taba coast and in St. Katherine.

In some places you can organize your trek or safari right on the spot in the desert, although English
communication there might be basic. There are a number of cafeterias and camel stations along the
St. Katherine to Dahab-Nuweiba road (Wadi Arada, Nawamis settlement, Ein Khudra pass, Ras
Ghazala) which are easy to reach by taxi or microbus, possibly along a round trip to St. Katherine from
the coast. You can also find guides in Wadi Feiran in one of the gardens close to the Convent (treks to
Gebel Serbal, Wadi Mukattab and Serabit el Khadim) and possibly in the cafeterias in Abu Zenima
(treks or transport to Serabit el Khadim). Wadi Feiran and Abu Zenima are on the main Cairo to St.
Katherine road serviced by public buses and regular microbuses. If you can make your own way to the
settlement of Serabit el Khadim, you can arrange a program there; you can visit the archeological ruins
as well as arrange longer camel safaris. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 5
In some cases there are tribal laws regarding who you can take as a guide most notable is the High
Mountain Region, where guides are allocated by a rotating system managed by the sheikhs. The
system, called el dor, has been set up by the tribe to provide work to every family. Treks have to be
organized through the sheikhs who allocate the guides and camels and arrange permissions with the
authorities. If you want to use a guide of your choice you still have to pay the one whose turn it is. In
Arada Canyon, the White Canyon and the Colored Canyon you also have to take a guide from the local
system, unless you are taking part in a longer trek and already have a Bedouin guide. To the pharaonic
ruins of Serabit el Khadim and only to the archeological site you have to take a guide from the
village, regardless if you have another Bedouin guide, as is the case with Gebel Serbal, where only
local Qararsha people can work. At the Colored Canyon a small part of the fee goes to the tribal
cooperative which runs the system. There were also plans to set up a guide association at the Ein
Khudra pass cafeteria for hikes to the White Canyon and run it similarly.


Most operators and many independent guides prefer to offer all-inclusive packages with prices ranging
between 25 to 100 euro per person per day. The price often depends on several factors and/or
minimum group size is required. If you want to organize your trek or safari independently you might
save some money, but it depends greatly on your bargaining skills. Other factors which affect the price
include group size, who is providing the food, extra equipment, camels, car or jeep if needed and the
itinerary. Bedouin guides and cameleers, apart from leading you and carrying your stuff, will provide
cooking equipment and local water, make fire, tea and coffee, cook meals, bring flour and bake bread.
As an example, in case food is bought by you but local water and flour for fresh bread are provided by
them, expect the following prices:
In the desert: guide 100-250 LE a day, each camel extra 80-120 LE a day. Note: if the guide and
camel have to return from a long way the transport or return time are also to be paid for.
In the high mountains: guide from the sheikhs 160-240 LE a day, each camel extra 80-120 LE a
day. Note: Mt. Katherine is double.
To Gebel Serbal: guide 200 LE a day, each camel extra 200 LE a day.
Short ride in pick-up car: 50-100 LE.
Pick-up car: 300-400 LE a day.
Jeep (up to 4 passengers): 400-800 LE a day.
Landcruiser (up to 8 passengers): 800-1200 LE a day.
Basic accommodation in garden: 10-20 LE per person per night.
Fire wood: 40 LE a bag.
Note: These are only indicative prices based on 2009 figures.

On one hand, if you are not into bargaining and logistics and add up everything, you might as well find
that organizing through operators providing all-inclusive packages is worth that little extra. On the other
hand, you might find it more personal to deal straight with the guide who will be with you along the way.

Along the way

The Bedouin have their own rhythm and treks are usually moderate; 3-4 hours walk in the morning with
a possible tea break, lunch and rest, 2-3 hours walk in the afternoon, camp. In summer starting time is
very early and the lunch break can be as long as 3-4 hours, while in winter the start is later and the
lunch break is shorter. If you want to cover bigger distances than the usual, you have to be very
specific from the beginning. Some guides are excellent cooks but all know and can provide at least the
basics: soups, simple rice and pasta dishes, chicken and vegetables, different types of fresh Bedouin
breads, salads, dips, tuna, cheese, beans, sweets, tea and coffee. If you have special needs or want to
cater for yourself, let it be known beforehand. In some areas it is possible to carry everything yourself,
but camels are often needed. Camels are usually used for transport, but in the desert, according to
arrangements, you can ride them as well. Often the camels take different routes so in the morning you
should have ready a camel pack with belongings you only need in the evening and a day pack with
items for the day. You should carry some warm clothes and have always plenty of water. You can
safely rely on local water if worried, bring water purification tablets and/or a water filter. Make sure
you have bought firewood in town or have a gas cooker to minimize impact on scarce resources. A
lightweight tent (possibly without the cover) or a mosquito net will come handy most of the year, but
you can get away without one (cover yourself with a sheet or find a windy spot). In winter good
sleeping bags are important while in warmer seasons a sheet might be enough. Foam mattresses and
blankets are provided on request. Camps are set up either in Bedouin gardens or in the wilderness. In A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 6
gardens there might be a toilet and simple washing facilities in any case be conscious about
pollution, waste and water usage.

When meeting local people you will be offered tea or coffee, possibly food and, in the gardens,
available fresh fruit. It is genuine Bedouin hospitality: they dont expect anything for it. It is nice to offer
back something though; biscuits, cigarettes, snacks or other small things. If you want to contribute, you
can buy small handicrafts which most families sell. However, staying overnight and services provided
should be paid for either by you or the operator. Baksheesh is part of life and tips are accepted by all
providing services it is not necessary, but appreciated, especially if you were happy with their work.
Useful items which are difficult to get locally, such as pocket knifes, torches, sandals, boots and other
trekking equipment are also a good idea to give.

When to come

If you look at South Sinai as a whole, it is easy to organize treks all year round. When it gets cold in the
high mountains, it is still warmer in the desert when it is too hot in the desert, it is still more pleasant
in the mountains. Probably the best times are spring and autumn in both regions, although any time is
possible; there are small stone huts and caves which can provide shelters in winter and the hot mid-
day siestas are spent in shady places in summer.

Dangers and annoyances

Egypt is generally a safe country, and the mountains and desert of South Sinai are especially so.
Violent crimes are unheard of and theft, even in towns, is very rare. Religious tolerance dominates
rather than extremism. Some western embassies are worried about security, and as a result, groups
through bigger agencies or citizens of USA and Israel might have to have a police escort in some
places. It is absolutely unnecessary and we hope officials will realize it works against the local
economy. Most of us, however, will only see police at checkpoints; there are many of these so have
your passport handy when traveling on main roads. The staff are usually friendly, even if sometimes in
simple ways keep in mind, they are just doing their jobs.

Dangerous animals do exist in the Sinai, especially a couple of snake species (see the fauna and flora
section), but they keep away from humans. Along treks the more likely threats are dehydration, sun
stroke and cold. There are dangerous and difficult paths, but the guide should understand what you
want to and can do. The guides are generally safety-conscious and innovative, but a first-aid kit is
usually not available. Have some important basic medication and supplies. You should arrange travel
insurance before your trip check carefully what they offer. When on treks, your passport or a copy of
your passport and visa might have to stay with the operator. Leave also your insurance details and
other relevant information, in case of emergency.

One annoying thing which often happens is not sticking to plans/route. Sometimes it is necessary to
change the trek for various reasons, but there are guides who are simply lazy and want to cut corners.
Always make sure that the route and timing are well understood by both parties before setting off.


When organizing a trek or safari the important things are the experience you get, price and hopefully
to more and more people responsibility. The expressions sustainable, responsible, ethical or eco-
tourism are catchwords of today; there are operators who do understand what it means and take it
seriously, while others use it only to sell their programs and do not have a clue or do not care. In the
absence of a list of responsible operators and any code of practice or monitoring system it is difficult to
make recommendations. If there ever will be a reliable source listing responsible operators we will
publish it in a future edition and on the website. In the mean time, use common sense
and always look behind the "green" faade remember, greenwashing is a marketing strategy. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 7
Ecotourism in Egypt

Notions of sustainability and sustainable development, a by-product of the environmental

movement, also contributed to the emergence of ecotourism as a form of alternative tourism that
emphasized the well-being of the natural environment, while simultaneously recognising the
importance of host communities. Despite its popular appeal, the concept of ecotourism lacks a fixed
definition. Moreover, there is no regulatory body or standard certification or accreditation process to
distinguish genuine ecotourism enterprises from mainstream or mass tourism businesses. Clearly,
priorities vary for the many actors and stakeholders involved in ecotourism: government authorities,
local communities, NGOs, and private tour operators. A set of common principles does recur
throughout most definitions, however. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), the oldest and
most influential ecotourism NGO, outlines six principles of ecotourism. According to TIES, ecotourism
seeks to:

1. Minimize impact
2. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
3. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
4. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
5. Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
6. Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and
social climate

However one defines it, ecotourism has faced mixed reviews with respect to its impacts upon
host environments and communities. As Honey writes, at its worst, when not practiced with the utmost
care, ecotourism threatens the very ecosystems upon which it depends. At its best, ecotourism offers a
set of principles and practices that have the potential to fundamentally transform the way the tourism
industry operates.

The benefits of ecotourism are intended to benefit local individuals; one of the basic tenets of
ecotourism is to engage local communities so they benefit from conservation, economic development
and education. In theory, ecotourism channels funds from foreign tourists into developing communities,
directly provides jobs for local people, and integrates formerly isolated regions into the global
marketplace. Economists argue that this increases market access and stimulates trickle-down benefits.
Furthermore, ideal ecotourism sites are located in remote regions, so the industry may alleviate
poverty by directly contributing to the income of the rural poor without necessitating urban migration.
These locations are particularly vulnerable, however, and nature tourism ventures can be highly
dangerous to delicate ecosystems and indigenous social structures. Resource exploitation can
damage fragile environments. Mismanagement can displace local communities and disrupt native
animal populations.
Critics of ecotourism generally fall into two schools of thought. The first group accepts the
theoretical underpinnings of ecotourism but argues that revisions must be made to how the concept is
applied in practice. These scholars admit that genuine ecotourism does exist but can be mismanaged
or confused with greenwashing, defined as projects or companies that claim to be involved in
ecotourism but are merely using green language in their marketing in an attempt to ride on the crest of
the ecotourism wave. Their work typically constitutes positivist, empirical analyses of case studies; they
isolate a case study, analyze the application and impact of ecotourism, and construct
recommendations for policy makers. These scholars generally advocate industry standards,
monitoring, and evaluation.
The second group of critics typically takes a poststructuralist stance to argue that the entire
concept of ecotourism is flawed or meaningless; because the origins of ecotourism lie in Western
ideology and values, and its practice is frequently dominated by Western interests, the advocacy of
ecotourism as a universal template arises from Western hegemony. Notions of sustainability,
development, and conservation are all value-charged Western constructs imposed on the Global
South. Therefore, these scholars argue, ecotourism represents neo-colonialism. Its weaknesses must
be addressed through more equitable ways or it should be abandoned as a development strategy. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 8
Tourism development has significantly altered both the environmental and cultural landscapes
of South Sinai. The situation of the Egyptian tourism development can be argued to be imposing highly
negative environmental impacts, unstable economic sector, serious socio-cultural problems, and highly
fragile to the political situation of the region. Faced with these problems, Cairo began to seek out and
champion alternative forms of tourism development designed to achieve economic and political goals
while balancing environmental concerns and exhibiting sensitivity to local Bedouin communities.
Prompted by international environmental agencies and local biodiversity scientists, the Egyptian
Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) established the nations first natural protectorates by passing
Law 102 of 1983 for Nature Protectorates which defined it as any area of land, or coastal or inland
water characterized by flora, fauna, and natural features having cultural, scientific, touristic or aesthetic
value. Within the protectorates, the EEAA aims to minimize human impacts upon nature. Regulations
forbid any actions which will lead to the destruction or deterioration of the natural environment or harm
the biota (terrestrial, marine or fresh water), or which will detract from the aesthetic standards within
protected areas.
The EEAAs national parks system thus served as the beginnings of Egypts ecotourism
industry. By imposing environmental protection measures in touristic areas, natural parks first
negotiated the seemingly contradictory goals of conservation and development within Sinai. As
ecotourism initiatives gained global attention in the 1990s, Egyptian national agencies began to
incorporate ecolanguage and terminology into their own tourism rhetoric. The EEAA officially
launched its National Ecotourism Strategy in 1998 to establish Egypt as a world class ecotourism
destination (and) ensure the conservation of Egypts natural heritage as the cornerstone of the
ecotourism industry.
In the past decade, international organizationsnamely USAID and the EUhave become
involved with tourism in the protectorates, expanding and emphasizing Egypts ecotourism industry
through targeted funding schemes. USAID funding promoted environmentally sustainable tourism
along the Red Sea from 1999-2005. In Sinai, European funding has buttressed the natural
protectorates since shortly after their inception, even giving direct grants towards the establishment of
new parks. In 2005, the EU launched the South Sinai Regional Development Programme (SSRDP) to
oversee infrastructure upgrades and administer grants to locally-oriented development projects. The
SSDRP states its overall purpose as the development of local economy and activities, and the
preservation and support of the social, cultural, and natural resources of South Sinai.
The Tourism Development Authority (TDA), part of the Ministry of Tourism, represents another
key figure in the tourism development and ecotourism spheres, primarily focusing on economic
imperatives. The TDA began to promote ecotourism through its Red Sea Sustainable Tourism
Initiative, launched in partnership with USAID in the early 2000s. Through this project, the TDA
developed guidelines for best practices in terms of zoning, building design, ecotourism management
and organized a conference, training workshops to educate hotel staff from the Marriott, Sheraton,
Hilton, and Mvenpick resorts about environmental management.

Based on Ecotourism as International Development in South Sinai by Emily Eros.

Note: While several big governmental and non-governmental organizations are involved in shaping the
tourism industry in Egypt and massive amounts of funds are spent on sustainable development, a
bottom-up approach might be more effective in many ways and should not be overlooked. There are a
handful of local small and medium businesses and organizations which take the challenges seriously
and are involved in environmental protection and/or economic and social development on a local level.
They might not be able to influence policy makers and the industry at higher levels, but can influence
local communities through good examples, implement small-scale development initiatives and spread
economic benefits within the community. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 9
1. Look after water
Do not pollute water sources with soap, food scraps
or anything else
Do not camp within a 100 m of water sources wildlife
needs to drink too and will be disturbed by your presence
Do not go to the toilet within a 100 m of water sources

2. Manage your waste

Crush tin cans and plastic bottles and any other waste; you
brought it in so CARRY IT OUT with you
If there is no toilet, BURN YOUR USED TOILET PAPER
and then bury your bodily waste
You may burn paper items and you may feed vegetable
waste to the camels with the owners permission

3. Respect Bedouin culture and traditions

Ask permission before using wells, as these are usually private
Only enter private gardens if invited to do so by the owner
Ask permission before taking photographs of local people
Do not burn local firewood, use only gas stoves or fire
wood bought in town for cooking

4. REMEMBER Its the LAW!

St. Katherine Protectorate was declared by the Prime Ministerial Decree under
Law 102 of 1983; illegal activities can result in prosecution
It is prohibited to remove any object from the Protected Area
including rocks, plants and animals
It is prohibited to disturb or harm animal or birds
It is prohibited to paint or carve graffiti, cut trees or uproot plants


The information above is by the St. Katherine Protectorate. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 10
PART II. Sights in South Sinai

The section on the sights is divided into areas based on a mountains-to-sea approach:

Around St. Katherine: the High Mountain Region

South of St. Katherine: towards Sharm el Sheikh and El Tur
East of St. Katherine: towards Nuweiba and Dahab
North-East of St. Katherine: towards the Nuweiba-Taba coast
North-West of St. Katherine: towards Abu Zenima and Ras Sudr

Spelling of names of places and sights is based on the spelling of the only locally available
map to South Sinai for easier location. Where we feel it is necessary other spellings are added
in brackets.

The capital of the Governorate of South Sinai is El Tur (1), although the biggest
and most developed city is Sharm el Sheikh (2). Dahab (3), another popular
destination, is smaller and more laid back, attracting mostly the independent
traveler. In Nuweiba (4), the gateway to Jordan, and further north along the road
until Taba (5), there are many quiet and laid-back camps offering simple huts right
on the beach. The road beyond Taba leads to the only border crossing to Israel. In
the center of the mountainous interior is the town of St. Katherine (6), famous for
Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Katherine. Wadi Feiran (7) and Serabit el
Khadim (8) are smaller settlements with important historical and archeological
sites. The coastal town of Abu Zenima (9) is a small place with a few shops and
cafeterias from where transport can be organized to Serabit el Khadim. Ras Sudr
(10), further to the north, is a sea-side destination popular with people from Cairo.
To Suez and Cairo the road connects via a tunnel (11) under the Suez canal, and
from here there is also a road going to North Sinai, and another, the ancient
caravan route of pilgrims from Cairo to Mecca, cuttingacross the peninsula via the
interior at Nakhla (12) and connecting to the Gulf of Aqaba.

Common words used in geographic names:

Arabic English meaning

Gebel (Jebel) Mountain
Ras Rock outcrop, rocky head of range
Wadi Valley (dry riverbed)
Naqb Gully, pass
Sharafa/Sharafat el Saddle/ Saddle of
Farsh Basin
Hadaba/Hadabat el Plateau/Plateau of
Ein Spring
Bier Well
Kharaza/Kharazet Natural granite water pool
Galt Natural water pool
Sid/Sida Waterfall, water cascade, dam (m/f)
Seil Flash flood, wadi bed along which the floods run
Moyat Water (source)
Sheikh Location named after local holy man, usually with a shrine
Kitib Sand dune or hill
Ramla/Ramlat Sand, sandy plain/sandy plain of A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 11
Around St. Katherine: the High Mountain Region

The High Mountain Region, home to the

Jabaleya Bedouin, is located around the
town of St. Katherine. The town itself lies at
around 1600 meters from sea level, and
many of the mountains around it are above
2000 meters, with Mt. Katherine the tallest
at 2642 meters. The most famous
attractions are the Monastery of St.
Katherine and Mt. Sinai due to their
religious and historical significance, but the
larger area, little known for most
Westerners, is a unique trekkers paradise.
Because of its elevation the area receives
more precipitation than the rest of the Sinai
peninsula and, despite the drought, is still
relatively wet it is a desert ecosystem, but
there are hundreds of Bedouin orchards
and a couple of permanent natural
waterpools in which you can swim. The
area is mostly granite with the characteristic
smooth red domes and hidden basins,
although about 20% is newer volcanic rock,
black-colored and covered with broken,
loose gravel. The two rock types often
Main places: 1. Town of St. Katherine; 2. Monastery of
combine, with half a mountain belonging to St. Katherine; 3. Mt. Sinai (Gebel Musa); 4. Gebel
one and the other to the other rock type. Katherina; 5. Gebel Abbas Pasha; 6. Bab el Donya;
There are many dykes, dark stripes of 7. Galt el Azraq; 8. Gebel Naga; 9. Kharazet el Shaq
volcanic rock intrusions, cutting through the Wadi Sagar; 10. Bustan el Birka; 11. Gebel Banat
red granite. The whole region stands above Sida Nugra; 12. Sheikh Awad.
the rest of the peninsula, and from its perimeter you can see down to the plains or smaller
ranges surrounding it. The climate is cooler than the rest of Egypts, making possible a unique
flora and a wide variety of domesticated fruit species. In winter there might be snow and the
temperatures can drop far below zero at higher elevations, although the days are usually still
pleasantly warm. The area is full of attractions, all very different in nature, and interesting treks
are possible. To see a good variety of landscapes and places of interest, a minimum of 5 days
is recommended, although even 2 days can give a good glimpse. To cover most of the area
would take up to two weeks. The Jabaleya have a tribal monopoly over treks in the region and
everybody, individuals or operators, must organize treks through Sheikh Mousas office.
Guides are allocated according a rotating system providing work for the whole community
they are generally good and will lead you the way, make tea and food, but communication is
often limited. If you want a guide of your choice you still have to pay a guide whose turn it is,
which makes treks more expensive for individuals or small groups. Either way, treks to the
high mountains are highly recommended as it is indeed a very unique area. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 12
Wadi el Dier The Monastery of St. Katherine

Wadi el Dir, apart from the Monastery of

St. Katherine, is home to other sights,
including the Chapel of Aaron, the
Golden Calf, the Maqafa garden and
Gebel Muneiga. It is worth starting a
visit to the Monastery from the very
informative Visitors Centre.

The St. Katherines Protectorate has

published four Walking Trail Guides, each in
three European languages. They might be
available from the Visitors Centre, the
Protectorates HQ in town and possibly in local hotels and camps. Along the walks
which the trail guides describe there are small stone tiles with numbers on them, and
the booklet has relevant information to each of these stops, with additional cultural,
natural and historic notes and illustrations. Mt. Sinai, A Walking Trail Guide describes
the sights along the usual tourist route going up the camel path and descending
from the Stairs of Repentance in detail. The other three walking trail guides Wadi
Talla and Wadi Itlah, Wadi Arbaein & Wadi Shrayj and Jebel Abbas Pasha are
also excellent.

The Visitors Centre (1) is close to the

roundabout (2) before town, next to
Aarons Hill (3). The Golden Calf (4) is a
short way from here, along the walk to
the Monastery (5). The garden of
Magafa (6) literally overhangs the
monastery in the side of Gebel el Dir (7).
On the top of Gebel Muneiga is Jethros
Chapel (8). There are also paths to the
Monastery from Wadi Isbaiya (9), where
Mt. Sinai ecolodge is located, over a
saddle. The common routes to Gebel
Musa (Mt. Sinai) (10) start at the
The Visitors Centre Next to the visitors
has excellent displays centre is the hill
on the Protectorate, housing a chapel and
natural history, Muslim shrine, both
archeology, Bedouins dedicated to Aaron
and the Monastery. Prophet Harun (Nabi
Harun) according to

Further up in Wadi el The three round

Dir, the short valley objects above the
leading to the walled up old gate
Monastery, you can symbolize bread and
see a rock formation are the mark of good
what locals believe is relations between the
the mould which was Monastery and the
used to make the Bedouin tribes.
Golden Calf. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 13
Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai)

Although Mt. Sinai is one of the main

attractions in St. Katherine, most visitors
do not realize how much more even this
single mountain has to offer. It has a
complex system of mountain-top basins
with ancient churches and ruins of
monastic life, from which gullies offer
unique views to surrounding wadis, the
Monastery and parts of the town.

Mt. Sinai is revered by Jews, Christians and

Muslims as a holy place, where a covenant
between God and His people was established. Apart from the Old Testament it is also
mentioned in the Quran, where God prefaces a statement on the creation of
Mankind by swearing to four sacred symbols: by the Fig and the Olive, and the
Mount of Sinai [at-Tur], and this City of security [Mecca](Sura 95:1-3).Although its
exact location has been disputed, for most people it is not the mountain but the
message which is important. The mountain of Moses and other religious sights are an
integral part of the Jabaleya Bedouin culture, and their traditions were intricately
interwoven with this Biblical landscape. Until 1973 on feast days they offered sacrifices
atop at the various sacred places. (Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

The two common ways to the summit of

Mt. Sinai (1) start after the Monastery of
St. Katherine (2), either via the camel
path (3) or the Stairs of Repentance (4).
They meet above Elijahs Basin (Farsh
Eliya) (5). There are alternative routes
via Wadi el Arbain (6) and Wadi Sharig
(Wadi Shrayj) (7). The basins of Kinisa
el Homar (8), Farsh Safsafa (9), Farsh
Loza and Farsh Zaharur (10) have many
sights but are rarely explored.

Elijas Basin (Farsh A gully from Farsh

Eliya) is on the main Zaharur offers birds
circuit there is a eye view of the
dam to protect the Monastery. There is a
Monastery below from chapel in the basin,
flash floods, and tall as well as in adjoining
cypress trees in a Farsh Loza.
walled court.

There is a small One of the alternative

garden and a chapel ways is from Kinisa el
in Farsh Safsafa. Homar, a basin with a
From the gully at the view of Mt. Katherine
end of the basin you in the distance and
can see the Visitors leading to Wadi el
Centre and Nabi Arbain or Wadi Sharig
Harun. (Wadi Shrayj). A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 14
Wadi el Arbain

Wadi el Arbain provides an alternative

to head for Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai) from
the town of St. Katherine, and is also on
the route to Gebel Katharina. It is also
home to the Monastery of the Forty
Martyrs and the Rock of Moses.

The Rock of Moses (Hajar Mousa) with its 12

clefts, half way in along the wadi, is
believed to be the rock from which Moses
fetched water. Local people believe the
clefts on it represent the twelve springs
mentioned in the Quran (Sura 2:60). According to Swiss orientalist Johann Ludwig
Burkhardt the Jabaleya Bedouin believe that by making female camels crouch down
before the rock the camels will become fertile and yield more milk. At the upper end
of the valley is the Monastery of the Forty Martyrs, constructed in the sixth century in
honor of the forty Christian martyrs who died in Sebaste in central Turkey. Monks
relate that forty Christian soldiers from the Roman Army in the third century were
commanded to worship pagan gods. They refused and were put to death by being
exposed at night to the bitterly cold winds of a frozen lake. (Reference: National
Parks of Egypt, Wadi Arbaein & Wadi Shrayj)

Wadi el Arbain, connected to the town of

St. Katherine (1), provides an alternative
way to head for Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai)
(2) and is also on the route towards
Gebel Katharina (3). The road splits at
the Monastery of the Forty Martyrs (4),
where also Ramadans garden is
located. Half way along Wadi Arbain is
the Rock of Moses (5) and further down
is the Wishing Rock (6).

Looking back on to Halfway along the

the village of St. valley is The Rock of
Katherine from the Moses (Hajar Mousa),
path shortly after the with the Chapel of the
first monastery Birth of the Holy
garden. Virgin built right next
to it.

The impressive Ramadans garden,

monastery of the 40 above the Monastery
martyrs, at the cross- and overlooking Mt.
roads to Gebel Musa Sinai, offers a
(Mt. Sinai) and Gebel pleasant tea or
Katharina. overnight stop.
Ramadan breeds
Rock Hyrax, a furry
animal like a guinea
pig. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 15
Gebel Katharina

Gebel Katharina is the highest mountain

in Egypt at 2642 meters, with a small
Orthodox church on the summit.
According to tradition this is the place
where monks, after a dream, found the
missing body of the martyred St.
Katherina. Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai) is
below, and the views onto it and the
whole high mountain area are stunning.

The Sinai is a hot desert climate zone, with

very little precipitation (less than 100 mm
annually) and warm to hot temperatures throughout the year in fact, this is what
makes it a popular holiday destination. In the desert, however, winter nights can be
chilly, dropping to as low as 5 C. In the high mountains, with the town of St. Katherine
itself at 1600 meters, winter can be really cold, often below 0 C. On higher peaks,
with the added effect of the wind, even on summer nights a warm jumper or jacket
can come handy in winter be prepared for extreme cold if you plan to camp at the
summits. It also regularly snows in the higher regions, which receives 4-10 times more
precipitation then the rest of the peninsula. However cold it might get at night in the
winter, the days are usually sunny and pleasantly warm.

The most common routes to the peak

are from either Wadi el Arbain (1),
turning to Wadi Shagg Musa after the
Monastery of Forty Martyrs, or from
Wadi Shagg (2) via Wadi Ahmar (3).
Either way the paths lead to a ridge and
a flat area, called Farsh Umm Sila (4),
from where the peak (5) of Gebel
Katharina becomes visible. There is a
path south of the peak(6) which leads to
Seil Rotok and then onto Sharm el
Sheikh or El Tur city.

The church on the One of the main

summit of Gebel routes to Gebel
Katharina. There is a Katharina is via Wadi
stone room with Shagg Musa, the long
wooden floor just and zigzag path
below the peak for starting in Wadi el
visitors wishing to Arbain behind
stay overnight. There Ramadans garden.
is a water well close
by at Bier Abu Rmell.
There are other, more The view of Gebel
interesting, ways to Musa (Mt. Sinai) and
the summit from the the high mountains
high mountain wadi from the summit of
system on the other Gebel Katharina is
side, starting in Wadi stunning.
Mathar or Wadi
Ghazna (Wadi
Rhazana). A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 16
Abu Giffa Wadi Tubug

Abu Giffa (Abu Jeefa) is one of the

main gateways to the high mountains,
with the steep and zigzag path starting
in the town of St. Katherine at Ein
Tufaha. There are beautiful views from
the top. On the other side it leads to
Wadi Tubug, the start of the complex
high-mountain wadi system.

Leopard traps were built in many parts of

the high mountains, usually at high passes
where there is always wind, so the smell of
the bait went far. It is easy to pass a trap without noticing it, as it looks like a pile of
rocks. If you look at it more carefully, there is a tunnel inside closed by a sliding stone
door when the leopard entered. Today leopards are most probably extinct in the
Sinai. The Sinai leopard is very much smaller than the African leopard and has a
preferred diet of birds, mice, and rock hyrax. It will eat goats and other small livestock
if available, and it was this and a fear for human safety which led to its persecution
and demise. In English the Bedouin often call leopards tiger, as the Arabic word
nimr means both. It is confusing for foreign visitors, as they think about the big Asian
tiger. (Reference: National Parks of Egypt, Jebel Abbas Pasha)

Abu Jeefa starts in town at Ein Tufaha

(1). On the other side, after the leopard
trap on the top, is a location known as
Islibet (2). To the right you could
descend to Wadi Talla via the Sid Daud
gully (3). To the left starts Wadi Tubug,
the path passing Ein Shkaya (4), then at
a slight turn Wadi Shagg (5) branches
off. There is a mulberry tree further up,
before Wadi Tubug ends at a sharp turn
at El Ehded (6).

The steep zigzag path The leopard trap, one

of Abu Jeefa starts at of several in the high
a garden in Ein mountains, is at the
Tufaha, and there is top of the Abu Jeefa
another garden pass.
further up with wells
and good water.

Ein Shkaya is a The giant mulberry

shallow water trough tree with its multiple
constructed on a rock trunks in Wadi Tubug
shelf. Ein means eye possibly dates back to
and is often used to Byzantine times (7th
refer to springs, as century AD) and is
they have a likeness protected by Bedouin
to an eye. tribal law. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 17
Wadi Quweiz El Freish Wadi Tilah (Wadi Itlah)

Another common way to the region is

via Wadi Itlah, starting at St. Katherine
town as Wadi Quweiz. It is a long and
green valley, with many date palms,
gardens and an Orthodox chapel,
running towards distant lowlands. At the
beginning there is the secluded basin of
El Freish with an ancient garden. The
short but spectacular canyon of Naqb
Abu Sila at the lower end connects to a
settlement and back to town.

The Chapel of St. John Klimakos was built in 1979 to commemorate his devotional
work in the 6th century AD. The saint is said to have spent forty years in solitude in a
cave above the existing chapel. During this time, Klimakos was elected Abbot of
Sinai and asked to write a spiritual guide. He composed The Ladder of Divine Ascent
which likens spiritual life to the ladder seen by the Patriarch Jacob extending from
earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12-17). According to the book the ladder consists of 30
rungs, each step corresponding to a spiritual virtue. Through silence and solitude
hermits and monks sought to climb the divine ladder. The crowning virtue is love.
(Reference: National Parks of Egypt, Wadi Talla and Wadi Itlah)

Connected to town via Wadi Quweiz (1)

or El Freish (2), Wadi Itlah begins at the
junction of Wadi Talla (3) and ends at
the Wadi Shagg Tinya and Naqb Abu
Seila junction (4), from where a canyon
and a camel pass lead to the settlement
of Abu Sila (5). Wadi Ginab (6), after
Wadi Itlah, continues towards the
lowlands. Halfway is the chapel of St.
John Klimakos (7), after which the wadi
descends to a sandy part with many
stone-walled gardens. One of them is El
Helwa garden (8) run by a traditional
herbalist Haj Ahmed Mansour.
A good stone path The ancient garden of
leads from town all El Freish is located in
the way to the chapel a secluded granite
of Saint John basin above Wadi
Klimakos. Quweiz and overlooks
Gebel Musa (Mt.

Dr. Ahmed is a The lower part of

respected traditional Naqb Abu Sila is a
herbalist and healer, short canyon with
called hakim, who sandy floor. From
runs a herbal garden Wadi Itlah this part
in the hope that his can easily be visited
traditional knowledge without any climbing.
is not lost to new There are a couple of
generations. trickier parts further
up. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 18
Wadi Tilah (Wadi Talla) Sid Daud

There are beautiful gardens and an

ancient monastery in Wadi Talla, which
connects higher and lower wadis via
the adventurous Sid Daud gully. It can
very easily be reached from town via
other ways as well and can be part of a
shorter circuit, either with the gully
scrambling or without it.

The Jabaleya Bedouin of the high

mountains have always maintained a close
and interdependent relationship with the
monks. Originally brought from the Mediterranean by the Christian emperor Justinian
to protect and serve the Monastery, the Jabaleya can still get work with the
Monastery and only they are allowed to guide tourists on Mt. Sinai and in the high
mountains. The Monastery, which once claimed virtually all land between the Gulf of
Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, still owns many gardens in the mountains. The gardens
are looked after by Bedouin, often by one single family over many generations.
Traditionally the Hamaida clan worked in the Wadi Talla gardens, while the Ulad Salim
at Rabba (Mon. of the Holy Apostles), the Ulad Jindi at Bustan (Mon. of the Virgin
Mary) and the Wahabet in Wadi el Arbain.

The upper end of Sid Daud is at Islibet

(1), where the Abu Jeefa pass (2) joins
Wadi Tubug (3). It drops steeply a
couple of hundred meters to the
beginning of Wadi Talla (4), which
connects to Wadi Quweiz and Wadi Itlah
(5). About halfway is the Monastery of
Cosmas and Damianos (6). The wadi
can also be reached from town via a
pass known as Naqb el Rahab (7).

Several of the wadis There are huge

in the higher boulders all along the
mountains, collecting gully, which ends at a
run-off water from a Bedouin garden in
large area, drain lower-lying Wadi
through the gully of Talla.
Sid Daud, starting at a
location called Islibet.

The path disappears The monastery of

from time to time, Cosmas and
leading through a little Damianos (Dir
hole under the Rahab) is named after
boulders in one place. the martyred brothers
who were doctors and
treated local people
free in the 3rd century
AD. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 19
Wadi Shagg Wadi Mathar

Wadi Shagg is a short, narrow wadi

branching off Wadi Tubug, but the
name is often used for a larger area,
including Wadi Mathar. There are
beautiful Bedouin gardens, Byzantine
ruins, a small canyon with seasonal
water pools and a mulberry tree in the

One of the consistent themes of Judaism,

Christinaity and Islam is the holy mans
transformation in the wilderness. Moses
made the covenant with God atop a desert mountain. Similarly Mohamed retreated
to a desert mountain cave to hear the angel Gabriel speak the words of God. The
desert is the hardest place for man to survive, yet the spiritual rewards would attract
many numbers of believers. Many religious people became pilgrims in the harsh desert
and mountains of the Sinai. These hermits survived on orchard agriculture, digging
wells to irrigate crops of wheat, barley and a variety of fruits and vegetables, many of
which were introduced from as far away as Greece. These gardens and orchards
were the forerunners of the Bedouin gardens we still see today. (Reference: Joseph
Hobbs, 1995)

Wadi Shagg stretches between Wadi

Tubug (1) and Odas garden (2), which
is also connected to El Ehded (3).
Beyond Odas garden starts Wadi
Mathar, leading to Sbails garden (4).
The canyon and pools of Kharaza (5)
are a bit off the main path, close to a
Byzantine hermit cell and a mulberry
tree. Other routes include Wadi Umm
Sid (6) to town, Wadi Ahmar (7) to
Gebel Ahmar and Gebel Katharina, and
Wadi Anshil (8) to higher wadis. Long
and wide Wadi Rhazana (9) continues
on to the south.
Odas garden is in Kharaza is a small
secluded Wadi canyon carved by
Shagg, pictured here, water in the granite
while Sbails garden is massif, with water
in open Wadi Mathar, pools keeping water
pictured at the top. usually throughout the

Byzantine hermit cell Mulberry tree close to

close to a monastic the hermit cell as
settlement. In always, it is found
Byzantine times outside of a garden
hundreds of monks on communal ground.
and settlers lived in There are eight of
the high mountains. these ancient trees in
the mountains. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 20
Wadi Zuweitin (Wadi Zawatin)

The name Wadi Zuweitin is used for a

number of adjoining locations, and it is
a major junction with many beautiful
gardens under the smooth granite
massif of Gebel Abu Mahshur. Wadi
Zuweitin has its name after the many
ancient olive trees found here. There
are nice views to Gebel Katharina all

The area around Wadi Zuweitin,

conveniently located to many sights in the
larger high mountains area, is becoming a hub of renovated gardens serving as
simple eco-lodges. The face of tourism has changed in the past decades; the number
of large trekking groups has sharply decreased, and instead there are now smaller
groups, couples and individuals. Partly for this reason many gardens are abandoned
and only a few dedicated gardeners stay longer periods in the mountains, while
younger people seek work in town. The area, however, is an ideal location for longer,
relaxing stays, and more and more visitors come with this single purpose. Some
gardens have been subtly upgraded to meet their requirements, and this trend, if
continued, might save a thousand-year-old tradition.

At the lower end is El Ehded (1), with

ways either to Wadi Shagg (2) or Wadi
Tubug (3). Most of the gardens are
concentrated in the centre of the wadi,
from where a zigzag pass takes you to
Wadi Gibal (4). At the high end, after El
Ziri (5), is the pass of Sharafat el
Iskikriya (6) which leads to Gebel Abbas
Pasha (7) or Wadi Tinya (8). The basins
of Farsh Zagg (9) are located on the two
sides of the wadi. Farsh Abu Mahshur
(10) can also be reached from Wadi

The gardens of Saad At the main junction

Mahmoud and there are many well
Mohamed Hashash looked after gardens,
are at the lower end, including of Umm
in El Ehded. Saad, Hmeid Abu
Ghalaba and Hussein
Abu Tarawa.

Above Wadi Zuweitin, The massive road

on both sides, there built by Abbas Pasha
are hidden basins to his palace runs
with old Bedouin through El Zirri, from
houses both are where you can also
called Farsh Zag. go to the hidden basin
of Farsh Mahshur. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 21
Gebel Abbas Pasha

Located in the centre of the high

mountains with stunning views all
around, to the high mountains, the
lowlands and to the town of St.
Katherine with Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai)
towering above it. The unfinished
palace of Abbas Pasha is on top.
Hidden down from the summit is the
basin of Farsh Abu Mahshur.

Abbas Pasha suffered from tuberculosis

and planned to build a palace where he
could recuperate in the healthy mountain air. He finally settled on this 2383m
mountain then called Jebel Tiinya, apparently after placing meat on several summits
and observing that it decayed slower on this mountain than on others. Another version
of this story is that the monks told him that meat spoiled least here, in order to keep
him away from Mount Sinai where he had originally intended to build his palace.
Construction began in 1853, but in 1854 Abbas Pasha died. Work stopped, and the
incomplete palace now stands abandoned on the summit; it is about 45 metres
square and was to have been two stories high. (Reference: National Parks of Egypt,
Jebel Abbas Pasha)

Gebel Abbas Pasha (1) is easily

reached from the pass of Sharafat el
Iskikriya (2), a saddle separating Wadi
Zuweitin (3) from wadi Tinya (4). From
the saddle you can continue to the high
wadis of Wadi Gibal and Wadi Bulia (5)
via Farsh Gdemiyet (6). From Wadi
Zuweitin there is a more difficult route
via the secluded basin of Farsh Abu
Mahshur (7) and Gebel Abu Mahshur

The massive walls of The view of the town

the unfinished palace of St Katherine with
of Abbas Pasha still Gebel Musa (Mt.
stand firm. There is Sinai) towering over it
little shade and the there are only a
best time to visit is couple of places from
either early in the where you can see
morning or before the two together.

Farsh Abu Mahshur is Sharafat el Iskikriya,

a green, secluded the way to Gebel
basin in the smooth Abbas Pasha, divides
granite mass of Gebel two major wadis, and
Abu Mahshur. It is a is also a way to the
small, closed high mountain wadis
ecosystem with rare via Farsh Gdemiyet,
and endangered pictured here.
species. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 22
Wadi Gibal

Wadi Gibal is the name frequently used

by local Bedouins to include the whole
High Mountain region. The wadi itself,
one of the longest, runs from Rehebit
Nada all the way to Farsh Rummana.
Along the way there are many beautiful
gardens and the opportunity to explore
Wadi Buleia and climb Gebel Umm Loz.

Starting at Rehebit Nada, the flat, sandy

plain above Wadi Zuweitin, the wadi
stretches out in front of you towards the
distant mountains. There is an old Bedouin cemetery here. A little down from the
cemetry there is a big white stone, which is called Marazza. The rock is often found at
different places as carrying it is a traditional way of showing off someones strength.
People say a man had to carry it a certain distance before getting married. Rehebit
Nada was also a meeting place, where people from the lower wadis and the upper
wadis met and held traditional Bedouin celebrations, called dahiya. They performed
group dances, in several groups according to age, with singing and clapping hands,
men lined up against the women, moving back and forth. The tradition is still alive with
some other tribes.

Wadi Gibal starts at Rehebit Nada (1),

above Wadi Zuweitin (2), and after a
turn at Abu Gasaba (3) ends at Farsh
Rummana (4). There is a way from
Gebel Abbas Basha via Farsh Gdemiyet
(5), reaching either Abu Jidda (6) or
Wadi Buleia (7). Gebel Umm Loz (8)
stretches from Wadi Buleia to the
Aswad Eish pass (9), a short cut to
Farsh Rummana. Two common ways to
Bab el Donya are via Wadi Umm Siha
(10) or Naqb Baharia (11). Wadi Talla
Kibira (12), the way to Galt el Azraq, is
further down.
Wadi Gibal starts at Wadi Buleia is an
the sandy plain of adjoining Wadi at the
Rhebit Nada, pictured foot of Gebel Umm
above. Close by is a Loz. There are good
small garden in a gardens in the area,
hidden basin above belonging to
the wadi, developed Mohamed Abu Heb,
by owner Farhan Suliman Musa and
Mohamed Zidan. Hussein Salah.

After Salem Farajs Farsh Rummana is a

garden Wadi Gibal big open plain at the
makes a sharp turn. end of Wadi Gibal,
The area is Abu with many gardens.
Gasaba, with the There are also
ruins of a Byzantine several big boulders
chapel. It is also one and rock shelters.
of the starting points
to Bab el Donya. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 23
Bab el Dunya Gebel Bab Ein Nagila

Bab el Dunya and Gebel Bab are two

peaks of a longer range, on the
perimeter of the high mountains. To the
east there are spectacular views of
lower ranges running towards the Gulf
of Suez and in clear weather you can
see across the sea. The spring of Ein
Nagila is below the peaks. There are
several look-out points atop the range.

Names are used very differently in Arab

culture then in the West; instead of a family
name people wear their fathers and forefathers name. As an example, the father of
Mohamed Musa Eid was Musa and his grandfather was Eid. The list can go on further
and distant forefathers are remembered in lineage names, as the name of clans and
tribes. Women also wear their fathers name. In day-to-day practice it is common to
refer to people by their fathers name. In our case Abu Musa would be appropriate.
However, people are also called by their eldest sons name; if someone has a son
called Ahmed, he is called Abu Ahmed. According to Bedouin tradition it wasnt
allowed to say a married womans name in public, and a woman should be called by
her eldest sons name, for example Umm Saad, meaning Saads mother.

Bab el Dunya (1) and Gebel Bab (2) are

two peaks of a longer mountain range.
There is a complex system of
interconnected basins at the top, and
several other peaks including Gebel
Umm Gasba (3) and Ras Abu Alda (4).
Close to the latter is Masba Abu Gharun
(5), a dramatic look-out point, the name
referring to resemblance of the rocks to
that of the horns of the mountain goats.
Naqb Umm Siha (6) and Naqb Bahriya
(7) are the usual way, Wadi Zuweitar
(8), connecting straight to Galt el Azraq,
is less used.
The Goats horns of The spring of Ein
Masba Abu Gharun, Nagila drips from the
one of several look- mountain to a stone
out points atop the fountain, forming a
range. Bab el Dunya, little creek running
pictured at the top, through a series of
means Door to the shallow granite pools
World, and refers to and disappearing in
the views you get. the sandy wadi floor.

Down from the spring The view descending

of Ein Nagila is a towards Farsh
ruined Byzantine Rummana via the
church. Its elongated steep and narrow
shape makes it gully of Naqb Baharia.
different from most There are other
other Byzantine gullies either to Farsh
buildings found in the Rummana or Wadi
area. Talla Kibira. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 24
Wadi Talla Kibira Galt el Azraq

Wadi Talla Kibira is a long, steep and

green valley, starting at Farsh
Rummana and leading from the high
mountains to lower wadis. Galt el Azraq,
halfway down, is the biggest permanent
pool in the region. After rainfall a creek
runs along the wadi filling other pools as
well. Sid Abu Hbeig is a lush area above
boulders forming a natural dam, and
the Berry Canyon, next to it, is another
beautiful site.

The name Galt el Azraq, despite azraq meaning blue in Arabic, actually means Black
Pool in the Bedouin dialect. Aswad, black in Arabic, is not used, possibly for negative
connotations associated with it. For blue some Bedouin use ahadar, which is also
green. Others would describe it as suemi or bahari, meaning like the sky or the sea.
Agabash means a group of deep colors. Also unique to their dialect is the way some
strong colors are emphasized; the name of the color is followed by a variation of the
same word. For example something very black would be azraq zaraq, very white
abiad baiad or very yellow asfar safar.

Starting after Farsh Rummana (1) this

steep, narrow and green wadi is one of
the main drainage ways connecting the
high mountains to the lowlands, with
Galt el Azraq (2) around two thirds of
the way up in the wadi. Wadi Zuweitar,
starting around Bab el Donya (3), joins
Wadi Talla Kibira at the narrow Berry
Canyon (Nakika Betel) (4). Further down
from the pool the wadi becomes wider
and sandier and many Bedouin gardens
with date palms are found. From the
pool the usual way leads via Farsh
Umm Sila (5).
Located right after Soil and water is
Farsh Rummana retained by big
before the descent, boulders at Sid Abu
Tbeq is a wide sandy Hbeig, and in wetter
area with many trees, times the area fills up
abandoned gardens and water cascades
and boulders. form. The name refers
to habaq, the
mountain wild mint.

A big boulder hangs Galt el Azraq, the

over the Berry largest granite pool in
canyon, located just the high mountain
below Sid Abu Hbeig, region, is full all year
stuck between vertical round, being fed by
rock walls. It is difficult underground streams.
to pass the canyon, It is up to 5 meters
but there are deep only for
alternative routes swimmers.
around it. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 25
Wadi Abu Tuweita

Wadi Abu Tweita consists of a flat,

sandy upper part, located above Wadi
Tinya, with several Bedouin gardens,
and a long, steep and narrow gully. The
later part of the wadi, called Naqb Abu
Tuweita, is rarely visited, although there
is a seasonal water fall and granite
pools at the top and beautiful views
towards the lowlands.

Many of the older generation of Bedouin

became masters of the art of grafting, a
method of encouraging different plant tissues to fuse together. The native wild fig
proves to be an ideal host for the tastier but less drought-resistant domestic fig. When
the domestic fig is grafted to the wild fig the resultant fruit is more succulent yet
requires less irrigation, a very important factor in the desert. The Bedouin say that they
learnt these techniques from the early Christian settlers. Another example is the use of
the drough- resistant native Sinai hawthorn that has been used to graft several
varieties of pears to it. One of these pear trees can be seen in wadi Abu Tuweita.
(Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

Located above Wadi Tinya (1), the

garden of Saad in Abu Tuweita (2) is a
convenient stopping point for treks as it
connects Galt el Azraq (3), via Farsh
Umm Sila (4), with Wadi Sagr (5), a
beautiful little canyon, and the lower part
of Wadi Tinya (6). Further down Wadi
Abu Tweita becomes a steep and
narrow gully, leading to Wadi Talla
Kibira (7).

Wadi Abu Tuweita Saad Salahs garden

starts above Wadi is the only one looked
Tinya, with nice views after in Wadi Abu
from the ridge over Tweita. It makes for a
the wadi below. pleasant camp site.

Farsh Umm Sila is a Date palms cling to

basin little above the rocky terrain in
Wadi Abu Tuweita. Naqb Abu Tweita, a
On the other side of steep and long gully
the basin a steeper running from the wadi,
and longer path leads as it descends to the
to Galt el Azraq. lower part of Wadi
Talla Kibira. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 26
Wadi Tinya Wadi Sagar Gebel Naga

Wadi Tinya is a long wadi, wide at the

beginning then getting narrower, which
leads down from the pass below Abbas
Pasha and ends before the pools of
Kharazet el Shaq. Abu Tuweita can be
reached via a pass from the upper part
of the wadi, while the canyon of Wadi
Sagar, a dramatic sight, connects to the
lower part. Gebel Naga, a half-day
detour, literally stands above the

The Bedouin in the past protected nature by imposing a period, called helf, when
grazing was not allowed. They might have placed a physical barrier such as a tree
trunk at passes, like at Abu Jeefa, to symbolize the fact that it was forbidden to move
up to higher ground. Around April or May, at the time of the setting of the apricot, the
Bedouin sent scouts to the mountains to see if spring had arrived. If the scout returned,
not saying a word but with green leaves around his head, people knew the restriction
was over and moved up together with their animals. For the first month camels would
be allowed to graze followed by sheep and goats.

Wadi Tinya begins at the pass of

Sharafat el Iskikriya (1) below Gebel
Abbas Basha (2). It descends from here
to the pools of Karazet el Shaq (3). After
the garden of Sharaha (4) there is a
path leading up to Wadi Abu Tweita (5),
which is also connected via Wadi Sagar
(6). At the end of Wadi Tinya there are
two ways (7) towards Gebel Naga,
offering magnificent views of the plains
to the north.

There are many The water in Wadi

gardens in the upper Sagar is always
part, many of them crystal clear as it is in
damaged by a flash motion, slowly
flood in 2006. The overflowing the
gardens of Sharaha fountain, and also
and Ibrahim Salah because mammals
cater for visitors. cannot reach it.

In the lower and Gebel Naga, with

narrower part of Wadi views over the
Tinya, at Wadi Sagar, lowlands, can be
the garden of Shob approached from the
Farhan is the only end of Wadi Tinya
looked-after place. He there are two ways,
receives visitors in his so a circuit can be
other garden close by. made. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 27
Wadi Shagg Tinya Kharazet el Shagg

Wadi Shagg Tinya is a long and steep

gully connecting high-mountain wadis
to lower Wadi Itlah. The whole Wadi
Tinya area, including part of Gebel
Abbas Basha, drains through this single
gully. There are overflowing granite
pools at the very top, with one of them
big enough for a dip. The gully itself is a
good 1.5 hours steep descent or ascent.

The unsightly black pipes that criss-cross

the wadis throughout the high mountains
are actually a vital contributor to the irrigation of the gardens. These pipes have made
a significant difference as they have overcome the traditional need for gardens to be
situated near to water sources. Previously irrigation channels were dug from wells to
the gardens but, because of high rates of evaporation, these channels could only
travel short distances. The pipes allow water to be carried much greater distances,
frequently between wadis! This is particularly important when you consider that the
number of usable wells has been constantly decreasing as the amount of rainfall has
reduced. It isnt all good news. These pipes have, in instances, diverted water away
from areas of moist plant communities. (Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

At the end of Wadi Tinya (1), Kharazet

el Shagg (2) is right at the very top of
Wadi Shagg Tinya, the long and steep
gully which ends at a junction (3) of
several wadis. Wadi Itlah (4) comes
direct from the town of St. Katherine.
Naqb Abu Sila (5) connects either to the
settlement of Abu Sila (6), where the
tarmac road starts back to town, or
Naqb el Hawa (7), the descent to the
settlement of Sheikh Awad. Wadi Ginab
(8), continuing after Wadi Itlah, is
another way to the lowland settlement.

The long, steep and The pools are located

rocky Wadi Shagg at the very top, where
Tinya starts up at the Wadi Tinya connects
saddle and connects to Wadi Shagg Tinya.
to wide and sandy There is always water
Wadi Itlah far below at in the main pool, and
palm groves and after rains other pools
gardens. form below.

The view is dramatic Since it drains water

all along the way, with from a large area the
some parts of the force of flash floods
gully are deep and sweeping through is
exposed. It is a long enormous. Still, there
walk but worth the are a couple of
effort. gardens manage to
hold on, protected by
massive walls. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 28
Wadi Ginab Sheikh Ahmad Wadi Madman (Wadi Madaman)

The final stretches of two long wadis

coming from the high mountains meet
at the tomb of Sheikh Ahmad and lead
onto the hilly lowlands a little further
down. There are many palms along the
way, and the last bit, draining a large
part of the whole mountain region, is for
the most part a dry river bed.

In many places in Sinai you can see small

white shrines, built over the tombs of holy
sheikhs, and the location is usually named
after the local holy man. The Bedouin still gather at some of these places at certain
times, to offer sacrifice and ask the sheikh to intervene with God on their behalf. The
practice, called zwara, is considered to be haram, sinful, by strict Muslims, although it
is very deeply rooted in Islamic tradition. The very different, loud and colorful festival
called moulid, present all the way from Morocco to the Middle East, is based on very
similar origins. The main Jabaleya zwara in the past, lasting several days, was held at
Nabi Harun, Nabi Salah and just outside the Monastery of St. Katherine. People
attended with their families and herds and for three days moved together from one
place to the other.

Wadi Ginab starts at the Wadi Itlah-

Wadi Shagg Tinya junction (1) and ends
at Sheikh Ahmad (2), where Wadi Talla
Kibira (3), coming from Wadi Gibal and
passing Galt el Azraq, joins in. From
here it is Wadi Madaman, which ends
around the garden of Oda Abu Hder (4),
shortly before the settlement of Sheikh
Awad (5) and the lowlands. Wadi Rufeid
(6) is the way towards Gebel Tarbush.

Wadi Itlah continues Sheikh Ahmad, at the

on as Wadi Ginab tomb of a holy man, is
after the Wadi Shagg the junction where
Tinya junction. There Wadi Talla Kibira joins
are many palms and in. It is located at the
seasonal water pools foot of Gebel Naga.
and cascades along
the way.

Wadi Madaman At the end of Wadi

continues on after the Madaman, shortly
junction of the two before the settlement
major waterways as a of Sheikh Awad, is
wide sandy wadi, Oda Abu Hders
littered with rocks and herbal garden.
boulders. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 29
Wadi Raha Naqb el Hawa Sheikh Awad

This area represents the old pilgrims

route to St. Katherines Monastery. The
wide and sandy plain of Wadi Raha,
starting in town, leads to the settlement
of Sheikh Awad via the long and steep
pass of Naqb el Hawa. Sheikh Awad is
located where the plains and the high
mountains massif meet.

Pilgrims have been coming to Mt Sinai for

hundreds of years yet it has only been
since the building of the tarmac roads that
tourists have been able to arrive in comfort. Before then pilgrims faced an arduous
journey across the sea and then up through the mountains. The traditional route taken
by most pilgrims was from the north-west, up through Wadi Feiran and then continuing
along Wadi ash-Shaykh. This is largely the route of the modern road. Just before
reaching what is now the boundary of the St Katherines Protectorate, pilgrims would
turn off at Sheikh Awad and then climb the beautiful gully of Naqb el Hawa (Pass of
the Wind). As the gully flattens out the pilgrims would see the sandy plain of Wadi
Raha stretching ahead, believed to have been the camping ground of the Israelites
whilst Moses climbed the mountain. (Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

Wadi Raha (1) starts in town opposite

Wadi el Dir and leads to the settlement
of Abu Sila (2). Naqb el Hawa starts
here and finishes at the settlement of
Sheikh Awad (3), passing the tomb of a
local holy man (4). El Karm ecolodge (5)
is actually at the end of Wadi Gharba.
From Sheikh Awad the two common
routes to Wadi Feiran and the north-
west are either via Wadi Sahab (6) or
Wadi Sulaf (7). Sheikh Awad can also
be approached via Wadi Madaman (8),
Wadi Freah (9) and Wadi Abu Zaituna
(10), or, by car, from Tarfa village.
Wadi Raha with the After the settlement of
view of the Monastery Abu Seila the view
and Gebel Safsafa. opens up towards the
The Israelites are lowlands and the path
believed to have known as Naqb el
camped here whilst Hawa descends to
Moses climbed Mt Sheikh Awad.

The tomb of Sheikh The El Karm ecolodge

Awad is found at the is found near to the
end of the Naqb el settlement of Sheikh
Hawa pass, near the Awad, at the end of
settlement of the Wadi Gharba.
same name. Sheikh
Awad was a local holy
man. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 30
Wadi Gharba Sida Nugra Gebel Banat

Around the area of Sheikh Awad are

several very interesting and beautiful
points that can all easily be reached
from Al Karm ecolodge. Wadi Gharba
leads to Sida Nugra, where a high
waterfall can flow after rainfall. There
are small pools at the top. The peak of
Gebel Banat, towering over the wadis,
offers superb views of the whole high
mountains region on one side and the
lowlands on the other.

Bedouin women traditionally tended to the herds of goats and sheep and collected
firewood. Women would also use traditional embroidery skills to produce a variety of
functional everyday items, such as sugar bags. In 1996 a project was created by
elders of the Bedouin community to use these embroidery skills to create handicraft
products for sale. They use authentic motifs to decorate the bags and have provided
an income to over 400 Bedouin women from 4 different tribes. Although the Fansina
project is the most famous of the handicraft centres, in most places you can buy small
items directly from the women of the families you might visit.

The lower end of Wadi Gharba is at El

Karm ecolodge (1) and it runs from the
seasonal waterfall of Sida Nugra (2).
Above the upper part of the waterfall is
Wadi Nugra, which splits at point (3)
leading to Bustan el Birka (4) and Wadi
Abu Zaituna (5) or Wadi Tarkiba (6),
from where the easiest climb starts to
Gebel Banat (7). From the area, passing
a ruined Byzantine church at Wadi
Rumanet (8), there is a way to Wadi
Freah (9).

The waterfall of Sida The water fall from

Nugra is almost 40 top is an impressive
meters high, although view. There is often
water rarely flows water in some of the
today. The path to the granite pools at the
upper part is located top, as underground
further down. streams might feed it.

There are ways from Gebel Banat is on the

Wadi Nugra, from the outer perimeter of the
top end of the High Mountains
waterfall, to either offering stunning
Gebel Banat or views across the
Bustan el Birka. whole region. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 31
Farsh Faria (Wadi Freah) Bustan el Birka Wadi Abu Zaituna

Bustan el Birka, forming one area with

Farsh Faria (Wadi Freah) and Wadi Abu
Zaituna, is a large open basin
surrounded by distant ranges. There are
many Byzantine ruins in the area. Gebel
Sana is a long climb, but there are nice
views of the Monastery, Gebel Musa
(Mt. Sinai) and town.

The persecution of Christians during Roman

rule of Egypt led to many Egyptian
Christians fleeing to the wild frontier of Sinai
which was largely devoid of Roman garrisons. Many of these Christians lived in the
mountains cultivating orchards in soil-filled basins. Later monks built small chapels in
these areas to honour their devout predecessors and other holy figures. The ruins of
many of these chapels can be seen throughout the high mountain area. Many of
these chapels are found close to other Byzantine ruins of small settlements. The area
around Bustan el Birka is where you can find the highest concentration of ruins, many
of them in excellent condition. (Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

A pass from the settlement of Abu Sila

(1) connects to Wadi Freah (2), where
Mohamed Musas camel school is. To
the left a path leads to a ruined church
at Wadi Rumanet (3). Straight ahead it
carries on to Bustan el Birka (4), where
there are more Byzantine ruins. Another
steep pass to the area leads from the
settlement of Abu Zaituna (5), first to a
sandy plain, then dropping into a narrow
wadi (6) which runs until some
abandoned gardens (7). Gebel Sana (8)
looks over town, with more monastic
ruins in Wadi Anshil el Ala (9).
Wadi Freah can be Bustan el Birka is a
approached from the garden further up.
settlement of Abu Sila Bustan ,means walled
via a short climb. garden, Birka, means
Mohamed Musas water tank. There is a
camel school is the mulberry tree next to
only garden at this the garden and a
point. Bedouin cemetery.

Wadi Abu Zaituna is There are a number

another way to the of wadis connecting
area, starting at a Wadi Abu Zeituna to
short pass above the the top of Gebel
settlement of Abu Sana, which has
Zaituna, next to the unique views of Gebel
main road leading to Musa (Mt. Sinai), the
town. Monastery and town. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 32
Wadi Isbaiya Wadi Sdud

On the opposite side of Mt Sinai to the

town of St Katherine lies Wadi Isbayiya,
a long wadi running from the main
road, with unique views of Gebel Musa
(Mt. Sinai). It is an ancient route to El Tur,
and also offers a gateway to the area of
the Ulad Said Bedouin that includes the
Blue Desert and Umm Shaumar areas.

During Islamic rule, Egyptian rulers were

charged with providing safe passage
through Sinai for pilgrims traveling to
Mecca. This route became known as the Darb el Hajj (The Pilgrims Road), cutting
across the harsh interior via Nakhla in the centre and joining modern-day Suez with
Eilat in Israel. Not only was this route used by pilgrims, but it was also an important
trade route and several fortresses were built along it to provide protection. Apart from
this major route there were many others crisscrossing the peninsula; Wadi Isbaiya,
much further south, is part of another traditional route connecting the Monastery of St.
Katherine to the port city of El Tur. (Reference: Sinai: The site and the history by Mursi
Saad El Din, Ayman Taher, Luciano Romano)

Wadi Isbaiya branches off just before

town (1) and an asphalt road leads to a
Bedouin settlement (2). From here a dirt
road, passing Darb el Arab ecolodge
(3), carries on over a pass towards Wadi
Rahaba. Gebel Dir (4) and Gebel
Muneiga (5) separate Mt. Sinai (6) and
the Monastery (7) from Wadi Isbaiya,
both approachable over easy passes.
From Wadi Sdud (8) there are different
ways to the Blue Desert or Wadi Nasb.

Gebel el Dir, on the Mount Sinai Ecolodge

left, and Gebel is at the upper end of
Muneiga, right with Wadi Isbaiya, with
the chapel on top, views to Gebel Musa
separate Wadi (Mt. Sinai), Gebel
Isbaiya, running in the Muneiga, Gebel el Dir
background, from and the ancient
Wadi el Dir and the pilgrims route.

Wadi Sdud, branching The Blue Desert can

off from Wadi Isbaiya, be approached from a
is a narrow canyon at number of dramatic
the mouth, but ways starting from
becomes wider and Wadi Isbaiya.
open further up, with
ways either to the
Blue Desert or Wadi
Rahaba. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 33
South of St. Katherine: towards Sharm el Sheikh and El Tur

Main places: 1. Town of St. Katherine; 2. Blue Desert; 3. Ein Kid; 4. Gebel Thabt Gebel Sabbah; 5. Nabq;
6. Sharm el Sheikh; 7. Gebel Umm Shaumar; 8. Wadi Isla; 9. El Tur city

West and south-west from St. Katherine is the homeland of the Ulad Said tribe, while to the
south it is Muzeina territory. Not many operators offer treks in this region, and your best choice
is to find one in the town of St. Katherine. Alternatively you can try to find an independent
guide in town as the area is not controlled by any single tribe, clan or sheikh. This is one of the
least visited, most remote and untouched wilderness in South Sinai, with rugged peaks and
long winding rocky wadis. There are some smaller sandy-gravely plains, a few water sources
and one oasis, but the majority of the area is made of granite and volcanic ranges, a complex
system of long wadis and high passes. The major attractions are far apart and whichever way
you go, it will take you a day or two between major sights. Still, there are some unique places;
first, it offers a rare view on contemporary Bedouin life, as people here are by and large not in
contact with tourists; then there are many archeological sites from Nabatean and Byzantine
times including the monasteries of Rumhan and Antush; the oasis of Ein Kid is still very much
like what an oasis used to be; from the peaks of Umm Shaumar, Thabt or Sabbah you will
have a view on to the Gulf of Aqaba comparable only by Gebel Serbal at Wadi Feiran in the
north-west; and the traditional pilgrim and merchant route through Wadi Isla, with a running
creek at a narrow part, offers a dramatic ending as it opens up to the sandy plains at el Tur
city. Going south, it is difficult to finish the trek exactly at Sharm el Sheikh city; the best option
is to end the trek in Nabq protectorate, located just north of Sharm el Sheikh. From here you
can actually walk in to the northern suburbs of the city. However, to get to Nabq from the
interior means going through very long wadis towards the end which ever way you choose
so a prearranged or spontaneous 4x4 or pick-up transfer is advised unless you are very
serious about doing it all on foot. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 34
Blue Valley (Blue Desert)

An open desert plain, encircled by

rugged mountain ranges, made
famous by having several outcrops and
rock formations painted blue by
Belgian artist Jean Verame to
commemorate the peace agreement
between Egypt and Israel.

The Blue Desert is usually approached from

the main road, on a day trip or as part of a
Bedouin sunset dinner, but it can also
easily be visited on foot or camel in a long
day via a more scenic route. It is a large, open sandy plain at the start of several long
wadis leading to lower ground. It is already far below the High Mountain range, and
the views from the passes of Farsh Umm Qasyum or Wadi Abu Khseib are stunning.
Boulders painted blue are scattered around a large area and you could spend hours
walking around the basin. It is also a nice starting point for longer treks: towards the
south-west to Wadi Rahaba, Gebel Umm Shaumar, Ein Kid and eventually to El Tur City
or Sharm el Sheikh; or towards the east to Dahab or Nuweiba via Wadi Saal and then
a sandstone desert area passing oases and canyons.

The Blue Desert (1) is located close to

the town of St. Katherine (2) and the
Monastery of St. Katherine (3). It is
usually approached by a dirt road
starting from the main asphalt road (4),
just before the junction of the Nuweiba-
Dahab and El Tur-Suez roads (5). It can
also be reached on foot or camel from
Wadi Isbaiya (6) via Wadi Sdud (7) and
Farsh Umm Qaysum (8).

The basin of the Blue In the area is a hill

Desert is close to the painted blue, and the
main road, and Bedouin actually call
usually it is visited by the area Jebel Mlaun
cars. Sturdy mountain Blue Mountain.
bikes might also work.

It can be approached From the pass of

on foot from St Farsh Umm Qaysum
Katherine via Wadi or Wadi Abu Ksheib
Sdud pictured with there are magnificent
Mt. Sinai and Mt. views to the sandy
Katherine in the plain of the Blue
distance. Desert, located far
below. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 35
Seil Rotok Wadi Rahaba Wadi Nasb

Wadi Rahaba is a wide sandy plain with

hills and Byzantine ruins, enclosed by
long mountain ranges. Seil Rotok
connects Mt. Katharina to the area,
from where there are paths to different
directions. There are several ruined
nawamis buildings around Wadi Nasb.

The traditional Bedouin tents have to be

easy to erect and dismantle, easy to
maintain and repair, resistant to wind and
rain and at the same time provide
insulation from the sun and protection against the cold. Hair from black Arabian goats
is used to make the wool for the tents which are known as Bait Al-Sha'ar, or 'House of
Hair'. Women of the tribe weave wool into long strips that are then assembled to form
the roof of the tent which is supported by poles and secured to the ground by ropes.
To ensure good ventilation, the cloth is secured with loose stitches. Swelling with the
rain, the fibers expand in order to keep the tent waterproof. Curtains are hung as
surrounding walls and panels of material separate the interior space into different
rooms: the majlis or maqad, which is the public space for receiving visitors, and the
mahram, the private space for the family.( Reference: R. A. Nicholson 1930)

From St. Katherine (1) there is a way via

Mt. Katharina (2) to Seil Rotok (3) and
on to the Wadi Rahaba environmental
centre (4). By car it is connected by an
off-road track from Wadi Isbaiya (5),
taking a turn at the Wadi Nasb junction
(6). South of the centre there are
Byzantine ruins (7). From Wadi
Zawatina (8) there are different paths
towards Gebel Umm Shaumar. From
Hajar Kharas (9) you can descend
towards Ein Kid. Wadi Nasb, after a
Bedouin settlement (10), connects the
area to wadis running towards Dahab.
Seil Rotok is the Camping, guides and
narrow mouth of the camels might be
wadi running from Mt. arranged through
Katharina. It joins Sheikh Ramadan,
lower wadis running who lives with his
towards the south. family in a Bedouin
tent close to the rarely
used environmental
center in Wadi
There are several Wadi Nasb, after a
Byzantine buildings in Bedouin settlement,
Wadi Rahaba next to suddenly becomes
the dirt road on the very narrow running
way towards Wadi between steep
Zawatina and Gebel ranges. It connects to
Umm Shaumar. wadis running
towards Dahab. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 36
Ein Kid

The open and wide upper part of Wadi

Kid closes up at one point, the wadi
continuing through a narrow gap and
over boulders blocking the way. The
beautiful little oasis of Ein Kid with its
many date palms is located there. It is
rarely visited, quiet and pleasantly
undeveloped. The long lower part of the
wadi, leading to the main road, is
accessible by vehicles.

Although life has changed in many

respects and most Bedouin now live in stone houses, the arrangement of living and
communal spaces still reflects life in the traditional Bedouin tent. There is always a
sitting place the maqad for the men and the guests, either in one room in the
house or in the garden under a shady roof made of canes or palm leaves, or simply
under a shady tree. Family and communal matters, involving the smaller or larger
family or even the whole tribe, are discussed in the maqad. Communities have their
own maqad, which is always open for guests. Even in modern stone houses there is
often a fire place in the middle to make tea and coffee, which is offered to guests.

The oasis of Ein Kid (1) can be reached

either from south of Gebel Abu Masaud
(2), via Wadi Ahmar or Wadi Nakhara
(3), or from north of it, via the Wadi
Nasb settlement (4). Below the oasis
Wadi Kid (5) continues on to the main
road (6) leading from Dahab (7) to
Sharm el Sheikh. Another way from the
oasis, via Wadi Mageirat (8), carries on
towards Ein Umm Saida, then Gebel
Thabt and Gebel Sabbah or Gebel Umm
Shaumar and Wadi Isla.

From Hajar Kharas, There is another way

under the peaks of from Wadi Nasb, via
Gebel Abu Masaud Khalisat and Wadi
and close to ruined Imlah. There are
nawamis buildings, nawamis ruins in this
the steep gullies of area as well, as
Wadi Ahmar or Wadi pictured here, at a
Nakhara lead down to pass.
the oasis of Ein Kid.

The oasis of Ein Kid The wadi is

with Gebel Abu Arna, accessible from the
hiding Gebel Abu main Dahab-Sharm el
Masaud, dominating Sheikh road by
the view in the 4WDs, the track
distance. ending just before the
oasis in a narrow
gorge. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 37
Ein Umm Saida Gebel Thabt Gebel Sabbah

The area, wedged between the Gulf of

Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba at the tip of
the peninsula, is a really remote,
untouched and harsh region, with
rugged mountains offering magnificent
views. The long wadis to the south lead
to the main road shortly before Sharm el
Sheikh, and continue across it into the
Nabq Protectorate.

Bedouin practices come from a detailed

knowledge of the desert ecosystem. For
example they can offer biologists a nearly complete basic inventory of their regions
plants, animals and other resources, distinguish between habitats, identify floral
ranges, life cycles, and identify species with medicinal uses for man and animals, and
the usefulness of a species as a source of fuel. Bedouin also have a good sense the
extent to which an area can exploited without degrading it and diminishing its
capacity to recover. The Bedouins' conservation practices preserve not only
economic and aesthetic values, but also an entire way of life. Conservation of plants
and animals is an expression of the nomads' deep-seated beliefs. (Reference: UNDP
Global Environment Facility)

Ein Umm Saida (1) is at the crossroads

connecting Ein Kid (2) to the top of Wadi
Isla (3), and then on to the plain (4) at El
Tur. Gebel Umm Shaumar (5) is in the
area and can be reached via Wadi
Rumhan. Gebel Thabt (6) and Gebel
Sabbah (7) are a bit further south from
the junction. There are many wadis
running towards the main Dahab to
Sharm el Sheikh road, draining water
into the Nabq Protectorate (8), a little to
the north of the suburbs of Sharm el
Sheikh city (9) known also as Nabq.

Ein Umm Saida is a Gebel Thabt, seen

natural spring at the here from Wadi
upper part of long Yahamad to the east,
Wadi Mageirat, close is the highest point in
to the pass the tip of the
connecting to either peninsula.
Gebel Umm
Shaumar, Wadi Isla or
Gebel Thabt.

Gebel Sabbah, seen To the west the wide

from Wadi Sabbah, is sandy plains at El Tur
a bit south of Gebel city and the Gulf of
Thabt and offers Suez can bee seen,
similar views to both to the east long wadis
sides of the running towards the
peninsula. Gulf of Aqaba. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 38
Nabq Protectorate

One of the biggest protected area in

South Sinai, starting from the waters in
front of Dahab and stretching to Sharm
el Sheikh. The southern end is a wide
sandy flood plain at the foot of the
mountains, with a unique ecosystem.
This is the northernmost point where
mangrove groves exist, along shallow
lagoons and a coral reef.

The Naqb Protected Area contains many

unique linked ecosystems, including coral
reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, salt marshes, brackish water oases and dunes
covered by unique vegetation. There are also a variety of desert ecosystems including
mountains, wadis, plains and stone/gravel desert. Nabq is home to 134 different
flowering plants, six of which are endemic. There is also a good representation of
fauna, e. g. gazelle, ibex, hyrax, reptiles and invertebrates. The importance of Nabq
lies mostly with its extensive mangrove stands and unique dunes. The close proximity of
desert and maritime environments create a very special flair and unique beauty.
Unfortunately the closeness of Sharm el Sheikh means a lot of pressure on the
environment. (Reference: National Parks of Egypt, Nabq)

The southern end of Nabq Protectorate

is a large plain draining water through
Wadi Khereizi (1), where there is a small
settlement and an entrance. The Visitor
Centre (2) is opposite the Maria
Schrder wreck (3). There is another
settlement (4), also at a lagoon and
mangroves. At the northern suburb of
Sharm el Sheikh (5) there is the other
entrance. The Island of Tiran (6) is
easily visible from everywhere. There
are accessible paths from Wadi Kid (7)
and Jebel Sabbah (8), via Wadi
Yahamad (9) or Wadi Adawi (10).
The flood plain at the The Visitor Centre,
coast with patches of located along a small
arak trees stabilizing bay, has a good
the sandy terrain. exhibition and a
platform with a
telescope to explore
the area.

Mangroves in a There are a number of

shallow bay, with the cafeterias and simple
ship wreck of Maria accommodation along
Schrder at the edge the coastal drive at
of the reef table a bit different points.
further out. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 39
Wadi Rumhan Dir Rumhan Dir Antush

The ruined Byzantine monasteries of

Rumhan and Antush are important
archeological sites, at the foot of mighty
Gebel Umm Shaumar. Wadi Rumhan,
with its gardens and water sources, is a
convenient overnight stop in the area.

There are two known Byzantine

monasteries located in this area. Dir
Rumhan is a large Byzantine complex that
has a large central building that is believed
to be a church. Greek inscriptions can be
seen on some of the rocks. There are many orchards that surround the buildings that
all would have been in operation when this complex was an important waystation for
pilgrims on their way from El-Tor to Mt Sinai. On the other side of the saddle, Dir Antush
is a church made from large rocks. Surrounding it are the remains of six hermit cells.
This retreat was still operational as late as the 17th century. Also in this area are the
remains of an early Islamic mosque. (Reference: SEAM South Sinai Environment and
Development profile)

Wadi Rumhan starts at the saddle (1)

between Gebel Umm Shaumar (2) and
Gebel Abu Shajara (3), and continues
on, below Gebel Rumhan (4), to the
Wadi Isla junction (5). It is usually
approached from Wadi Zawatina (6)
above, descending via Naqb Breka and
reaching the wadi close to the
Monastery of Rumhan (7). The
Monastery of Antush (8) is on the other
side of the Umm Shaumar-Abu Shajara

The garden of Wadi Naqb Breka is a steep

Zawatina, after Wadi gully, with some
Rahaba, is how far gardens along the
cars can come from way and the first vews
here you can either of Gebel Umm
descend to Wadi Shaumar and Gebel
Rumhan or climb the Rumhan.
pass to Gebel Umm

There are abandoned The ancient Dir

gardens in Wadi Antush is located on
Rumhan, right under the other side of the
Gebel Umm Shaumar Gebel Umm
and Gebel Rumhan, Shaumar-Gebel Abu
and the ancient Dir Shajara pass.
Rumhan next to some
more recent buildings. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 40
Gebel Umm Shaumar

The second highest mountain in Egypt,

standing on the perimeter of the rugged
mountainous interior, with long wadis
and smaller ranges running towards the
sandy plain and the coast at El Tur city.
In clear weather you can see across the
Gulf of Suez to mountain ranges in
another continent Africa.

One of the most important species of the

mountains is the Nubian Ibex, a wild
mountain goat species. They are
characteristic of rocky high mountain areas; the males can have magnificent horns.
They are very alert and shy, with an astonishing ability to climb the steep wadi sides
very quickly. They occur throughout the region, but are becoming very much rarer
and are now officially endangered in the Sinai. One of the main priorities of the St.
Katherine National Park is the conservation of this species. The Bedouin used to hunt
this animal and value its meat greatly, but most people understand today there are
not enough of the Ibex to carry on with this tradition. Unfortunately poaching still
occurs, especially in the more remote areas. (Reference: Semi Zalat Francis Gilbert

The peak of Gebel Umm Shaumar (1)

can be reached via a saddle (2), either
from Wadi Rumhan (3) or via Gebel Abu
Shagara (4). Wadis starting north of the
saddle connect to Wadi Kharita (5)
which will lead eventually to the plain at
El Tur city. Wadi Shidq (6) and Wadi
Imlaha (7) are steep gullies descending
from the Umm Shaumar range straight
to the sandy plain.

View of Gebel Umm The mountain is

Shaumar from the located right above
coast at El Tur city, the Bedouin gardens
with the wide sandy of Wadi Rumhan but
plain at the foot of the also accessible from
mountain range. Wadi Zawatina via
Gebel Abu Shajara.

At the upper end of From the summit

Wadi Rumhan, from there are superb
the saddle stretching views to the coast at
between Gebel Abu el Tur and the Gulf of
Shajara and Gebel Aqaba, the
Umm Shaumar, starts mountainous interior
the climb. on the other side and
as far as the Saudi
ranges. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 41
Seil Muajed Wadi Isla

Seil Muajed is a long, steep and in

places a tricky gully leading from the
Umm Shaumar range to the lower-lying
Wadi Isla. The long and winding Wadi
Isla becomes narrow and lush towards
the end, with many date palms, canes,
trees and a creek disappearing through
a famous precipitous gorge. The sight of
the plain from the very end is also very

El Tur city, the capital of South Sinai, has a

history that dates back to pharonic times when it was known as Raithu and was an
important port for Sinais large mineral deposits. In the foothills, near the old port, is the
monastery of Raithu, built by emperor Justinian, the emperor who also commissioned
the building of St Katherines monastery. The ruins of el-Kilani lie next to the monastery
and date from Byzantine times. On the outskirts of town is Moses bath. This is where
Moses asked a local woman for water and, when she denied him, he asked God to
make the water undrinkable. The water here comes from a hot spring, and thus is
indeed undrinkable, but fortunately is perfect for bathing in! The name el Tur also
refers to Mt. Sinai or the Sinai mountains in general.

Wadi Isla starts at a junction (1), with

paths to Gebel Thabt (2), Ein Umm
Saida (3), Wadi Rahaba (4) and Wadi
Rumhan (5). It ends at the sandy plain
of El Qaa(6) stretching across from the
city of El Tur (7). The steep gully of
Wadi Muajed starts from Gebel Rumhan
(8) and connects to Wadi Isla at the
lower part (9), shortly above the gorge
with the creek and canes.

Wadi Muajed, a very Wadi Muajed

long and steep gully connects to Wadi Isla
leading to the coast, at the lower part,
starts at the saddle which is more lush
between Gebel then the upper part of
Rumhan and Gebel the wadi.
Umm Shaumar.

Further down the Towards the end of

presence of water Wadi Isla there is a
becomes more visible narrow gorge with a
there are ponds, small creek flowing
creeks, bamboos and through it. The
thick vegetation. entrance to the
coastal plains is about
an hour from here. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 42
East of St. Katherine: towards Nuweiba and Dahab

Main places: 1. Town of St. Katherine; 2. Gebel Guna; 3. Zigzag Canyon; 4. Arada Canyon; 5. Gebel Matamir
Nawamis; 6. Gebel Birqa Haduda sand dune; 7. Ein Khudra White Canyon Closed Canyon;
8. Gebel Mileihis; 9. Nuweiba; 10. Ras Abu Gallum; 11. Dahab.

The area east of St. Katherine is a very diverse region, with rocky mountain wadis, sandy
desert plains, sand dunes, sandstone rock formations and secluded oases. The area is home
to the Muzeina Bedouin, the biggest South Sinai tribe. Here there is no tribal system and you
can choose your operator, guide and camels freely. The exceptions are Arada Canyon and the
White Canyon where taking a guide is required, unless your trek is part of a longer one and
you already have a Bedouin guide. Several places are quite popular and many companies and
individuals offer treks, but to have a good experience make sure you are going with a
Bedouin-run operator or one that works closely with them. Along the main St. Katherine to
Nuweiba/Dahab road there are cafeterias and camel stations from where you can get a guide
and camels straight from the community. Coming from St. Katherine, the first is at Wadi Arada,
then there is a new camel station at the Nawamis settlement, a bit further down is Cafeteria
Joma, and, after the UN outpost at Ras Ghazala, is Sheikh Hemeid and a few independent
cafeterias. It is possible to walk from St. Katherine all the way to the sea, although the first and
last stretches of the trek might not be as spectacular as some other places. The main routes
are going either north or south of the asphalt road and if you want to see all the best places
you will have to criss-cross it a number of times. Wadi Zagra and Wadi Nasb would take you
straight to Dahab but the more interesting locations are a bit further away. An interesting route
would be to start at Faranja or Shegera some 20-30 kms after St. Katherine, visiting the Guna
plateau and the canyons at its base, then the ancient Nawamis site and the magical fine sand
desert dotted with sandstone formations and dunes further east. You could finish at the hidden
oasis of Ein Khudra, or go on from here to the Ras Abu Gallum protectorate located just north
of Dahab on the coast; or, you could carry on to the territories of the Tarabin tribe to the north
and reach the coast around Nuweiba and Taba via another spectacular way. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 43
Gebel Guna

A long, flat mountain range separating

two main wadis, from which gullies
descend to all directions. From the rim
of the plateau there are stunning views
of the sand desert around dotted with
sandstone outcrops and distant rugged
ranges, including Mt. Katherina. Several
canyons are located at its base.

Walking around the rim of the Guna

plateau and looking down to different
directions gives a good idea of the
geographical and geological features of Sinai. To the north lies the extensive
limestone plateau of Tih, which is separated from the southern portion of the peninsula
by a broad belt of sand. The south is mostly composed of granitic and sandstone
rocks. The high mountains region in the distance towards the south-west is mostly
made of granite (app. 80%) as well as some volcanic rocks formed of magma which
erupted to the earth's surface and cooled quickly. To the south lies a dominantly
sandstone area of which the Guna range is also part, with its characteristic sandstone
hills and rock formations located in sandy plains and wadis formed as a result of

The Gunna range starts at the

settlement of Shgera (1) and runs
parallel to the main St. Katherine to
Nuweiba-Dahab road, all the way to the
Naqb Ghilim and Wadi Rum junction (2).
It can also be climbed from Naqb Abu
Tureifiya (3), next to Zigzag Canyon, as
well as from Arada Canyon (4), located
close to the Wadi Arada settlement (5).
North of the range runs Wadi Arda (6)
and Wadi Zalaqa (7), both joining Wadi
Zaranik (8) and leading on to Tarabin
territories around Nuweiba.

Treks often start at At certain places the

Shgera settlement, layered sandstone
either running north to reveals many stripes
Wadi Zalaqa or of different colours
climbing the Gunna caused by various
range and continuing mineral deposits.

There are many There are stunning

fossils on the top views to the eastern
suggesting the area sandy plain dotted
has been a sea bed at with rock outcrops
one stage. and the distant
rugged mountain
range of the high
mountain region. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 44
Zigzag Canyon

A narrow sandstone canyon zigzags

between vertical sandstone walls, at
the foot of the Gunna range. Not as
spectacular as many other canyon, but
very easy and accessible no climbing
is involved and it is located close to the
main road.

An important part of Bedouin culture is the

drinking of tea, to such an extent that the
Bedouin are adept at making tea almost
anywhere. In the desert, where resources
are extremely limited, an old tin can, called della, is often used as a kettle. The thin
metal makes this perfect as it means that less heat is required to boil the water,
therefore less wood is needed to burn. Making tea in this way means that only a small,
dead shrub is burnt to create enough heat to boil the water. Frequently these tin cans
are left around the desert for the next passer-by to use, along with other seemingly
useless items, such as a burnt metal sheet, called saaj or shaz, to bake bread.

The Zigzag Canyon (1), overlooking

Wadi Marra (2), is 2 kms from the main
road in the sandy mouth of a gully
running down from the Gunna range. A
common way to climb to the top of the
Gunna range is via Naqb Abu Tureifiya
(3). The path leaves the sandy wadi
floor at one point (4) and the climb
starts. You can also walk to Arada
Canyon via Wadi Abu Hamaita (5).
There is a cafeteria at the junction (6) to
Wadi Saal settlement a little further
down along the main road.

The canyon is located The canyon was

in the sandy mouth of carved by run-off rain
one of the many water into the foot of
gullies running from the sandstone range.
the Gunna range to all

The sandy floor runs The mouth of the

between vertical rock canyon opens to a
walls and impressive wide sandy plain and
rock formations. Wadi Marra, with
many acacia trees,
beyond in the
distance. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 45
Naqb Arada (Wadi Arada)

A wadi running from the Gunna range

and leading to a settlement and camel
station along the main road. There is a
maze of sandy wadis and surrealistic
sandstone rock formations, ancient
inscriptions as well as Arada Canyon in
the area. Confusingly there is Wadi
Arda on the other side of the Gunna

The social and political units among the

Arabian nomads were groups of varying
sizes. Western writers usually refer to these as 'tribes' or, in the case of the smaller
groups and subdivisions, 'sub-tribes' and 'clans', but those terms do not correspond
exactly to Arabic terms. There are a number of words in Arabic for such social and
political units, but the commonest usage is to refer to a tribe or clan simply as 'the sons
of so and-so'. The groups are often named after a distant ancestor or his nickname.
Awlad (Ulad) means sons of -, Abu means father and refers to the forefather. A Sinai
Bedouin tribe is typically divided into four or five larger groups, and within these there
are other smaller groups. In case of disputes solution is sought at the lowest neutral
level. (Reference: R. A. Nicholson 1930)

Wadi Arada starts from Naqb Arada at

the foot of the Gunna range, where the
Arada Canyon (1) is located, and leads
to a roadside settlement (2). The
settlement is shortly after the Wadi Saal
junction (3). The settlement is about 5.5
kms from Arada Canyon, passing the
rock formations at El Hedd (4) and rocks
with ancient inscriptions near Wadi Abu
Hamaita (5). From the settlement to the
south starts Wadi Jinaa (6), leading to
Bier Safra via the Duna (7), or to Gebel
Matamir to the north-east (8).

There are many Ancient inscriptions

impressive rock and images of camels
formations in the are carved on some
area. of the rocks.

Sand dunes and There is a small camp

sandstone outcrops in and station at the
Wadi Abu Hamaita, road side settlement,
which is also one way run by Freej, from
to the Zigzag Canyon. where guides and
camels can be
organized. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 46
Arada Canyon

There are actually two canyons,

branching off from the same entrance
and connected via a small plateau,
forming a circuit. It involves some
climbing and little help might be
needed at tricky parts. Its entrance is
located in a secluded sandy stretch of
a gully.

When you look around the numerous

popular sites that are usually accessed by
4x4 tourists you will notice a huge number
of graffiti as visitors leave a permanent reminder of their time at the spot. In the past
these areas were far harder to visit for tourists, and those who did take the effort were
usually those conscientious tourists who appreciated the beauty of the area. With the
ever-increasing popularity of 4x4 day excursions from Sharm and Dahab there is a
growing need to educate visitors as to their responsibilities. Rock inscriptions from as far
back as Byzantine times can be found all over the region and the enjoyment of these
should not be tempered by graffiti stating Johny woz here. Please remember, and
warn other if necessary, to take nothing but photographs, and to leave nothing but

The entrance is in the sandy mouth of a

small wadi (1) from which the two
canyons (2) branch off. North from the
entrance (3), going different directions,
there are paths to the top of the Gunna
range. The sandstone formations and
dunes of Wadi Abu Hamaita (4) to the
south are noticeable landmarks, and
you can walk to Zigzag Canyon from
here. There are rocks with ancient
inscriptions (5) nearby.

The entrance to the Some climbing is

northern canyon, involved at various
running between points.
steep walls.

The northern and In the southern

southern branches of canyon there are
Arada Canyon are some trickier parts
connected via a small most people can
plateau. make it but a short
rope can come
helpful. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 47
Bier Safra

A well, with clean water, in the desert at

the crossing of main routes connecting
many sights. The rock formation and
sand dune at the Duna are a short
distance away and clearly visible. A
new garden is being developed to
provide a pleasant stop.

In several strategic areas in the lower

desert region, towards the coast, you can
see large black dams that have recently
been completed to reduce the problem of
flash flooding. Although it seems hard to believe, on average once every 5 or 6 years
larger-than-average seasonal rainfall will create flash floods which head towards the
sea. When these flood waters combine the effect can be devastating. In 2000 the
beach resort of Dahab suffered serious damage from one of these floods. The
purpose of these new dams is to stop significant amounts of surface runoff water, thus
preventing the floods from combining from several wadis.

Bier Safra (1) is on the main route from

Wadi Saal (2). It is also connected to the
Wadi Arada road-side settlement (3) via
Wadi Jinaa, to Gebel Matamir (4), the
round outcrop of El Kiri (5) and the
Gebel Barqa range (6). The Duna (7), a
high sand dune forming a saddle
between an outcrop and a range, is 2
kms away and clearly visible from Bier

A garden with olive A dam has recently

trees and date palms been constructed
is being developed by close by, blocking a
Sheikh Hmeid at a wadi it is a
new well. necessary
preventative action to
protect areas further

The Duna (Dunat The Duna is a high

Safra) is 2 kms away, sand dune next to an
and clearly visible, interesting rock
from Bier Safra. formation. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 48
Nawamis Site

Mysterious prehistoric stone buildings,

dating back to the Copper Stone Age
(4000-3150 BC), which are only found in
South Sinai, in several areas. They are
believed to be ritual burial chambers,
always located at elevated points and
facing west. This is the biggest and
best-preserved site.

The purpose of the ancient nawamis

buildings remains a mystery, although it is
often claimed they are burial chambers.
Inside archaeologists have unearthed shell bracelets, colored beads, flint tools, tiny
jugs as well as bone and copper tools. These items might be funeral offerings.
However no human bones have been found. The buildings, always located at
elevated points and facing west, are between 2 to 2.5 m high and 3 to 6 m in
diameter, circular, with thick inward-leaning walls built of flat rock slabs and roofs
made of rock slates and covered with sand. At the Nawamis site, close to the main
road, there are more than 30 buildings and they are all in excellent condition. The
name comes from the Arabic word for mosquitoes, as the Bedouin believe the
buildings were built at windy places to provide protection against insects.

The Nawamis site (1) is not visible from

the main road, although there is a dirt
road (2) leading to it. The wadi leading
to Gebel Matamir (3) starts shortly after
the Nawamis site. There is a Bedouin
settlement (4) close by and the cafeteria
at Hajar Maktub (5), where you can hire
a guide or camels if needed. Opposite
the nawamis, across the road, there is
the start to Naqb Ghilim (6), leading to
Gebel Gunna, and Wadi Rum (7),
leading to Ein Khudra the long way. The
short way is from the Ein Khudra pass
(8), across the plain.
The doors of Nawamis are always
nawamis, built with located at elevated
massive rock slabs, points at passes, on
are always facing wadi banks, or as
West. here, on rocky

There is a new Approaching the

community school nawamis site from the
and camel station at roadside settlement
Nawamis pictured camels are an option,
with the sandstone especially if you
ranges of Gebel venture beyond.
Matamir in the
distance. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 49
Gebel Matamir

A group of elongated sandstone hills, rising

from a sandy plain and separated by wadis.
There are steep sand dunes running from
some parts of the mountains. From the
peaks of Gebel Matamir there are far-
reaching views of the sand desert and
distant high mountain ranges.

Modernity has had a huge impact upon

Bedouin society with people craving the latest
mobile phone technology just like elsewhere in
the world. However, despite this desire for the latest technology the camel is still a sign
of prestige. The camel is the perfect animal for use in the desert. Its ability to endure
greater temperatures without sweating allow it to go for long periods without water
(camels do not store water in their humps!). Camel milk was an important part of the
diet for many Bedouins due to its greater protein content than cows milk. Bedouins
also believe that the milk contains medicinal value if the camels diet consists of
certain plants and camels let out to graze in the wild eat from all available
medicinal herbs. Camels roaming the desert alone are not wild or feral animals and
they all belong to someone. A mark on the neck, called wasm, is the sign of the tribe
and the owner.

Although Gebel Matamir (1) runs

parallel to the main road, it is best
approached from the Nawamis site (2).
There are a number of paths leading to
the top from the main sandy wadi (3),
but do not climb without a guide.
Continuing in the wadi you would get to
Wadi Jinaa (4) and then on to either
Wadi Arada or Bier Safra. Another way
leads to El Kiri (5), marked by a big,
round outcrop, and then on to the Gebel
Barqa range.

The path to one of the Half way up there are

peaks of Gebel secluded sandy
Matamir starts under basins, with steep
a hanging rock. gullies running from

Towards the east you To the south, in the

can sea the entire far distance, rugged
sand plateau with peaks line the
other sandstone horizon.
ranges rising from it. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 50
Gebel Barqa Gebel Maharum

The popular sandstone formation of

Gebel Maharum, with a hole cutting
through it, is only one of the many
curious rock formations and hills that
the sandstone range of Gebel Barqa
offers. There are also many small caves,
sand dunes and rock formations
offering stunning views from the top.

Bedouin time is centered around the five

prayers of the day dawn, mid day,
afternoon, sunset and evening and
observant guides will always stop at these times. It is part of the Five Pillars of Islam,
which refers to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim. These duties are; 1)
shahadah, the profession of faith declaring that there is no God but God and that
Mohamed was his prophet; 2) Salat, the requirement to pray five times a day facing
towards the Kaaba in Mecca. The times for prayers are dawn, noon, mid-afternoon,
sunset and night; 3) Zakat, the giving of 2.5% of your yearly income by those who can
afford to do so; 4) Sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; 5) Hajj, every able-
bodied Muslim is required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their

The Gebel Barqa range consists of

three groups of large sandstone
outcrops, from the southern tip (1) to the
northern (2) stretching more than 5 kms.
Gebel Maharum (3) is a smaller hill
close to the Haduda Sand Dune (4). The
area can be conveniently reached from
Wadi Saal via Bier Safra (5), Wadi
Arada (6), the Nawamis site (7), the
Hajar Maktub cafeteria (8) and Ras
Ghazala (9).

Steep sand dunes There are many

and rock formations caves, holes and
are found in the cracks around the
gullies and wadis range, caused by
separating the hills. wind, fine sand and

Several of the caves Gebel Maharum is

were walled up and popular with groups
used as store rooms arriving on 4WDs.
by the Bedouin. There are other more
secluded places in the
area if you want
guaranteed peace
and quiet. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 51
Haduda Sand Dune

The high sand plateau around Gebel

Barqa suddenly comes to an end at
Haduda Sand Dune, where it drops
steeply about 150 meters to a rocky
wadi running towards the coast.
Magnificent views, but also a place to
have fun and get sand all over you!

Between clansmen, verbal tongue-lashing

was usually sufficient to ensure
compliance, with agreements, but in the
event there is conflict over land or usufruct
rights the "Sheikh" or tribal leader resolves disputes both within the tribe and represents
the tribe in disputes with other tribes. A "Haseeb" is selected to represent each party in
the dispute. Decisions in important matters are made at tribal gatherings called Majlis
(note the word is also used for the sitting room) with the participation of all and are
based on consensus. At these gatherings all might speak, but most weight is
attached to the words of men of recognised authority. It is interesting to note that
Bedouins are relatively powerless to discipline non-Bedouin offenders, and this has
important implications on resource use in St Katherine's Protectorate with immigration
into the area. (Reference: UNDP Global Environment Facility)

Haduda Sand Dune (1) can be reached

from Gebel Maharum (2) across a sandy
plateau. From the bottom of the dune (3)
you can carry on straight to the Dahab
road (4) or turn north (5) and continue
on towards Ras Ghazala. To carry on to
Dahab via Ras Abu Galum, you have to
climb a steep pass, starting right
opposite a big dam (6). This will lead
you to lower wadis (7) towards Wadi
Risasa and the coast.

You can go all the The Gebel Barqa

way down to the range, as seen
bottom of the dune, looking back from
its fun but Haduda Sand Dune.
remember it is a long
climb back up!

The steep slope of the The lower part of the

sand dune drops to sand dune, seen from
narrow wadis running the beginning of the
towards the coast. rocky wadi below. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 52
Wadi Rum

The bigger stretch of the wadi, located

between the Nawamis site and Wadi
Khudra, is wide, long and sandy, with
many interesting outcrops. The other
part is narrow and winding, descending
between vertical walls over dry rock
pools filled with sand. There is a short
pass leading to a look-out point over
the oasis of Ein Khudra and a gully
descending to it.

Especially in the lower part of the wadi

there are very distinctive stripes crisscrossing the rock walls. They are dykes, volcanic
rock intrusions which sometimes stretch for kilometers and can be many metres in
width. Dykes are usually a darker red or grey colour than the surrounding rock and are
more permeable to water than the harder granite. Underground springs are more
likely tapped here than anywhere else. Plants grow more easily along dykes and
animals congregate to feed and take shelter here. Bedouin refer to the dykes as
"jidda", meaning grandmother the nurturer, the nourisher. Although more notable in
granite ranges, you can see dykes of different size, rock type and color in virtually
every single wadi throughout the Sinai. (Reference: National Parks of Egypt)

Wadi Rum can be approached from the

main road opposite the Nawamis site
(1), passing first a desert plain with a
rock outcrop looking like the Sphinx (2).
Along the way in the wide and sandy
wadi is Umm Serabit (3), a curious rock
tower. At one point the wadi splits (4);
one stretch is going to the pass (5)
which leads to look-out points over the
oasis of Ein Khudra (6) and a gully
descending to it; the other stretch,
narrow and winding, continues on to
Wadi Khudra (7), and the way to the
Closed Canyon (8).
There is a rock Umm Serabit is a
outcrop at the sandy massive rock tower at
mouth of Wadi Rum, the intersection of two
which looks similar to wadis.
the Sphinx in Cairo!

There is a gully The stretch of Wadi

connecting the oasis Rum leading to Wadi
of Ein Khudra to Wadi Khudra is narrow and
Rum, with beautiful winding, with dried out
views from the top to seasonal pools and
the oasis and the water cascades.
surroundings. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 53
Ein Khudra

Ein Khudra, meaning Green Spring, is a

picturesque oasis with gardens and
date palms, encircled by steep
mountain ranges and vertical cliffs. It is
very easy to reach from the main road.
There are springs here one of them is
in a small cave, another overflowing
from a fountain which sustain a
number of gardens. There are also ruins
of archeological interest in the area.

The easiest way to get to the oasis,

inhabited by a few families, is via the Ein Khudra pass. There is a cafeteria along the
main road from where it is a half-hour walk across a sandy plateau to the pass. One of
the curious sandstone outcrops along the walk is Hajar Maktub, on which inscriptions
have been carved by different ancient civilizations. About 15 minutes north of the
pass there are two ruined buildings, which is the site of the Byzantine monastery of Dir
Ein Khudra. It is another half-hour walk down to the oasis from the pass. An alternative
route leads via the White Canyon. The roadside cafeteria is known as Cafeteria Joma,
and the area is also referred to as Hajar Maktub, Sharafat Ein Khudra (Ein Khudra Pass)
or Balakona. The local name of the pass is El Gayby Shee.

One way to the oasis of Ein Khudra (1)

is from a roadside cafeteria (2) at a
sandy plateau, either via the pass of Ein
Khudra (3) or the White Canyon (4). The
later can be reached via Majaza (5) as
well. Another way to the oasis is from a
high pass above (6), a shortcut from
Wadi Rum. These routes are only
accessible on foot. 4WDs arrive via
Wadi Khudra (7).

There is a cafeteria From the main road a

right next to the road, 15-minutes walk will
and guides and take you to Hajar
camels can be Maktub, the Rock of
organized here. the Inscriptions. The
pass down to Ein
Khudra, is a bit further

Natural springs feed There are small

the oasis, like this one gardens in the oasis
in a small cave. Local with vegetables and
people, animals and flowers, but the most
plants solely depend important plant is the
on them. date. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 54
White Canyon

Starting as a crack at the edge of a

sand plateau, it is a narrow sandstone
canyon, opening to a wider wadi and
leading to the oasis of Ein Khudra. A
little climbing is involved.

Pastoral nomads are widely regarded as

being uninterested in protecting their
natural resources. While they may
inadvertently be in balance with their
environment as long as pastures are
plentiful, they make no effort to safeguard
resources during times of stress, or to ensure that future generation will enjoy what
nature provides. However investigation of their life style, culture, customs and
traditions especially regarding their use of plants and animals suggest the opposite
conclusion; traditionally pastoral nomads are protective of their environment and
work to maintain a balance between themselves, their herds, and the availability of
wild resources. Attitudes towards resource management do consider future impacts
of present actions. (Reference: UNDP Global Environment Facility)

The White Canyon starts at a cafeteria

at the edge of a sandy plateau (1), close
to the Ein Khudra pass (2), and ends at
the upper end of the oasis of Ein Khudra
(3). It can be visited in reverse, starting
in the oasis and finishing at the plateau.
There is another way, connecting the
canyon to Ras Ghazala via Majaza (4).

Some climbing is At some points the

involved, but with canyon becomes
some help if really narrow, winding
necessary, anybody between vertical
can do it. sandstone walls.

The top of the canyon There is a cafeteria at

is connected to a the plateau, from
sand plateau by a which the canyon
ladder. starts. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 55
Wadi Khudra Closed Canyon Mushroom Rock

A long and sandy wadi leading to Ein

Khudra, the way for 4WDs coming from
Ras Ghazala or Nuweiba, with the
Closed Canyon branching off from it at
one point and a large mushroom
shaped rock at another end. The
Closed Canyon is very impressive,
running extremely narrowly between
very high walls.

With great distances of long sandy wadis It

is very easy to forget that the sand
ecosystems found in South Sinai are in a very delicate balance. If you make just one
step off the car trails you will notice that much of the sand has a firm crust which
prevents sand shifting. Plants living in the sand might appear dry and dead but with
new rains would burst back to life. Their extensive root system, as well as a diverse
range of animals living in the sand, is disrupted by reckless off-road driving and it is also
the responsibility of passengers to avoid this happening and warn the driver if
necessary. With the popularity of jeep safaris there is a need to make sure they are
conducted as responsibly as possible, keeping to recognized trails, so as to minimize
the impact on the delicate sand ecosystems.

Wadi Khudra starts at the lower end of

the oasis of Ein Khudra (1) and joins
Wadi Ghazala (2), coming from the
direction of Ras Ghazala (3). Carrying
on in this direction leads to Ein El
Furtaga, the Tarabin canyons and
Nuweiba. The Mushroom Rock (4) is
close to the pass from where 4WDs
arrive to Ein Khudra. The Closed
Canyon (5) is at the end of a wadi,
branching off from Wadi Khudra
opposite the mouth of Wadi Rum (6).
The flat top of Gebel Mileihis (7) is
visible from many places.
At the entrance of the The beginning of the
wadi leading to the canyon it is still
Closed Canyon there relatively wide, but
is a sandstone later it gets very
outcrop with a sand narrow.

The canyon widens Another attraction in

up but is closed at the Wadi Khudra is a rock
very end by known as Mushroom
unscalable vertical Rock..
walls. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 56
Gebel Mileihis Wadi Disco

Gebel Mileihis is a flat sandstone

mountain towering over the desert, with
views as far as the sea at Nuweiba.
There is a spring with date palms, Moyat
Mileihis, at its foot in a tranquil setting.
Wadi Disco, named after the Bedouin
parties held here, is a small settlement
close to the mountain.

Across the Sinai runs a major tribal division

line, stretching roughly from Nuweiba to
Ras Sudr and dividing the Sinai Bedouin to
two major groups. The Tiyaha or People of the Plateau of Wandering and the
Tuwara or People of el Tur, referring to the Sinai mountains. Borders are well known
to tribesmen, though they generally do not prevent movement of individuals or groups
in the area. Grazing and water resources are available to all tribes through inter-tribal
agreement. Under traditional law individuals who discover new water sources are
able to settle next to it, so long as it is in his tribal area, however he would not be
allowed to prohibit use of the water by others. Individuals can however have the rights
to exclusively cultivate an area of land, but the viability of this is dependent on the
availability of the water. (References: Hobbs, 1995, UNDP Global Environment Facility)

Gebel Milehis (1) is easily visible across

the main road from Ras Ghazala (2),
about 5.5 kms to the south. Wadi Disco
(3) is shortly before the mountain. The
oasis of Ein Khudra (4) is a close by
destination. The city of Nuweiba (5) can
be easily reached from here via Wadi
Samghi (6), or via a longer route
including other sites, through Wadi
Ghazala (7).

There are many The view from the top

shady acacias in towards the sand
Wadi Disco, a small desert with the
Bedouin settlement sandstone mountain
before Gebel Mileihis. ranges is stunning.

To the north-east you The sandy plain

can see the Gulf of opposite Ras
Aqaba at Nuweiba. Ghazala, with the flat
Gebel Mileihis
dominating the view. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 57
Ras Ghazala

A sandstone hill with camel stations and

cafeterias along the main road, shortly
before the Nuweiba and Dahab fork it
is easily recognizable by an upturned
rusty truck with a smiley face painted
on it, on the top of a rock formation.

The signing of the Camp David peace

accord between Egypt and Israel in 1979
placed an emphasis on the importance of
peacekeepers for the Sinai peninsula, the
site for five wars between the two countries
since 1948. However, the two sides also recognized that Russia and other Arab states
would oppose the deployment of the familiar blue helmets of the United Nations
peacekeepers. With American help the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), an
independent peacekeeping force, came into being. A total of 1,700 troops, from 11
different countries, sporting the distinctive orange beret of the MFO were deployed at
35 outposts around Sinai. One of these outposts can be seen at Ras Ghazala. As
anywhere else in the world, do not take photos of military objects. (Reference:

Ras Ghazala (1) is the last camel station

along the St. Katherine to Nuweiba-
Dahab road, shortly before the three-
way junction (2). Safaris can be
organized from here to Gebel Mileihis
(3), Ein Khudra (4), the Nawamis site
(5), Gebel Barqa (6) and Haduda sand
dune (7). The pass to Wadi Risasa (8),
leading to the coastal national park of
Ras Abu Galum at Dahab, can also be
reached. To the north Wadi Samghi (9)
is the shortest way to Nuweiba.

The sandstone rock There are cool rooms

formation, with the carved in the soft
truck on top, is rock, serving as store
located right along the rooms.
main road.

There are other camel The National Parks

stations and environmental station,
cafeterias, shortly funded by the EU and
before and after the equipped with hi- tech
main stop. eco facilities, stands
empty and unused. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 58
Wadi Risasa Bier Uqda Ras Abu Gallum

A long wadi with a spectacular ending

at the sea at the national park of Ras
Abu Galum. It is one of the main ways
from the interior to Dahab. Bier Uqda is
an abandoned settlement with fresh
water, shortly before the wadi becomes
narrow and winding.

Ras Abu Gallum is a protected area of

approximately 500 km2 that is famous for its
combination of mountains, wadis, reefs
and freshwater springs. It is home to 167
plant species, 45 of which are unique to Ras Abu Gallum. The area was declared a
protectorate in 1992 and since then work has taken place to preserve the
environment and in particular the reefs. Bedouins used to use the area extensively for
fishing, but the traditional fishing techniques involved them standing on the reefs,
something which has been controlled by the protectorate. The area is also home to
Sinais largest concentration of Nubian Ibex, Hyrax, Red Fox and Striped Hyena. Off
shore Ras Abu Gallum is also home to the Manatee, or Sea Cow, a large mammal the
size of a sea lion. (Reference:

A steep pass across the main road, on

the way from Haduda Sand Dune (1),
will join Wadi Risasa (2) within Ras Abu
Galum national park, leading all the way
to the sea around the Laguna (3). There
are different ways, one of them passing
Bier Uqda (4). There is an asphalt road
and transport from the diving spot of the
Blue Hole (5), south of Ras Abu Galum,
going to the city of Dahab (6).

A steep gully, Naqb Wadi Risasa is a long

Umm Misma, leads sandy wadi with
from the main road to acacia trees and
Wadi Risasa. shrubs.

Abandoned gardens The wadis eventually

at Bier Uqda, a lead to the sea at Ras
reminder of better Abu Galum national
days. park it is a dramatic
view and a refreshing
experience after a
long journey. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 59
North-East of St. Katherine: towards the Nuweiba-Taba Coast

Main places: 1. Ein Umm Ahmad; 2. Gebel Berqa; 3. Rainbow Canyon; 4. Colored Canyon; 5. Washwashi
Canyon; 6. Nuweiba; 7. Coastal road to Taba; 8. St. Katherine-Dahab junction.

The area, home mostly to the Tarabin tribe, is famous for its canyons which are all located
relatively close to main asphalt roads. The Colored Canyon is visited by bigger numbers on
day trips on 4x4s, but there are other canyons in the very same area, connected by walking
trails, where not many venture. If you only visit the Colored Canyon you have to take a guide
from Ein Furtaga. It is easy to organize a longer trek of a few days to explore the area; the
best choice would be in Nuweiba or from the camps north of it. The more remote Tarabin
areas such as the oasis of Ein Umm Ahmad, the sand dunes at El Breqa and the towering
dome of Gebel Berqa are connected to other beautiful regions. The main wadi, Wadi Zalaqa,
is part of the sandy belt below the Tih Plateau jutting in from the north, and is on the main 4x4
route between the east and west coast. Camel and walking safaris might include places along
this stretch, but the most beautiful country is in the middle, connecting the Ein Khudra area or
the Guna plateau in the south and the Tarabin canyons in the north. This area is mostly
accessible only on foot or camel. If you are coming either from St. Katherine and the
mountainous interior or from the camel stations in the south, you can reach the relaxed
beaches on the Nuweiba to Taba road along an interesting and diverse route. Alternatively,
you can start from the Nuweiba beaches and head down south and finish at Ras Abu Galum,
Dahab or further. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 60
Ein Umm Ahmad

One of the main Tarabin oases in South

Sinai, in the sand belt running from
coast to coast under the Tih plateau
along a main dirt road. There are many
date palms and several plantations and
the place has a remote, wild frontier
feel. There are many nawamis in the
area and on foot or camel the oasis is
connected to a number of beautiful

An interesting Bedouin law is the Bisha, or

ordeal by fire. It is employed to settle disputes in the absence of evidence in serious
cases. The accuser and accused have to go to the sheikh of the Bisha, called Bishari,
who will decide if the accused is guilty or not by making him lick a red-hot metal three
times. The spoon-shaped object is placed in the fire until becomes red, and a drop of
water is poured on it after the event, boiling right away, to prove it is hot. The sheikh
will then check the tongue, and if it is burnt, the accused is guilty; if it is not, he is
innocent. The loosing party has to pay a prearranged sum as a penalty and the
expenses. It is held in front of the public to make sure there is no secrecy or staging of
any kind. It is still practiced by most Sinai Bedouin tribes who believe in its accuracy.

Ein Umm Ahmad (1) is often visited from

Nuweiba (2) or Ein el Furtaga (3), with a
detour to the Tarabin canyons (4). It can
also be reached from the south, from
Ras Ghazala (5) or the Nawamis-Ein
Khudra area (6). Longer treks coming
from the interior in the west reach it via
Wadi Zalaqa (7) or Wadi Zaranik (8).
The rounded top of Gebel Barqa (9) and
the flat top of Gebel Mileihis (10) are
visible from far distances.

Long and wide sandy There are many

wadis come to an end nawamis structures in
at the oasis, from Wadi Zalaqa before
where flood waters Ein Umm Ahmad, the
drain through a best preserved ones
narrow gorge. on a high hill at the
Wadi Hleil junction.

The atmosphere There is a new olive

seems outside the plantation at one of
law, but the people, the gardens. Its owner
most of them from the only grows these as
remote interior, are well as date palms in
genuinely friendly. Do Nuweiba. Jebel Qalb
not take photos of is in the distance, the
sensitive things. way to the asphalt
road by 4x4s. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 61
Gebel Barqa (Gebel Berqa)

An impressive round sandstone

mountain rising from the sandy plains
and lower hills. Its peak is visible from as
far as Ras Ghazala. The way to the top
starts in one of the narrow canyons at its
base, but the climb is difficult and
dangerous towards the end. The views
from the saddle at the top of the
canyon, which can be reached easily,
also offer nice views to two directions.

One of the most common larger animals

which visitors might see is the fox. There are two species of fox: although mainly
nocturnal, the Common Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is commonly seen during daylight hours;
Rueppels Sand Fox (Vulpes ruepelli) is generally nocturnal, and usually heard shrieking
at night rather than seen. The Bedouin call this animal Abu Hosein meaning
impenetrable against invaders, and the name probably refers to the fact that,
despite the Bedouins best efforts at defense, the fox is able to get into almost any sort
of housing to get its prey. The foxes are not afraid of humans and often visit to steal
food, but stay away from the people and are not dangerous in any way. (Reference:
Samy Zalat Francis Gilbert 1998)

Gebel Berqa (1) is close to the oasis of

Ein Umm Ahmad (2) and connected to
the north and the Tarabin canyons via
Wadi el Ein (3). It is connected to the
west via Wadi Zaranik (4) and to the
south and the Ein Khudra area via a
number of wadis (5). Wadi Khudra joins
Wadi Ghazala (6), which carries on to
Ein el Furtaga (7), close to the area.

Approaching the area The climb starts in a

from the south, the sandy canyon, which
trek leads through is one of several at
high passes. The the base of the
round top of Gebel mountain. It gets
Berqa is visible in the narrower and steeper,
far distance most of until reaches a
the way. saddle.

From the saddle at The climb gets more

the top of the canyon difficult from here, and
you can look down just before the top
the way you came there is a 5-meter
and the sandy plains face which is too
behind, as well as to dangerous without the
the south on the other use of rope. Only for
side. experienced climbers
and with guides. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 62
Rainbow Canyon

A colorful canyon, with its entrance

starting in a secluded sandy basin
encircled by jagged rock faces. Bier
Biyariya, a well with date palms, is close
by across high passes and a sandy

The making of bread in the mountains and

desert is a cleverly developed process and
one that uses many resources that often
appear to visitors as rubbish. Around water
sources and in many gardens there is often
a large, burnt, circular metal plate lying around, called saaj, often it is made from the
lid of an old oil drum. These large plates are placed across a fire, and heated. Whilst
this happens the Bedouin will roll the simple dough mixture, made from flour, salt and
water, into small balls and then large flat breads, similar to a chapatti. They are then
placed on the now-hot metal plate and cooked for a few minutes on each side. This
bread is known as fateer. Another alternative form of bread, cooked in the ash of a
fire, is called libba. This is a thicker bread, hard on the outside, but soft inside.

The entrance to the Rainbow Canyon

(1) is in an open sandy area, about 3
kms from the main road (2). Wadi Agula
(3), on the other side of the road, leads
to Wadi el Ein, Gebel Barqa and Ein
Umm Ahmad. Further north is Wadi es
Suwana (4), another way to Ein Umm
Ahmad. Close to the canyon is Bier
Biriya (5), from where the track, over
high passes and narrow wadis (6),
continues towards the Colored Canyon.

The entrance to the The Rainbow Canyon

canyon is located in a is a short straight
wide and open sandy crack, sandy and
plain, with some wider at the entrance
acacia trees providing then becoming
shade. narrow, running
between colorful rock

Bier Biriya, across a The Colored Canyon,

pass and a closed carrying on in a long
sandy wadi, is a wadi and climbing a
freshwater source high pass, is about
close by. half-a-days walk
away. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 63
Colored Canyon Closed Canyon

The Colored Canyon is the best known

of all the canyons in the Sinai. It runs
between steep walls displaying a
palette of incredible colors and rock
formations, starting off from a plateau
and ending at a sandy wadi. Running
parallel to it is another sandy wadi, from
which the Closed Canyon starts.

The principle resource supporting the

nomads' livelihood is one they have no
control over, rainfall. Remarkably, their
careful use of perennial trees, like acacia and sayal, is one of the nomads' principle
means of maintaining their traditional life-style during prolonged drought. These trees
produce green leaves that can sustain livestock when no other pasture is available. In
times of environmental stress the nomads must achieve a very delicate balance
between using and abusing their resources. Their rules are defined clearly. The most
important rule is that only dead wood can be cut. Only when no other food is
available should a man take acacia or other tree leaves for his herd, and only then by
shaking them off. Similar guidelines also apply to certain shrubs such as argel and
wormwood. (Reference: UNDP Global Environment Facility)

The Colored Canyon(1), located right

next to the Closed Canyon, is usually
visited from Ein el Furtaga (2) by 4WD.
However, it is closer to the coast at Ras
Shaitan (3) via Wadi Washwashi,
passing Canyon Washwashi (4). The
Rainbow Canyon (5), on route from the
interior, is also close by.

There is a The path in the

comfortable lodge at canyon runs between
the top of the canyon, vertical walls, taking
at the edge of the sharp turns and
plateau, offering nice leading under a
views and a quiet boulder at one point.
desert retreat.

The Closed Canyon Ein Furtaga is a small

starts in the next wadi oasis along the main
to the Colored asphalt road, and
Canyon. It involves 4WDs to the Colored
some climbing and Canyon go through
scrambling. here. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 64
Moyat el Milha Washwashi Canyon Ras Shaitan

Date palms grow at the foot of a vertical

rock face at Moyat el Milha. There are
sandy basins and narrow wadis in the
area, and, from the pass of Naqb El
Kohla, the sea can be seen. Washwashi
Canyon, short but adventurous, is at the
upper end of a wadi leading straight to
the laid-back beaches of the Ras
Shaitan area.

The beaches north of Nuweiba offer the

perfect opportunity to relax in a stunningly
beautiful, peaceful environment. Along this stretch of coastline there are numerous
beach camps to suit all budgets. Most offer very simple wooden huts and local food,
whilst some of the camps provide a more upmarket experience. There is also the
popular ecolodge camp of Basata with a desalination plant for fresh water. They also
have organized and run a recycling program along the coast. All the camps offer you
the sea on your doorstep and the opportunity to explore the coral that lies just off the

The Washwashi Canyon (1) is very

close to the laid-back beaches of Ras
Shaitan (2). Further in to the mountains
is Moyat el Milha (3), from where
through a number of sandy basins the
path will lead to Naqb el Kohla (4), a
high pass with views to the sea. On the
other side are the Colored Canyon and
Closed Canyon (5).

Naqb El Kohla is There are sandy

along the way from basins and wadis with
the Colored Canyon, date palms, like el
and the high pass Freya pictured here,
offers the first glimpse enclosed by vertical
of the sea. rock walls.

At the junction of Washwashi Canyon is

Moyat el Milha date a short detour from
palms grow at the foot the main wadi leading
of a hill, but no one to the beach. Some
picks the dates it is climbing is involved
believed to be cursed. with ropes helping
through at difficult
points. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 65
North-West of St. Katherine: towards Abu Zenima and Ras Sudr

Main places: 1. Town of St. Katherine; 2. Gebel Serbal; 3. Wadi Feiran; 4. Wadi Mukattab Wadi Magara;
5. Gebel Fuga; 6. Serabit el Khadim; 7. Abu Zenima; 8. Ras Sudr.

There are many tribes in the area; in Wadi Feiran itself actually all the South Sinai tribes are
represented. Gebel Serbal is Qararsha territory and you are required to take a guide from
them it is rather expensive and non-negotiable since tourism here is a marginal activity, but
still definitely worth doing. Wadi Mukattab, the turquoise mines at Wadi Magara and Sheikh
Suliman are also on Qararsha territories, while the area further north around Serabit el Khadim
is mostly Aligat. There are other smaller tribes and smaller communities of bigger tribes living
in the area as well. To visit the pharaonic site at Serabit el Khadim you are required to take a
Bedouin guide from the settlement longer treks and safaris however can be organized
through any operator or guide. Serabit el Khadim can be reached by pick-up cars from Abu
Zenima (mix of asphalt and sandy desert road) and there are two camps, one in the settlement
run by the sons of Sheikh Selim Barakat, the other is at a secluded place in Umm Ajraaf, run
by Rabiya Barakat. Descending from St. Katherine there are two major ways towards the
coast. One of them is used mostly by 4x4s in the wide sandy belt below the Tih plateau,
visiting Gebel Fuga and Serabid el Khadim, and possibly including Wadi Feiran and Wadi
Mukattab. The other route, better suited for camels or walking, would start at the high
mountains at Sheikh Awad, reaching first Gebel Serbal and Wadi Feiran. To continue on to
Wadi Mukattab first you might have to take a car, then you can walk to Serabit el Khadim. You
can get to Serabit el Khadim other ways, but either case it will be a long walk. From Serabit el
Khadim you could get to Abu Zenima or Ras Sudr. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 66
Wadi Feiran

The biggest oasis of South Sinai, running

along the main road for 6 kilometers.
There are some important cultural and
historical sites within the oasis, all
located close to each other and to the
commercial center. Three gardens and
the Convent of Feiran offer
accommodation. The impressive Gebel
Serbal massif towers above the oasis.

Wadi Feiran is important not only for the

lush oasis that is found there, but also as
another area steeped in religious significance. Religious scholars believe this to be the
area referred to in the old testament as Rephidim. It is here, so religious scholars say,
that the Israelites defeated the Amelekites (enemies of the Israelites, and now a name
often applied to enemies of Judaism). Moses is believed to have watched this battle
from Mt Tahoun which today has an ancient cross and ruined chapel dating back to
the 4th century AD. For many scholars Gebel Serbal was also thought to be Mt Sinai.
This area was one the first Christian centres in Sinai, and was the seat of the
archbishop of Sinai in the 4th-6th centuries. The ruins of the archbishopric can be seen
behind the convent. (Reference:

Wadi Feiran is a long oasis in a winding

wadi, with a commercial center (1) close
to all places of interest. The oasis is
located between the junction, called
Mufarag (2), on the main Suez to Sharm
el Sheikh road and the town of St.
Katherine (3). From St. Katherine, via
the settlement of Sheikh Awad (4), the
old pilgrims route is through Wadi Islaf,
with Wadi Rim (5) branching off to
Gebel Serbal (6). Little down from Wadi
Feiran starts Wadi Mukattab (7), leading
to Serabit el Khadim. Wadi el Ahdar (8)
leads to Gebel Fuga.
Wadi Sulaf (Islaf) and The new Convent,
Wadi Sahab are the locally known as Dir el
main ways connecting Banat, is next to old
the high mountains to ruins at the mouth of
Wadi Feiran and Wadi Aliyat, leading to
Gebel Serbal. There Gebel Serbal. There
is a shrine at Abu is a guest house in
Thaleb. the compound.

Further along the There are three

main asphalt road the gardens right next to
ruins of the old each other between
convent are on the the old and new
top of the hill. At its convent they offer a
foot a cafeteria is pleasant tea stop or
being developed by overnight stay.
local people. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 67
Gebel Serbal

The rugged peaks of Gebel Serbal,

because they are surrounded by low
wadis and ranges, seem higher then
any other mountain. The long and very
steep gully of Naqb Shaharani might
take a full day to cover. There are other
routes as well leading to the
interconnected basins and wadis at the
top, which harbour gardens and
permanent water sources. The views to
the coast and inland are stunning.

Gebel Serbal, Egypts fifth-highest mountain, is one of several mountains that some
religious scholars have contested to be the true Mt Sinai. Its imposing, multiple peaks
that dominate the skyline certainly present a compelling case. Pilgrims traveling in the
19th century also noted how the local Bedouin revered this mountain and took their
shoes off to pray on the summit. On the mountain there can be seen the remains of
many anchorite dwellings (a type of religious hermit) testimony to the religious
significance given by early Christians, not only to the mountain but to the nearby
Wadi Feiran also. There are ancient, probably Nabatean, inscriptions in many places.
(Reference: Joseph Hobbs, 1995)

Farsh Loz (1), one of many mountain

top basins, has a garden and permanent
water source. It is located close to the
main peak. The long and steep gully of
Naqb Sharani connects it to Wadi Aliyat
(2) and then to Wadi Feiran (3) at the
Monastery. Another way is from Wadi
Islaf via Wadi Rim (4), which leads to a
saddle (5) at the south end of the range,
then to the rock shelter of Tabaga
Imbardiya (6), set amongst abandoned

Coming from Wadi Tabaga Imbardiya is a

Rim the first sighting natural shelter formed
of the coast is from a by huge boulders.
pass, which leads to There are a number
the mountain top of abandoned
wadis and basins of gardens in the area.
Gebel Serbal.

Farsh Loz with a Far-reaching views, to

garden and well, the lowlands, the high
close to the main mountains and the
peak, is where long Gulf of Suez. The
and steep Naqb winding oasis of
Shaharani starts. It Feiran is right below.
connects to Wadi There are Nabatean
Feiran through Wadi scriptures on one rock
Aliyat. face at the top. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 68
Wadi Mukattab Wadi Magara

Historic sights in beautiful natural

settings Wadi Mukattab, the valley of
the inscriptions, is in an open sandy
area, while the turquoise mines of the
Pharaohs are located in narrow Wadi
Magara, close to the shrine of Sheikh
Suliman, dotted with shady acacia

The very first inhabitants of the Sinai

peninsula, believed to be about 8,000
years ago, were drawn by the abundant
mineral deposits of copper and turquoise found in the region. It was in 3500BC that the
great turquoise mines around Wadi Magara were discovered. Around the mines many
inscriptions can be found in the rock that were written by the miners, some depict the
ships that were used to carry the turquoise to Egypt. Above the entrance to each
mine was a statue of the reigning pharaoh. A huge quantity of turquoise was mined
from this location, before being carried down to a port located just south of modern
day Abu Zenima. Turquoise was used in jewelry and to make colour pigments for
painting. The English restarted the mines at the beginning of the 20th century.

The turnoff point to Wadi Mukattab (1) is

after the rugged ranges of Wadi Feiran.
The inscriptions (2) are located a bit
further up in the wide and sandy wadi.
After Wadi Magara (3), where the
turquoise mines and the tomb of Sheikh
Suliman are located, at a junction (4)
you can either go to the town of Abu
Rudes (5) or head north towards Serabit
el Khadim. There are other ways to
Serabit el Khadim via Wadi Sieh (6),
which also connects the area to Ramlat

Wadi Mukattab is a Further up the wadi is

wide sandy wadi the shrine of Sheikh
close to the main Suliman, at the mouth
road, with the biggest of Wadi Magara.
number of ancient
inscriptions carved in
the rock walls.

There are many small There is a well

caves in Wadi preserved pharaonic
Magara, which were carving above the
carved to mine mines with figures
turquoise from bigger and more
Pharaonic times. detailed than at
Serabit el Khadim. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 69
Gebel Fuga The Forest of Pillars

Under the flat Tih plateau, running

across the peninsula from coast to
coast, is a sandy belt in which the Forest
of Pillars is located at Gebel Fuga. The
curious rock formations have been
badly damaged by tourism, but it is still
well worth a visit.

The Forest of Pillars remains a geological

curiosity with large columns of black lava
having been driven up through the
surrounding red sandstone. Beyond this
very little is understood as to what created this rare phenomenon. What is certainly
true is that this amazing site is now just as much a beacon of the destructive aspect of
irresponsible tourism as it is a site of beauty and geological wonder. The trend towards
4x4 desert excursions has dramatically increased the number of visits to this remote
spot. The fallen pillars are a testament to tourists who sadly left more than just their
footprints. Please be respectful of the beauty of this site. (Reference:

Gebel Fuga and the Forest of Pillars (1)

are in a long and wide sandy plain
running below the Tih plateau (2). The
area can be approached from St.
Katherine or Wadi Feiran via the rocky
pass of Naqb Shegar (3), and from Wadi
Mukattab (4) via Wadi Sieh (5). The vast
red sandy desert of Ramlat Hmeyer (6)
is on route to Serabit el Khadim (7).

The Tih plateau to the The High Mountain

north, with Gebel Region in the distance
Fuga jetting out to the to the south, at the
sandy plain. pass of Naqb Shegar.

Large water Unfortunately, as the

catchment area result of tourism,
around Gebel there is not much left
Hmeyer. of the forest, although
it is still an impressive
sight. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 70
Serabit el Khadim

The most important pharaonic site in the

Sinai, it is located where the sandy
desert belt below the Tih plateau meets
the rocky ranges to the south. The
temple of Hathor is on the top of a flat
range, offering a magnificent backdrop
of the desert to the archeological sights.

The temple of Hathor (the ancient

Egyptians Goddess of protection in desert
regions) is the only temple that we know
was built outside of mainland Egypt. It is
believed that the temple was built by Amenemhet III during the 12th Dynasty, which
was well known for its mineral wealth. During the New Kingdom the temple was further
developed by Queen Hatshepsut, Tutmosis III and Amenhotep III. Research at the
temple in the early 20th century led to the discovery of the Proto-Sinaitic script
engraved in the temple remains. This script is thought to be an early precursor of the
alphabet and is still used in the Old Hebrew language. On the north side of the temple
is a shrine dedicated to the pharaohs who were deified in the area. (Reference:

The archeological site of Serabit el

Khadim (1) is shortly after the end of the
road leading from Abu Zenima (2). The
road is sometimes asphalt, sometimes
soft sand. It passes a small settlement
(3) with a very big mosque. Serabit el
Khadim is connected to Wadi Magara
(4) either via Wadi Sieh (5), Wadi Baba
(6), or the little used way via Sheikh
Hashash (7). To the east is the sand
desert of Ramlat Hmeyer (8).

The climb to the There are a number

archaeological site, of turquoise mines
located atop a rocky scattered around, and
plateau, starts at the above the entrance of
small settlement, from each there is a carved
where everybody is rock sign of the
required to take a reigning pharaoh.
Bedouin guide.

The entrance of the You can descend on

Temple of Hathor is the other side of the
located in a small site to Umm Ajraaf.
enclosed area, Over the sandy belt of
amongst many Ramlat Hmeyer in the
columns with distance Gebel Fuga
inscriptions. is visible. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 71
Personal thanks

Farhan Mohamed Zidan Salah Abu Rizk Saadallah Hussein Farhan Hussein
(Jabaleya) (Jabaleya) (Jabaleya) Abu Hder

Salem Mousa Mansour Mousa Msallem Faraj Msaad Abu Mesad

(Ulad Said) (Qararsha) (Tarabin) (Jabaleya)

Salem Abu Hatwa Selim Rabaya Abdullah Suliman Jebeli Joma Jebeli
(Muzeina) (Muzeina) Abu Mohamed (Jabaleya)

Above are the guides who showed me the Sinai on actual treks and provided information on which the sights section is
largely based. It is impossible to name all the people who I walked with at other times or who took me as their guest,
but the time spent together and their hospitality is well remembered. Many thanks and my very best wishes to the
whole Jabaleya family who accepted me as one of theirs as well as to all the kind people Bedouin, Egyptian and
foreigner who helped me along my Sinai journey a journey which is still not over inshaallah.

Zoltan Matrahazi
2009, St. Katherine, South Sinai Egypt A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 72

National Parks of Egypt Protectorates Development Programmes, Mt. Sinai, A Walking Trail Guide
National Parks of Egypt Protectorates Development Programmes, Wadi Talla and Wadi Itlah, A Walking Trail
National Parks of Egypt Protectorates Development Programmes, Wadi Arbaein & Wadi Shrayj, A Walking
Trail Guide
National Parks of Egypt Protectorates Development Programmes, Jebel Abbas Pasha, A Walking Trail Guide
Joseph J. Hobbs, Mount Sinai, 1995 AUC Press, Cairo & University of Texas Press
Samy Zalat Francis Gilbert, A walk in Sinai: St Katherine to Al Galt Al Azraq, 1998, El Harameen Press,
Cairo. Available from
UNDP Global Environment Facility
R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs, Cambridge 1930
R. H. Kennett, Ancient Hebrew social life and custom as indicated in law narrative and metaphore, The
Schweich lectures of the British Academy, 1931 London, Oxford University Press 1933
SEAM South Sinai Environment and Development profile A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 73
PART III. Fauna and flora of South Sinai
Francis Gilbert & Samy Zalat

South Sinai is one of three richest places in Egypt for biodiversity, the others being the
Mediterranean coast and Gebel Elba in the extreme south west. The reason is simple: water.
Although visitors may be forgiven for their disbelief, these places have by far the highest and
the most reliable precipitation, in the form of rain, snow (in South Sinai) or fog (in Gebel Elba).

This section provides a miscellany of the common kinds of animals and plants that live in
South Sinai, together with some of the more interesting rarer types. Some have a very
restricted distribution and are priority species for conservation. The species are grouped
taxonomically, and according to the size, colour, defence or status as a resident or migrant.
There are brief notes to introduce each group.

The brief account of each species starts with the common and the scientific names, the South
Sinai Bedouin (rather than general Arabic) name, and our best understanding of its
conservation status (following IUCN categories). Where possible there is a photograph with
the notes of interest about the species. A few of the photographs are not of a specimen in
South Sinai, but the vast majority are.

Information specific to South Sinai about these animals is hard to find since it is scattered in
many obscure journals and books. It is easier to look at Egypt as a whole. The following
websites and books will help expand on the information presented here, and contain
bibliographies to enable you to go further:

Egypts biodiversity:

General information:
Research we have done:

Baha El Din SM (2005) A guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Egypt. AUC Press, Cairo.
Basuony M, Gilbert F & Zalat S (2010) Mammals of Egypt: Red Data Listing & Conservation. EEAA, Cairo
Boulos L (1999-2005) Flora of Egypt. 4 vols. Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo.
Brunn B & Baha El Din SM (1990) Common birds of Egypt. AUC Press, Cairo.
Gilbert F & Zalat S (2008) Butterflies of Egypt. EEAA, Cairo. available from files/2008 Butterflies.pdf
Goodman SM, Meininger PL, Baha El Din SM, Hobbs JJ & Mulli WC (1989) The birds of Egypt. Oxford
University Press, Oxford, UK.
Hoath R (2005) Field guide to the mammals of Egypt. AUC Press, Cairo
Hoath R & Baha El Din M (2000) Wild Sinai: the wildlife of the Saint Katherine Protectorate. Published by
the St Katherine Protectorate.
Hobbs J (1995) Mount Sinai. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX USA & AUC Press, Cairo
Rusmore-Villaume ML (2008) Seashells of the Egyptian Red Sea: an illustrated handbook. AUC Press,
Zalat S & Gilbert F (1998) A walk in Sinai: St Katherine to Al Galt Al Azraq. available at
Zalat S & Gilbert F (2008) Gardens of a sacred landscape: Bedouin heritage and natural history in the high
mountains of Sinai. AUC Press, Cairo. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 74
1. Large mammals
Unlike sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt is not full of large mammals, but it does have some. In
the distant past, several million years ago, there was an extensive and complex fauna of
large mammals whose fossils have been much studied from the Faiyum. The gradual
drying of North Africa over the last 10,000 years has seen off most species, and some of
the survivors were driven to extinction by human hunters of prehistory and history, leaving
just a remnant still extant. Not much is known of the prehistoric fauna of Sinai. Certainly
this did not contain camels, since they are absent completely from the Pharaonic period
in Egypt. Camels seem to have been introduced by humans only about 2000 years ago.

Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)

Bedouin name: nimr Status: Critically Endangered

Probably extinct in mainland Egypt for a long time, the subspecies called the
Arabian Leopard, may still hang on in Sinai. There are a few in the Negev
desert, but they have disappeared from the Hejaz mountains of Saudi Arabia
(although they still occur further south). The difficult mountain terrain and their
exceptionally secretive and wary nature makes it very difficult to establish the
existence of a breeding population. The last positive record in Sinai was in
1996, and the last definite specimen in 1955. However, they live on in Bedouin stories. In the high passes you
can still see leopard traps, long tunnels made from stones with a trapdoor triggered by an attachment to a meat
bait. It is still possible that one of the St Katherine Protectorates camera traps may one day record one of these
magnificent creatures. (photo: wikimedia)

Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)

Bedouin name: teytal, badana (male) Status: Endangered

The magnificent ibex is completely at home in the steep rocky mountains,

being able to traverse seemingly impossible paths. They used to live in groups
of up to 40 animals, but now fewer than ten. In early February, males use their
huge horns to fight for mating access to females. They are vulnerable
because they have to drink every day, unlike many other desert animals. The
last time they were counted, there were only about 400 in the whole of South
Sinai. Luckily in recent years populations seem to be recovering in the Eastern Desert and perhaps also in
Sinai. The Nubian Ibex used to be considered merely a subspecies of a much more widespread species, but
now it is recognised as a separate species restricted to the Middle East. (photo: Jen Johnson 2005 Safsafa)

Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena)

Bedouin name: Dabc, Dabca Status: Not at risk

Hyaena are rare but widespread in Egypt and Sinai, part of a large distribution
stretching from Pakistan to southern Africa. They are general scavengers and
predators, eating a wide variety of different foods including garbage - one of
the best places to see them is at night at rubbish dumps. The Bedouin believe
they eat one another from stupidity, and keep themselves hidden away for
shame; but they also believe that eating hyaena confers great strength and
health. Camera traps have photographed hyaena several times, and clearly there is a reasonable population of
these interesting creatures in South Sinai. (photo: St Katherine Protectorate camera trap 2002)

Gazelle (Gazella dorcas)

Bedouin name: ghazal Status: Vulnerable

There are now only two species of gazelle resident in Egypt, both vulnerable
to extinction; only the Dorcas Gazelle occurs in Sinai. It lives on sandy plains
and wadis in the lowlands, with its stronghold on the El Qaa plain. It enters
into the wadis to feed, and crosses over between east and west Sinai via the
lower southern wadi systems. In mainland Egypt its main predator used to be
the Cheetah, but since its disappearance the main threat is from illegal sport
hunting, often on a highly organised scale. Luckily this hardly happens in Sinai, but populations are low and
vulnerable. The Dorcas Gazelle lives in pairs or small groups, and feeds on many different kinds of plants. It
requires access to water. (photo: St Katherine Protectorate camera trap 2002) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 75
2. Medium-sized mammals
There are a number of rather rare medium-sized mammals in Sinai, but few common ones.
By far the most likely to be seen are foxes in the early morning or late evening.

Foxes (Vulpes spp)

Bedouin name: abu al HuSain, abu risha Status: Not at risk

All three Egyptian species of fox occur in South Sinai, and their
shrieks punctuate the stillness of the evenings - often sounding like
children crying out in pain. The native common species is the Sand
Fox (abu risha), smaller than the Red Fox (abu al hussain), with
proportionately larger ears, and softer paler fur. The Red Fox has
come in with human settlement, and is now the commonest
species around St Katherine and the coastal towns, where it feeds
on chickens and stray cats. The beautiful Blanfords Fox is small
with very large ears and a huge long bushy tail rather like a cats: it
is very rare, and occurs only in eastern Sinai, right at the western
edge of its world distribution (which runs all the way to Afghanistan). (photo: Jen Johnson June 2005 Wadi

Hare (Lepus capensis)

Bedouin name: arnab Status: Not at risk

Usually called a rabbit in Egypt, hares are very common all over
Egypt, including Sinai. They rely on remaining hidden in a hole or
under a plant until the last minute, and so normally the only view of
them is an animal rushing away at top speed from under ones
feet. They feed on plants such as Zygophyllum at night, and if
necessary can survive just on the water taken in with their food.
They breed more in the lowlands because litter sizes reduce with
altitude, and hence they are not so common in the mountains.
Although hares from South Africa to Egypt are all called the same
species, the Cape Hare Lepus capensis, probably the situation is
in reality more complex and several species are involved: Egypts hares probably belong to a North African
version as yet unnamed. (photo: wikimedia)

Hyrax (Procavia capensis)

Bedouin name: wabr Status: Not at risk

Hyrax are peculiar animals both zoologically and anthropologically.

They used to be regarded as the closest living relatives of
elephants; now we think probably that elephants and dugongs are
close relatives, and the hyrax is their next sister-group.
Anthropologically Joe Hobbs described the peculiar position of
hyrax in the pantheon of the Macaza Bedouin of the Eastern
Desert as different from other animals, and close to humans
because of their rather hand-like feet and lack of a tail. The
Macaza do not hunt or eat hyrax because of this view. However,
Sinai Bedouin seem to take a different view and some have eaten
them, while Saudi Bedouin are said to regard hyrax meat and blood as an aphrodisiac. There is a captive
colony that can be viewed at the end of Wadi Arbaein, close to the town of St Katherine. Otherwise hyrax can
be hard to see, because their colonies are patchy and they stay motionless much of the time. They are ancient
inhabitants of Egypt: the characteristic white stains of their faeces can be seen on rocks in Gebel Uweinat in
the far southwestern corner of Egypt, where the animals have not lived for several thousand years. (photo:
Sean Dunkin July 2003 Wadi Arbaein) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 76
3. Small mammals
Like mammals in general, the majority of Egypts 94 species of terrestrial mammal are bats
and rodents, i.e. small. As with many animal and plant groups, the highest diversity occurs
in South Sinai, along the north coast from Libya to the Delta, and in Gebel Elba in the far
southeast. All of Egypts five endemic mammal species are small (two gerbils, two shrews
and the Egyptian Weasel), but none is confined to Sinai.

Spiny Mice (Acomys spp)

Bedouin name: far Status: Not at risk

Spiny mice are large golden-coloured mice with a set of extra thick stiff hairs
(spines) on the front part of their backs. There are two species in Sinai, the
Golden Spiny Mouse (A.russatus) and the Sinai Spiny Mouse (A.dimidiatus):
a third, the Cairo Spiny Mouse (A.cahirinus), occurs throughout mainland
Egypt. They are associated with the Bedouin walled gardens, typically
making their nests amongst the stones of the walls. The Golden Spiny
Mouse has a restricted distribution in the southern Middle East, whereas the
Sinai Spiny Mouse, despite its name, ranges from Sinai to Pakistan. Normally both are nocturnal, but where
they occur together, as in the South Sinai mountains, the Golden Spiny Mouse becomes diurnal. Their spines
are part of a clever defence mechanism against their predators: the spines repel many would-be predators, but
if they are grasped, a large patch of skin comes away completely (as does the tail skin) and the mouse escapes
- it is the mouse equivalent of a lizard breaking off its own tail. Because of this mechanism, Acomys blood clots
incredibly quickly so they do not lose too much after their escape. (photo: Mike James 2001 Wadi Arbaein)

Sinai Dormouse (Eliomys melanurus)

Bedouin name: abu kohla Status: Endangered

This beautiful animal is called abu kohla by the Bedouin because of the
diagnostic dark rings around its eyes, extending back to the ears like a pair
of spectacles: kohl is the dark eye-shadow makeup used by Middle Eastern
women since the Pharoahs. It has a long tail with a dark bushy tip, large
ears and long complex whiskers. Its distribution is small, from Libya to the
Middle East, and hence Sinai populations are significant on the world scale.
It occurs mainly away from the Bedouin gardens on the rocky sides of the
wadis, where it feeds at night on plant material and insects. The Sinai Dormouse is always much rarer in the
wadis than the Spiny Mice, and there is not a great deal known about its biology. (photo: NCS (Abdallah Nagy))

Sinai Barbastelle (Barbastellus leucomelas)

Bedouin name: khofash Status: Vulnerable

A small black-brown bat with relatively short wide ears joined at the forehead, with
the tragus in the ear hairy, triangular and more than half as long as the ear. This is
one of rarest of all Palaearctic bats, with the smallest known distribution of any
Palaearctic bat. It was originally discovered in 1822 or 1826 by Rppell in Sinai. His
two specimens were matched only by a handful from Israel until 2005, when Dr
Christian Dietz caught the species again after 183 years. Unlike most other bats,
barbastelles specialize almost exclusively on moths, especially moths that listen in to
bat echolocation calls. Moth populations are therefore critical to the survival of the
Sinai Barbastelle, making the installing of streetlights along the highway to St
Katherine of particular concern. (photo: Christian Dietz 2005 St Katherine)

Long-eared bats (Plecotus christii, Otonycteris hemprichii)

Bedouin name: khofash Status: Not at risk

These two lovely desert bats with their characteristic over-sized ears are
quite common in Sinai, foraging in Bedouin gardens and around open water
sources such as the irrigation tanks. They are highly manoeuverable in flight,
flying slowly and carefully around trees and vegetation as they glean mainly
moths from the leaves. The huge ears receive even the smallest echoes,
enabling them to forage in this way. Otonycteris produces a honeybee-like
buzz in flight. (photo: Petr Benda Sept 2005 Wadi Feiran) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 77
4.a Resident birds
About 50 species of bird are resident in South Sinai, a reasonable number given the
paucity of its resources and its arid barren nature. For true birders there are rather few
specialities apart from Tristrams Grackle and the Sinai Rosefinch.

White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga)

Bedouin name: bagaca Status: Not at risk

A small black bird with a white rump, under-tail coverts and outer tail
feathers, together with a white crown in adults. This bird is one of the
commonest and friendliest of the breeding birds of Sinai. The Bedouin
call them birds of happiness, and welcome them around their houses.
Pairs stay together for life, and inhabit one territory continuously until one
dies or disappears. In spring and summer, males produce their lovely
liquid song (rather like a blackbird or a robin song from northern Europe)
from singing posts around the pairs territory. They spend much of the
day looking for insects on plants, the ground or in camel dung. At night each bird sleeps in a permanent
individual rock crevice, often far away from that of its mate. Like other wheatears, adults collect stones and
place them around their nests, a peculiar behaviour thought in other species to play a role in females selecting
a mate on the basis of their performance. However, unlike other wheatear species, in Sinai it is the female who
collects about 150 large flat stones, with which she creates a tessellated pavement approach to the nest. The
Bedouin say it is to warn the birds of the approach of a snake by the rattle of the stones as the snake moves.
Juveniles less than a year old lack the white crown and remain in their parents territory, but are driven off
before the next breeding season. (photo: Mike James 2001 St Katherine)

Tristrams Grackle (Onychognathus tristramii)

Bedouin name: shaHrur Status: Not at risk

A medium-sized black bird with orange patches in the outer part of the
wings. Technically this species is actually a starling, the most northerly
representative of the genus Onychognathus, which has a number of
species in sub-Saharan Africa. It is restricted in its distribution to the area
between Israel, Jordan, south through Sinai and western Saudi Arabia to
Yemen. In Sinai individuals move around in small groups of 2-5 birds,
producing a loud and characteristic whistle, especially in the early
morning. They are omnivores on fruit and insects, and are said to groom
ibex and domestic livestock for parasites. They can fly several kilometres from roosting and breeding sites in
search of food, thereby effecting long-distance dispersal of plant seeds. Adults nest in deep holes and crevices
in cliffs, and like the pigeon have adapted well to living with humans; as a result, their range is gradually
expanding. (photo: Fred Manata June 2005 St Katherine)

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)

Bedouin name: jamaam Status: Not at risk

Unmistakeable member of the turtle doves, a group of birds mainly found

in tropical Africa. The Laughing Dove itself has a large distribution from
most of Africa across to India. These doves are some of the commonest
residents of South Sinai, especially in Bedouin gardens. Their soft cooing
call is very characteristic of the wadis. They feed mainly on seeds and
fruits, such as olives and pomegranates. (photo: unknown)

Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta)

Bedouin name: abu lefSay Status: Not at risk

A tiny but noisy warbler with a habit of cocking its long tail as it moves
over the rocks. It is insectivorous, but little seems to be known about its
biology apart from their predilection for arid lands. The Bedouin name
means tell-tale tit because they are always chattering about what is
happening in the wadis, which sometimes is supposed to be secret. The
Bedouin also say these birds warn other animals about people and
snakes by giving out a special kind of alarm call. (photo: Tim Hurst June
2005 St Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 78
4.b Resident birds
In the past there were several species of raptors, including the Lammergeier, but virtually
all of these have disappeared either because of hunting, or because of climate change.
Indeed, in the 1930s one experienced hunter stated that practically every other bird in
Sinai is a falcon, hawk or eagle, a very different situation from that of today. Occasional
records suggest that breeding of raptors still occurs, such as the adult and juvenile
Verreauxs Eagles seen in June 2005.

Sinai Rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus)

Bedouin name: jazama Status: Not at risk

A finch with a very thick bill, with the males suffused with a rosy
red colour over head and front half of the body. They are more
usually nowadays called the Pale Rosefinch because they are far
from being restricted to Sinai - indeed, their Sinai distribution is a
marginal outpost of a much wider distribution right across to China.
They are common the South Sinai, feeding especially on seeds in
fresh camel dung: one of the most reliable places to see them is
on the paths to Mt Sinai in the early morning, after the camels
have finished transporting visitors. They also feed on fruit and are
fond of grapes and figs. They disappear from the high mountains
in winter because they form winter flocks and move down in altitude. (photo: Mike James 2001 Safsafa)

Partridges (Alectoris chukar, Ammoperdix heyi)

Bedouin name: shiner, hajal Status: Not at risk

The Chukar and the Sand Partridge are both commonly seen
running along the ground in small family groups in the early
morning or late afternoon. One of the group acts as a sentinel,
standing on a high point and keeping watch while the others feed.
Chukars in Sinai are an isolated population at the extreme west
and south of their natural distribution. The Bedouin say that the
Sand Partridges of each wadi are a different colour which, if true,
would be extremely interesting scientifically. (photo: Tim Hurst
June 2005 Wadi Arbaein)

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)

Bedouin name: riHidin Status: Not at risk

The Desert Lark is the kind of bird that gets ornithology a bad
name: a little brown bird that is very difficult to identify. It is a
medium-sized bird with a noticeably thick yellow-based bill, and a
nondescript sand colour that blends in with the rocks, providing a
very effective camouflage. They tend to occur as singles or in
pairs, and are in fact very common. (photo: Jen Johnson June
2005 Wadi Arbaein)

Blackstart (Cercomela melanura)

Bedouin name: qelicei aswad al zanab Status: Not at risk

A beautiful ash-grey all over except the dark tail and shoulder
patch. It is a friendly species, showing little fear of humans. It often
fans its wings and tail, and then closes them again, especially
when landing or changing perch. Insects are the main food,
searching for them in the gardens and orchards. It is less common
in the high mountains of the Ring Dyke than elsewhere. (photo:
Kathy Meakin Aug 2005 Wadi Gharaba) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 79
5. Summer birds
Birds that are summer visitors to the high mountains take advantage of the abundance of
plants and insects here, allegedly the wettest place in Egypt. It is also the coldest, one
reason to abandon the area in winter.

Rock Martin (Ptyonoprogne fuligula)

Bedouin name: al baHit Status: Not at risk

The northern pale subspecies of this bird, including Sinai, are

sometimes called a separate species, the Pale Crag Martin
P.obsoleta. It is a typical martin in shape, with a mainly earth-
brown colour, paler on the throat and breast, and only the carpal
areas under the wing are dark; notice also the pale window spots
in the ends of the tail feathers when it splays out its tail. The very
similar Crag Martin is generally darker, especially on the throat and
underwing coverts. The Rock Martin is very common indeed in the
wadis of South Sinai in spring and summer, catching insects on
the wing during effortless swooping dives and glides. Like its
relatives, it builds a nest from mud globules fused together into a shallow bowl, and stuck onto the rock. Unlike
them, it does not nest gregariously. (photo: Fred Manata June 2005 St Katherine)

Palestine Sunbird (Nectarinia osea)

Bedouin name: tameir carabi Status: Not at risk

This species is a summer visitor to the high mountains, moving

away to lower elevations in the winter. The long curved bill is
diagnostic: the beautiful males with their dark purple glossy
plumage (which often just looks black) are unmistakeable, but
females are drab.They feed on nectar from flowers, and also catch
insects. They only occur in Sinai within Egypt. (photo: Tim Hurst
June 2005 St Katherine)

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)

Bedouin name: bulbul Status: Not at risk

Bulbuls are thrush-sized dark-grey and dirty greyish-white birds

with long tails, and darker grey-black on the face and throat. The
Yellow-vented Bulbul has a yellow vent and white eye-ring: it has
always been a breeding resident in Sinai. Bulbuls occur in small
groups, and are noisy and hence noticeable. They disappear from
the mountains during winter, and hence probably move down to
lower elevations. (photo: unknown)

Bonellis Eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus)

Bedouin name: ciqab Status: Not at risk

This is a medium- to large-sized eagle. From below, adults have a white body, dark wings with the leading edge
white, and a dark tail with a darker broad terminal band; from above, adults also have whitish markings on their
back, behind the head. Juveniles are reddish underneath, and harder to identify. There have been 2-3
individuals flying around the town of St Katherine and Wadi Arbaein during the late summer and early autumn,
giving hope that breeding might have occurred. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 80
6. Migrant birds
Sinai is part of the major eastern flyway for migrating birds on their way from the
Palaearctic to Africa for the winter, and back again in spring, and therefore millions of
birds pass over it. The spring migration has markedly fewer birds than in autumn.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

Bedouin name: najac Status: Not at risk

White Storks are easily recognisable in flight with their strong

black-and-white pattern and their habit of flying in large flocks.
Many thousands pass through Sinai on their way to and from their
winter feeding grounds in Africa. They fly along the coasts rather
than high over the mountains, and so the best place for seeing
them is at the coast, especially at Sharm el Sheikh. Town rubbish
dumps attract huge numbers trying to feed before crossing the sea
to reach Africa. (photo: wikimedia)

Bedouin name: jazjuz

Thousands of warblers pass through Sinai on migration. They come in waves

of single species at particular times of year. For example, in late August the
gardens are filled with Olive-tree (Hippolais olivetorum) and Olivaceous
Warblers (Hippolais pallida). They feed on insects and fruit from the gardens
while on the move. Probably the Bedouin gardens represent a very important
resource to migrants since immediately afterwards they face the rigours of
the desert before reaching the rich feeding grounds of sub-Saharan Africa.
(photo: Mike James 2001 St Katherine)

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

Bedouin name: Saqr Status: Not at risk

Buzzards are medium-sized broad-winged soaring raptors with

medium-length tails. Long-legged Buzzards are variable in colour
but have obvious black carpal patches when seen in flight. Most
buzzards are seen as migrants in Sinai, especially in autumn.
Long-legged Buzzards are known to breed in Sinai, including in the
St Katherine area, but such events are probably very rare.
Buzzards are therefore unusual unless you observe their migration
at particular places, such as Sharm el Sheikh or Suez. (photo: Tim
Hurst June 2005 Wadi Itlah)

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Bedouin name: Saqr Status: Near Threatened

Adults of this medium-sized falcon are unique in being a uniform bluish-grey, including the trousers, and a
uniform grey under the wings. A scattered distribution around the Red Sea, eastern Libya and the Persian Gulf
makes this a rare species. Like the related Eleonoras Falcon, Sooty Falcons time their breeding in late summer
to take advantage of migrating birds, their main prey. They breed on cliffs and mountains in the desert, and
especially on coral islands in the Red Sea. They are not uncommon in the wadis of South Sinai. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 81
7. Lizards on rocks
Being cold-blooded, lizards use the sun to warm up so that they are able to move
quickly and escape their predators, mainly birds. Therefore they spend lots of time
basking on the top of rocks and walls, making them easy to see with decent binoculars.

Sinai Agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus)

Bedouin name: el bleeS qadi Sina Status: Not at risk

Like the Starred Agama, this is a fairly large lizard with a heart-
shaped head and strongly built body; the legs are long and
slender, and the ears very large and obvious. In the breeding
season the male has a startlingly turquoise-blue colour of variable
extent over the head and front parts of the body, or sometimes
even more; the extent of the blue is a signal of dominance and
territory ownership, and fades rapidly in individuals that lose
confrontations with other males. When breeding the female has a
blue head and some brick-red bands on the back. The male is
often encountered perched on the top of a rock, keeping watch for intruders into his territory; there is about one
territory every half-a-kilometer of wadi. It ranges from Libya to Saudi Arabia. (photo: Mike James 2001 St

Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio)

Bedouin name: hardun Status: Not at risk

This fairly large lizard has the typical broad heart-shaped head and
strongly built body of the agamids. It is identified by its spiny tail,
the band of lumpy enlarged keeled scales along the sides of the
back, the ca. five transverse yellow bands on the back, and the
conspicuously banded yellow and black tail. With only a small
distribution in Sinai and adjacent mountains areas of Israel, Jordan
and NW Saudi Arabia, it is frequently seen in the mountains
sunning on rocks, or waiting to attack passing large insects such
as dragonflies. (photo: unknown)

Fan-footed Gecko (Ptyodactylus spp)

Bedouin name: nataaga Status: Not at risk

The fan-shaped feet are diagnostic of these geckos, which are

often found during the day on rocks in the wadis. There are two
species in South Sinai, one with a tail longer (Egyptian Fan-footed
Gecko, P.hassequistii, nocturnal, found at low elevations <900 m)
and one shorter than the snout-vent distance (Spotted Fan-footed
Gecko, P.guttatus, more diurnal, found at high elevations >800 m).
Both species are very common, especially near water. (photo: Tim
Hurst June 2005 Wadi Itlah) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 82
8. Lizards on sand
Sand is a major habitat for lizards; they are even found in the remotest depths of the
Western Desert, far from any vegetation or water. The ecosystem there is based on food
input in the form of dying migrant birds, which are then fed upon by a little foodweb of
insects, lizards and some mammals.

Boscs lizard (Acanthodactylus boskianus)

Bedouin name: cerbaana Status: Not at risk

A sand-coloured fast-moving elongated lizard with fringes on its

toes, mostly encountered on sand or gravel. It is the commonest
lizard in South Sinai, and the only member of its genus except on
the plain of El Qaa by the Suez Gulf, where the Nidua Lizard
A.scutellatus also occurs. It feeds on insects, and in the morning
and evening spends a lot of its time basking to maintain its body
temperature. (photo: Mike James 2001 St Katherine)

Dabb lizards (Uromastyx spp)

Bedouin name: Dhab Status: Near Threatened

Large, strongly built lizards with short thick tails. There are two
species in South Sinai: the Egyptian (U.aegyptia), up to 70 cms
long, with spiny tubercles on the flanks of the rear part of the body;
and the beautifully coloured Ornate (U.ornata), up to 40 cms long,
with smooth flanks but with large spiny tubercles on the upper
thigh. They are diurnal, living on large gravel plains and wide
wadis, where they feed on plants and seldom stray far away from
their burrows. In the past these lizards were eaten by the Bedouin.
(photo: Francis Gilbert 1995 Wadi Isla)

Ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus)

Bedouin name: dufan Status: Not at risk

Skinks differ from lacertid lizards in having a series of pores on the

underside of their back legs. The Ocellated skink has a rounded
snout in profile rather than wedge-shaped with a sharp edge,
smooth dorsal scales, and is usually olive-grey or brown with
scattered white and black scales. There is only one species of the
genus in South Sinai. They occur near vegetation, and are usually
crepuscular, with variable diurnal and/or nocturnal activity. (photo:
Mike James 2001 St Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 83
9. Snakes
Snakes are still fairly common in Egypt, and there are a number of poisonous species to
be aware of. Mostly they avoid humans and thus luckily they are seldom seen.

Burtons Carpet Viper (Echis coloratus)

Bedouin name: haya, abu gabali Status: Not at risk

Vipers have triangular heads with hollow hinged poison fangs, a

vertical pupil to the eye, keeled scales, and a stocky build with a
short tail. Echis is a fairly large snake (up to 50 cms) with a dorsal
pattern of alternating dark-edged pale-grey saddles and large
rufous-brown blotches, a lateral series of dark spots, a dark-grey
band from the eye to the corner of the mouth, and no horns. It is a
characteristic but uncommon species of the steep slopes of the
high mountains, often near water. It is crepuscular and nocturnal,
and is dangerously venomous. (photo: Fred Manata June 2005 St

Horned Viper (Cerastes cerastes)

Bedouin name: haya Status: Not at risk

Despite the name, only about half of Horned Vipers in Egypt have
horns; it is a large snake up to 74 cms long, sandy-coloured with
large brown spots or squares on the dorsal midline alternating with
smaller lateral dark spots. A species typical of wadis with
vegetation and sandy areas, it also occurs in a wide variety of
other habitats; it is more common at lower elevations. It buries
itself in sand under vegetation, waiting for suitable prey to come to
rest in the shade. (photo: wikimedia)

Hoogstraals Cat Snake (Telescopus hoogstraali)

Bedouin name: haya Status: Endangered

A medium-sized thin snake with a black head and neck, and a grey
body with about 30-40 thin black bands. This is a rare species,
endemic to a very small area of Sinai, the Negev and western
Jordan. Not a great deal is known about its biology, but it is
nocturnal, foraging among plants in mountain wadis. (photo: Linzy
Elton Aug 2009 Wadi Gebal) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 84
10. Blue butterflies
A large proportion of Egypts 61 species of butterfly belong to the Lycaenidae, the Blues
family. This is because many blues are adapted to arid habitats, perhaps not
unconnected with their ability to form specialised relationships with ants, either obligate or
not. South Sinai has two of the half-a-dozen candidates for the smallest butterfly in the
world. All butterflies are called farasha by the Bedouin.

Sinai Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

Status: Critically Endangered

The Sinai Baton Blue butterfly is flagship species for the St

Katherine Protectorate, because it is endemic to a tiny area of no
more than 5 x 5 km around St Katherine, ocurring nowhere else in
the world. It is an absolutely tiny species, with some males with
wings no more than 6.5 mm long! The hair-fringes of the wings are
basally black, a diagnostic feature. The adults feed only on the
nectar and the larvae only on the flower buds of the Sinai Thyme
Thymus decussatus, itself a rare near-endemic plant. The larvae
are protected by one ant species (Lepisiota obtusa) against
another predatory ant (Camponotus aegyptiacus) in return for the
sugary secretions of the larvas special glands. (photo: Mike James 2002 Safsafa)

Sinai Hairstreak (Satyrium jebelia)

Status: Critically Endangered

Like the Sinai Baton Blue, the Sinai Hairstreak is also endemic to
the high mountains of the St Katherine Protectorate. It has a green
underside with a prominent thin white line across the middle. It has
not been studied, and hence less is known about it. Adults can be
seen at the right time of the year flying around trees of the
scattered and very rare Sinai Buckthorn Rhamnus disperma, but
also Sinai Hawthorn Crataegus sinaica and cotoneaster
Cotoneaster orbicularis. The larvae feed on Buckthorn, and
perhaps the other species as well. (photo: Mike James 2001

Burning Bush Blue (Iolana alfierii)

Status: Vulnerable

The fabulous blue colour of the male of this species is very

obvious in the early spring, if you are lucky enough to encounter it.
It is a near-endemic, occurring only in Sinai, the Negev and
Jordan. The larval foodplant is Moses Stick Colutea istria, a small
tree whose flowers produce the inflated seedpods in which the
larvae feed. It is able to survive bad years because some larvae do
not emerge in the year after they were born, but delay from one to
several years. (painting: Ahmed Gheith)

Grass Jewel (Chilades trochylus)

Status: Not at risk

A tiny butterfly that is mainly brown, but with orange on the rear
edge of the underside of the hind wing, peppered with a line of
black spots each topped with a metallic green spot. These are very
common butterflies, usually to be found near their larval foodplant,
the small prostrate plant Andrachne telephioides that can be much
harder to find than the butterfly itself! (photo: Kathy Meakin 2005
Wadi Arbaein) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 85
11. Other butterfies
Other butterflies include a Swallowtail, a Brown and a fair few White butterflies with varied
life histories. South Sinai contains about two-thirds of all Egypts recorded species of

Saharan Swallowtail (Papilio saharae)

Status: Vulnerable

A fairly rare species in mainland Egypt, the Swallowtail is rather

more common in Sinai, but is still an unusual sight. Feeding on
species of Haplophyllum and umbellifers, the huge and colourful
larva is unique. (photo: Jen Johnson June 2005 St Katherine)

Desert Grayling (Pseudotergumia pisidice)

Status: Vulnerable

The only all-brown butterfly in Egypt. This is the only member of

the Browns (the Satyridae) to be resident in Egypt, and it occurs
only in Sinai, where it is a very common butterfly. Indeed, quite
probably this is not really the Desert Grayling, but a new and un-
named unique Sinai endemic, with an isolated distribution in the
South Sinai mountains: only molecular analysis will tell. Its larva
feeds on grasses. (photo: Fred Manata June 2005 St Katherine)

Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta)

Status: Vulnerable

Unmistakeable: salmon pink all over. A beautiful butterfly to see

flying past in the wadis in summer, the Salmon Arab has two
generations per year, its larva feeding on the very common caper
plant, Capparis spp. In some years it can be very common, and
then in others one hardly sees it at all. (painting: Ahmed Gheith)

Desert White (Pontia glauconome)

Status: Not at risk

A white butterfly with black blotches on the wingtips, and the

underside of the hindwing covered with green blotches, with the
veins picked out in yellow. A fairly common butterfly, especially in
cultivated areas and in the mountains of South Sinai, the larva
feeds on crucifers such as Silla Zilla spinosa, with two or more
generations per year. (photo: Jen Johnson June 2005 St
Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 86
12. Insects
There is a huge variety of hundreds of species of insects other than butterflies that live in
South Sinai. We have picked out a handful of interesting ones here to represent this
variety. Many wadis have yet to be visited and explored by biologists, and hence there
are many species yet to be described.

Painted Grasshopper (Poekilocerus bufonius)

Bedouin name: zagaT, ghakhdab Status: Not at risk

This is a large dark-coloured grasshopper that feeds on poisonous plants and

borrows their poisons to defend itself; when approached or touched, it
exudes a froth from its wingbases that contains these poisons. Its Bedouin
name means the one that sprays poison onto girls faces. The female is
about twice as big as the male. They occur on asclepiads such as Sinai
milkweed Gomphocarpus sinaicus and Sodom Apple Calotropis procera,
which contain heart poisons - the cardenolides. (photo: Fred Manata June
2005 Wadi Itlah)

Darkling beetle (Adesmia spp)

Bedouin name: coeir el banaat Status: Not at risk

The Darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) are the dominant kind of

beetle in the desert, and there are many species, some of which
belong to the genus Adesmia. Their domed shape remind the
Bedouin of donkeys, and the name here means new-born donkey
for girls. They are important scavengers on decaying plant and
animal material, and also act as vectors of the parasites of Spiny
mice. (photo: wikimedia)

Lunate hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri)

Status: Not at risk

This is the largest of a number of species of the true flies (Diptera)

that resemble one another, and can only be told apart by an expert
with a microscope. They are beneficial insects to farmers and
gardeners because their larvae feed on aphids. (photo: Fred
Manata June 2005 St Katherine)

Red Darter (Crocothemis erythreae)

Bedouin name: ghezlan Status: Not at risk

A dragonfly that is blood-red all over in the male; females are

brown. These are very common in Sinai, but very little is known of
their biology there. Contrary to popular belief, dragonflies are
absolutely characteristic of desert environments, using their strong
ability to fly to discover every possible water source in which to lay
their eggs. Both larvae and adults are fierce predators, the larvae
in water and the adults in the air. (photo: Mohamed Eid 2007 Wadi
Shaq) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 87
13. Anthropods
Some creepy crawlies are just simply unpleasant, and Sinai has its fair share, including
the fearsome Camel Spider.

Camel spider (Galeodes spp)

Bedouin name: Tarid el jamal Status: Not at risk

These primitive spiders are the stuff of nightmares. Essentially a

huge pair of jaws on legs - in fact relative to its size the largest and
most powerful jaws on the planet! - it moves with lightning speed
over the rocks, and frightens even the bravest of men. Some
individuals seem the size of dinner plates, with legs that span up to
15 cms. Luckily they are largely nocturnal, feeding on anything
they can catch, including small birds and mice. The Bedouin name
means repeller of camels, and they maintain that these spiders
are deadly poisonous: however, whilst they are capable of a
painful bite, in fact they are not poisonous at all. (photo: wikimedia)

Deathstalker scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus)

Bedouin name: caqrab Status: Not at risk

The yellow Deathstalker scorpion is extremely common in South

Sinai, and is much feared by the Bedouin for its highly poisonous
and painful sting, which can be dangerous for very small children
or old people. Like all scorpions, the Deathstalker fluoresces at
night and can be easily seen with a UV light while it is hunting for
prey. (photo: wikimedia)

Camel tick (Hyalomma spp)

Bedouin name: qorad Status: Not at risk

Huge camel ticks used to be a common sight on Bedouin camels,

like large date-fruit shapes hanging down between the front legs,
full of blood, or empty of blood scuttling in amongst the saddle
clothes. The advent of the veterinarians of the Protectorates
means that now most camels are treated, and the ticks are much
rarer. The ticks are common in the sand where camels rest; they
come out and follow large animals that are nearby, including
humans. Try to move around, and see it follow you! (photo:
wikimedia) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 88
14.a Trees
Trees are vital elements of most ecosystems, including even the desert. Here are three
very characteristic species that you will see in Sinai.

Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

Bedouin name: nakhl

The Date Palm is characteristic of the desert, and has been cultivated for
thousands of years. Trees are either male or female, and most pollination
occurs not by the wind, as naturally, but artificially by humans physically
taking male catkins to female flowers. They grow at low altitudes and are
rather rare higher up in the mountains. A Feiran date stuffed with an almond
is a sweet for which Sinai used to be famous. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004
Abu Seila)

Sodom Apple (Calotropis procera)

Bedouin name: cosher Status: Not at risk

A small tree with large fleshy leaves, large white clustered flowers with purple
tips to the fleshy petals, and large round green fruits; damaging the plant
causes a thick milky juice to be exuded, which is full of heart poisons
(cardenolides). It is a plant of disturbed ground, and is said to be an indicator
of overgrazing; rather rare in Sinai, it is not a plant of the high mountains, but
is most common close to the sea. It is pollinated by a large carpenter bee that
flies very long distances (many km) between individual trees. (photo: Francis
Gilbert 2004 Nuweiba)

Acacia (Acacia tortilis)

Bedouin name: seyaal Status: Not at risk

Like date palms, acacia trees are characteristic of the desert.

There are a number of species in Egypt, and four in Sinai (but only
this one is common), all thorny trees or shrubs with bipinnate
leaves, i.e. the leaf is divided into leaflets which themselves are
also divided into leaflets. Acacias are key species in desert
communities, supporting a huge range of insect and vertebrate
herbivores, including Bedouin livestock. They can survive long
periods of drought, making them a very reliable resource in a
harsh environment. The Bedouin therefore take great care with the
trees, protecting them from damage or exploitation. (photo: Zoltan
Matrahazi 2008 Wadi Kid) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 89
14.b Trees
Here are a few more trees that are notable in South Sinai, including one - tamarisk - that
might even be said to form forests!

Retem, White Broom (Retama raetam)

Bedouin name: ratam Status: Not at risk

Called juniper in the Bible, this unmistakeable tree has green

(photosynthetic) thin grooved branches, apparently no leaves (they
rapidly drop off after being produced), and produces white flowers in
February coming straight off the stems. Retem is a very common
plant of the lower elevation wadis of South Sinai. In former times it
was much in demand for producing the best quality charcoal from
the thick roots. It is highly toxic. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi

Tamarisk (Tamarix spp)

Bedouin name: tarfa Status: Not at risk

A graceful tree with long feathery branches clad in minute leaves, and in
spring with spikes of beautiful pink blossoms like catkins. It is very common in
Sinai wadis, and can almost form dense thickets in some places (e.g. Tarfa,
named after it, on the road from Feiran to St Katherine). In former times it was
much used for firewood. (photo: wikimedia)

Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Bedouin name: saru

The cypress familiar to us around the Monastery, on Mt Sinai (basin of Elijah)

and in other gardens is a cultivated erect form of the normally spreading wild
tree; therefore every tree you can see has probably been planted. They have
been cultivated for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, and were
probably brought to Sinai by the monks to beautify their gardens. (photo:
Zoltan Matrahazi 2009 Farsh Elijah)

Sinai Hawthorn (Crataegus x sinaica)

Bedouin name: zacrur Status: Endangered

A rare shrub or small tree, with spine-tipped twigs and 3-5-lobed

leaves. Many species of hawthorn are now known to be hybrids,
and the Sinai Hawthorn is no exception, thought to be a cross
between C.azarolus and C.monogyna. The root is very resistant to
drought, and Bedouin gardeners take advantage of this by grafting
onto it fruit trees such as pear, especially the variety known as
shitwi. The photo is of C.azarolus. (photo: wikimedia) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 90
15. Orchard trees
The Gebaliya Bedouin of the St Katherine area are unique among Bedouin in tending
walled gardens containing fruit trees and vegetables. Probably this habit derived from the
practices of the Byzantine monks who colonised the area in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD.

Almond (Prunus dulcis)

Bedouin name: loz

A small tree with large spear-shaped leaves with serrate margins, pink flowers
appearing in early spring well before the leaves unfold, and large green felty
fruit. Almonds are the major produce from the orchards, but are not
commercially sold and so much of the produce is not used. In former times the
Gebaliya used to exchange their almonds for dates from Wadi Feiran; inserting
an almond into the soft jamcei date and pressing them produces al shana, a
favourite winter food. (photo: Mike James)

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

Bedouin name: mishmish

A small tree with ovate leaves with a rounded base and finely
serrated margin, the white to pink flowers appearing in very early
spring well before the leaves unfold. In the old days, the ripening of
apricots in St Katherine in May was the signal for families to decamp
with their flocks to their gardens in the high mountains. Dried apricots
are a major produce of the gardens, but as with almonds, much is not
used because there are no commercial outlets. (photo: Tim Hurst
June 2005 Wadi Gebal)

Wild Fig (Ficus carica)

Bedouin name: tiin beri

A low tree often with knarled and tortuous branches, with large papery leaves
with slightly toothed margins. The large fruits are delicious, unlike the small
sour ones of the other local fig, hamaaT (Ficus palmata). The Bedouin graft
tiin trunks onto hamaaT rootstocks because of the latters high drought
tolerance. Figs are pollinated by special symbiotic wasps whose grubs feed in
the figs. The fruit is actually an inside-out inflorescence, a group of flowers
that project inwards into the interior rather than outwards, like normal plants.
(photo: Tim Hurst June 2005 Wadi Gebal)

Pear (Pyrus communis)

Bedouin name: shitwi

A small tree with white flowers opening before the rounded simple
leaves. Pears have been grown in Sinai orchards for many centuries,
with a number of very old varieties. The trees are very resistant, even
more so when grafted onto hawthorn rootstocks. (photo: Hilary
Gilbert 2007 Wadi Gebal) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 91
16. Succulents
Succulent plants are desert-adapted for water conservation, storing water in their stems
and leaves. Often the leaves are either absent or very inconspicuous, an adaptation to
reducing the rate of photosynthesis with its inevitable loss of water through transpiration.
They are usually poisonous to defend their water stores.

Soapwort (Anabasis articulata)

Bedouin name: cajram Status: Not at risk

A peculiar plant with segmented stems and apparently no leaves; very like
Hammada elegans but internodes shorter and thicker, and the plant does not
dry yellow. Very common outside the Ring Dyke, if the plant is picked and
rubbed with water, a usable soap is produced. (photo: Zoltan Matrahazi 2009
Wadi Nogra)

Bean caper (Zygophyllum spp)

Bedouin name: qarmal, jarmal Status: Not at risk

Another strange plant that seems to be made of small sausage-shaped green

balloons! Some species have edible flower buds used as a substitute for
capers, but many are poisonous. Very common on the plain of El Qaa.
(photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Isla)

Gymnocarpos decandrum
Bedouin name: jard Status: Not at risk

A woody shrub with small fleshy bulbous leaves. It is a favourite

grazing plants of livestock, and is used as camel fodder, and so
presumably is not chemically defended. (photo: Francis Gilbert
2004 Wadi Isla) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 92
17. Poisonous plants
Many Sinai plants are poisonous to their own herbivores, but some plants are particularly
poisonous to humans, and should be avoided if possible.

Sinai Milkweed (Gomphocarpus sinaicus)

Bedouin name: Harjal Status: Not at risk

Milkweeds have their centre of diversity in the New World, but one lineage
colonised Africa: this is its most northerly representative. The milky latex
contains high concentrations of heart poisons. Some insects have overcome
this defence and use the chemical in their own defence: a bright yellow aphid,
a bright red bug, and a weevil whose larva feeds on the seeds in the seed
pods. (photo: Mike James)

Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala)

Bedouin name: Harmal Status: Not at risk

This plant has a strategy unusual among Sinai plants. In early

summer the very dark green foliage grows rapidly from the
rootstock, and it produces large white flowers, and then three-
valved fruits. Having dispersed its seeds, the above-ground parts
dry to dead straw stalks and the plant spends most of the year
underground as a rootstock. Highly poisonous, with an alkaloid
that has been used as a truth drug, the seeds are hallucinogenic;
the plant is the source of the dye Turkey Red used for carpets
and tarbooshes, and also many medicinal drugs. (photo: Mike

Henbane (Hyoscyamus spp)

Bedouin name: sakaraan Status: Not at risk

There are six species in Sinai, the common ones being succulent
perennials with white and purple flowers, with either smooth
(H.muticus) or hairy (H.boveanus) stems and leaves. The plants
often form large mats of fresh and dead dry plant material. They
are highly toxic, and their poisons have been used to kill people
and pests for centuries; the seeds can remain dormant for at least
100 years. (photo: Hilary Gilbert 2006 Abu Seila)

Wild melons (Citrullus colocynthis, Cucumis prophetarum)

Bedouin name: HanDal, HanDlaan Status: Not at risk

These are both prostrate plants that trail along the ground, with
large and obvious round fruits, Cucumis (up to 4.5 cm diameter)
smaller than Citrullus (6-12 cms). Despite appearances the fruit is
very bitter to toxic. (photo: Francis Gilbert 1996 Wadi Isla) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 93
18.a Spiny plants
Most desert plants are heavily defended in some way or another against herbivores.
Spines are aimed at repelling vertebrate herbivores, whilst chemical poisons are usually
aimed at invertebrates, particularly insects.

Silla (Zilla spinosa)

Bedouin name: silla Status: Not at risk

A cushion plant normally without leaves, consisting of a ball of intricately

branched stems; similar to Launaea spinosa, but has blue cruciferous rather
than yellow composite flowers, and blue-green rather than green stems. One of
the commonest of Sinai plants, growing very large where there is adequate and
consistent water. A favoured plant for camel fodder. (photo: Zoltan Matrahazi
2009 Gebel Abbas Basha)

Fagonia (Fagonia spp)

Bedouin name: woraqa, shkaca Status: Not at risk

These are a set of small prostrate spiny herbs or shrubs, some

compact and some more etiolate, with tri- and/or unifoliate leaves
and beautiful purple flowers. They are extremely common in the
wadis of South Sinai. They are used in traditional medicine to help to
heal wounds. (photo: Mike James 2001 St Katherine)

Caper (Capparis spp)

Bedouin name: laSaf Status: Not at risk

Shrubs with spines and simple alternate leaves, in Sinai either green
elongate leaves and large reddish fruits (C.sinaica) or with grey
round leaves covered with fine whitish down, and small green fruits
(C.spinosa). These shrubs grow on the rocky sides of wadis in the
most inaccessible places. The large white flowers last only half a day,
but attract many insect visitors including rare bees. (photo: Francis
Gilbert 2005 Wadi Arbaein)

Thistle (Onopordum alexandrinum)

Bedouin name: kacuub Status: Vulnerable

A typical large thistle up to 1.2 m high, with large solitary purple flowerheads
and very spiny stems and leaves. Frequent in Bedouin gardens, the large
flowerhead is a resource for a set of specialist insect herbivores. (photo: Fred
Manata June 2005 Wadi Arbaein) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 94
18.b Spiny plants
Many spiny plants belong to the family Asteraceae (=Compositae), particularly well
represented in the South Sinai mountains and wadis.

Knapweed (Centaurea spp)

Bedouin name: merur, leHya, ghibaari Status: Many species
are rare

Typical knapweeds but with the flowerheads but not the rest of the
plant armoured with spines of various lengths in the different
species. The flowerheads are a beautiful pinky red with yellow
pollen. After the flowers are finished and the seeds dispersed, the
bleached opened-out bracts remain with their spines. (photo:
Francis Gilbert 2005 Wadi Ahmar)

Spiny Globe Thistle (Echinops spinosus)

Bedouin name: khosheer, asharah Status: Not at risk

A thistle where the flowerhead is spherical and spiny, with bluish-white

flowers; when the flowers have finished, the spiny head remains. The plant
grows in rock crevices and precipitous slopes, and is one of the most
characteristic plants of the rocky high mountains. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2005
Wadi Gebal)

Spiny Milkvetch (Astragalus spinosus)

Bedouin name: jadas Status: Not at risk

This is a small spiny dwarf shrub with wool in between the spines; the
flowers are almost hidden within the wool, and inflate to form the fruit. It is
used in traditional medicine to treat kidney pain and asthma. (photo: Gordon
Wilkinson St Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 95
19. Very hairy herbs with yellow flowers
Defensive sticky or irritant hairs form another way in which plants defend themselves
against herbivores. Sticky hairs are aimed at insects, whereas irritant hairs are probably
anti-mammal defences.

Yellow Alkanet (Alkanna orientalis)

Bedouin name: loubayd Status: Vulnerable

An easily recognasible plant with its yellow trumpet-like flowers and

excessively sticky glandular hairs covering the entire plant. It is a high-
mountain plant, fading away almost immediately one leaves the Ring Dyke in
South Sinai, with a fairly restricted distribution elsewhere in the eastern
Mediterranean and other mountain-top outposts. It is an important nectar
source for native bees. (photo: Mike James)

Sinai Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis aurea)

Bedouin name: cawarwar Status: Vulnerable

A large plant with large distinct whorls of yellow flowers, it is a Sinai endemic,
occurring nowhere else in the world (except that now one can buy it as a
garden plant!). It is restricted to the high mountains only, but there it is a very
common plant in rocky gullies. The stems and leaves are covered in thick
golden woolly hair, but they are irritant hairs especially painful if they get in
the eyes. (photo: Mike James 2001 Safsafa)

Sinai Mullein (Verbascum sinaiticum)

Bedouin name: kherma, widaan el Homar Status: Vulnerable

Charasteristic tall spike of yellow flowers rising up to 2 m from a basal

rosette. There are six species of mullein in Sinai, four of them rare near-
endemics with small world distributions. The Sinai Mullein is the tallest, but
despite its name it is widely distributed from East Africa to Pakistan. It is a
biennial, remaining a rosette for more than one year before throwing up the
flowering spike in its second year. (photo: Mike James 2001 Wadi Gebal) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 96
20. Strongly scented herbs with white flowers
The scent of aromatic herbs fills the air of the wadis in South Sinai, contributing to the
feeling of the sanctity of the area. The scents are actually chemical defences of the
plants, usually against insect herbivores, but often have medicinal value for humans as
well. We have organised these plants by the colour of their flowers.

Sinai Thyme (Thymus decussatus)

Bedouin name: zacataraan Status: Endangered

A cushion plant that can exceptionally reach a metre across,

covered in white tubular zygomorphic flowers. This is a rare near-
endemic, occurring only in the St Katherine area above 1800 m
altitude, and neighbouring high-mountain areas of the Hejaz in NW
Saudi Arabia. It is the foodplant of the endemic Sinai Baton Blue
butterfly. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Safsafa)

Oregano (Origanum syriacum)

Bedouin name: zacatar Status: Not at risk

With its mass of small white flowers and distinctive scent, oregano
can be found in many of the high-mountain wadis of South Sinai.
Called hyssop in the Bible, it is used fresh in foods of many kinds.
(photo: Mike James 2001 Wadi Gebal)

Felty Germander (Teucrium polium)

Bedouin name: jacada Status: Not at risk

A dwarf woody-based perennial with leaves and stems covered

with woolly hair, the inflorescence forms a tight flowerhead of white
flowers with prominent yellow anthers. It is very variable in its
morphology, perhaps varying with altitude or with water availability.
A specialised bug Copium teucrii makes galls in the flowerheads.
(photo: Francis Gilbert) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 97
21. Strongly scented herbs with blue flowers
Many medicinal plants belong to the family Lamiaceae (=Labiatae): here are three of
them with blue flowers.

Horsemint (Mentha longifolia)

Bedouin name: habak, habag Status: Not at risk

This mint has characteristic long spikes of tiny blue flowers, and is an
indicator of water. It grows wherever water is abundantly available
either near or at the surface of the ground. It can substitute for
spearmint or ordinary mint in tea. (photo: Gordon Wilkinson St

Desert Lavender (Lavandula coronopifolia)

Bedouin name: zeita Status: Not at risk

A perennial woody at the base, with leaves divided into thin multiple branches
(2-3 pinnatisect) and many almost-smooth stems with spikes of beautiful pale-
blue zygomorphic flowers. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Isla)

Sinai Catmint (Nepeta septemcrenata)

Bedouin name: ghameeSa Status: Vulnerable

A perennial woody at the base, with cordate leaves with crenate edges; many
stems with flowering spikes of deep-blue narrow tubular zygomorphic flowers.
With a distribution only in the high mountains of Sinai and NW Saudi Arabia, this
is a rare near-endemic plant. It is pollinated by solitary bees. (photo: Francis
Gilbert 2004 Safsafa)

Sinai Sage (Salvia multicaulis)

Bedouin name: mardaghosh, bardagosh Status: Endangered

Sages have whorls of flowers up a flowering spike, and are of course well known
for their use in flavouring food. This species has purple flowers set in a large
green calyx, and is a rare component of the flora of the mountains of Sinai north
to Turkey. The Bedouin make a delicious herb tea with sage as the main
component. (photo: Gordon Wilkinson St Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 98
22. Strongly scented herbs with yellow flowers
Here are a set of very characteristic aromatic herbs of Sinai, all of which belong to the
family Asteraceae (=Compositae).

Fragrant Milfoil (Achillea fragrantissima)

Bedouin name: gaySuum, qaySuum Status: Not at risk

This is a low shrub with woody older stems; the stems are white-
woolly with hairs, the leaves oblong with an undulate margin; there
are clusters of small yellow flowerheads, and the flowers lack ray-
florets. The name gives away its intensely fragrant nature. It is a
southern Middle East speciality, but is extremely common in Sinai
and hence not at risk. (photo: Mike James 2001 Wadi Gebal)

Undulate Fleabane (Pulicaria undulata)

Bedouin name: dithdath Status: Not at risk

Superficially like Tanacetum and Achillea, the oblong leaves with undulate
margins have no petioles, and clasp the stem closely; young leaves are
white-woolly, while older ones are smooth and green; the yellow flowers are
solitary, with small ray florets. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Arbaein)

Sinai Tansy (Tanacetum sinaicum)

Bedouin name: mir Status: Vulnerable

Resembling Pulicaria and Achillea, the highly dissected feather-

like leaves are very different; there are 3-6 solitary yellow
flowerheads on long stems coming from each main stem. This
highly aromatic plant is restricted to Sinai, Palestine and Saudi
Arabia. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Arbaein)

Wormwood (Artemisia judaica, Seraphidium herba-alba)

Bedouin name: shiH Status: Not at risk

There are two abundant species with dissected leaves that used to
be classified as Artemisia, one of which has white-woolly stems
and leaves, much thinner leaves and is now separated into the
genus Seraphidium. Both are wind- rather than insect-pollinated,
and hence they have reduced flowerheads (<3mm) with very
prominent anthers so that the pollen can catch the wind. Both are
strongly aromatic medicinal plants. The Bedouin make a tea from
the stems and leaves, and inhale the vapour to relieve headcolds.
White cotton-like balls on the plants are insect galls that the
Bedouin use as tinder to start fires. (photo: Gordon Wilkinson St
Katherine) A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 99
23. Miscellany
This is a miscellaneous set of plants, all common in the high mountains, with woundwort
having a rather wider distribution than the other two.

Egyptian Woundwort (Stachys aegyptiaca)

Bedouin name: gorTom, qorTom Status: Vulnerable

Like all its relatives, Stachys has a square stem covered in thin
woolly hair; it has a flowering spike of pale pink and white
zygomorphic flowers. It is very common in many of the mountain
wadis. (photo: Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Arbaein)

Sinai Plantain (Plantago sinaica)

Bedouin name: Heweit elbadan Status: Endangered

This is the only woody species of its genus in Egypt, and it is a

Sinai endemic, found nowhere else in the world. It is very common
in Wadi Gebal, but hardly seen anywhere below 1800 m. (photo:
Francis Gilbert 2004 Wadi Gebal)

Sinai Spurge (Euphorbia sanctae-catharinae)

Bedouin name: wideina Status: Endangered

This is a member of a large genus of 41 species in Egypt, with very varied formsbut all exuding a milky latex
when damaged and with a characteristic inflorescence called a cyathium, consisting of a single female flower
surrounded by several male flowers. This endemic high-mountain species is more or less prostrate, woody,
with hairless fleshy leaves with a grey-green waxy bloom on them. It is common in Wadi Gebal, but not
elsewhere. A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 100
PART IV. Dictionary
Note that it is very difficult to transliterate Arabic sounds to English, or the other way around. There are
several complex systems used by academic works, dictionaries and language books our dictionary
only aims to be an aid to help you communicate with your guide and is much simpler. You, as well as
the guide using this dictionary, will not be perfectly accurate, but this is part of the fun; learning some
basics from each other.

This is the first edition of the dictionary and will be updated sometime in 2010. If you have any
comments or want to make suggestions, you are welcome to do so at .

The pronunciation of words is based on the local Bedouin dialect, which slightly differs from
the Egyptian. There are also words only used in the Bedouin language; if relevant they are
included and marked with an asterix (*). There are sounds in Arabic which for most
Westerners are difficult to pronunciate; they are marked and explained below, but do not worry
too much about mastering them unless you are taking learning Arabic very seriously a close
enough attempt will most often do. Following are some notes on how to read the phonetic
transliteration of Arabic words in this dictionary and pronunciate the sounds.

a As the vowel in hut or hat. kh A strong h, as in the Scottish loch.

aa As the vowel in bar or bad. i As the vowel in tin.
ay As the vowel in name. ii As the vowel in feel.
ai As the vowel in mine. j As the first sound in job.
The famous ayn a sound formed k As the first sound in king.
deep in the throat. It usually follows l As the first sound in look.
an a or aa sound, although is m As the first sound in more.
possible with other vowels. n As the first sound in name.
b As the first sound in bar. o As the vowel in top.
d As the first sound in door. oo As the vowel in hole.
d An emphatic d sound. r A rolled r.
e As the vowel in pet. s As the first sound in sit.
ee A long version of the sound e. s An emphatic s sound.
f As the first sound in fit. sh As the first sound in shop.
g As the first sound in gate. t As the first sound in top.
gh A glottal g, formed deep in the throat. t An emphatic t sound.
Sometimes it even sounds as r, th As the first sound in thin.
although usually g, as in gas, will do. u As the vowel in put.
h As the first sound in house. uu As the vowel in loop.
h A h sound, formed deep in the throat w As the first sound in what.
difficult to master, but usually a h y As the first sound in yellow.
will do. z As the first sound in zebra.

. : . :
. : . : A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 101

English Arabic in English

zero (0) safr, ziro ()
one (1) waahid ()
two (2) itnayn ()
three (3) talaata ()
four (4) arbaa ()
five (5) khamsa ()
six (6) sitta ()
seven (7) sabaa ()
eight (8) tamanya ()
nine (9) tisaa ()
ten aashara ()
eleven hadaashar ,
twelve itnaashar ,
thirteen talataashar ,
fourteen arbataashar ,
fifteen khamastaashar ,
sixteen sittaashar ,
seventeen sabataashar ,
eighteen tamantaashar ,
nineteen tisataashar ,
twenty ashriin
twenty one waahid u ashriin
twenty two itnayn u ashriin
twenty three talaata u ashriin
thirty talatiin
forty arbaiin
fifty khamsiin
sixty sittiin
seventy sabaiin
eighty tamanyiin
ninety tisaiin
hundred miyya
two hundred mitayn
three hundred totomiyya
four hundred rubamiyya
five hundred khamsomiyya
six hundred sittomiyya
seven hundred sabomiyya
eight hundred tomnomiyya
nine hundred tisomiyya
nine hundred and tisomiyya u saba u
twenty seven ashriin

thousand alf
two thousand alfayn A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 102
three thousand talatal alf
four thousand arbaatal alf
five thousand khamastal alf
nine thousand five tisaatal alf u
hundred and thirty six khamsomiyya u sitta u

ten thousand ashartal alf
twenty thousand ashriin alf
thirty thousand talatiin alf
hundred thousand mit alf
two hundred thousand mitayn alf
three hundred totomit alf
million milyoon

English Arabic in English

above fog
abroad barra
acacia siyaal
to accept yagbal
accident hadza
advice nasiiha
afraid khaiif
after bad
after tomorrow ba'd bukra ,
afternoon ba'd dohor
again taani ,
age amr, sin ,
to agree yuaafag ,
agreed itafagt ,
agreement itafag ,
air hawa
airplane tiyaara
airport mataar
all kol
allergy hasasiiya
allowed masmuuah
to allow yesmah
almond looz
almost tagriiban, hawaali ,
always daymon
and u, wa
angry zalaan * ,
animal hayuaan
ant namla
apple tufaah
approximately tagriiban, hawaali , A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 103
apricot mishmish
army jaysh
to arrive yasal
artist fanaan
ascent tuluua
ashtray tafaaia
to ask (a question) yasaal
asthma azma ,
atm (bank machine) mekanat sarf
aunt (on father side) ammah
aunt (on mother side) khaalah
autumn khariif
English Arabic in English
back (bodypart) dahr
back (location) warra
backgammon taaula
backpack shantat dahr
bad wahash, shiin* * ,
bag shanta, kis ,
baggage shanat
bakery forn
banana mooz
bank bank
basalt bazalt
basin farsh
bath, bathroom hamaam .
battery batariiya, hajar
beans fuul, fasulya -
beautiful jamiil ,
because ashaan , ,
bed siriir
bedouin bedu, beduii
bees nahl
beer biira
before gabl
before yesterday aul imbarrah
behind warra
below taht
beside, next to jamb ..
better (than) ahsan (min)
between biin
bicycle ajala
big kibiir
bill (account) hasaab, fatuura ,
binoculars darbiil* * ,
bird tair A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 104
birth wulaada ,
birth day ayd milaad
black aswad, azrak*
blanket bataniiya
to bleed yanzif
blood dam
blue azrak, suwemi*
body jism
boiled (egg, potato) masluug
boiling (water) tighli ,
bone azma
book kitaab
bored zahagaan
boring mumal
boss mudiir
bottle gazaaza
boulder hajaar kibiir
bowl (plate) tabag, sahan . ,
box sanduuk
boy walad
boyfriend sadiik
brain mokh
bedouin bread flat, fatiir, farashiih ,
made on metal sheet
bedouin bread thick, libba, libbat naar
made in fire
bread khobz, aysh ,
breakfast futuur*
breath nafas ,
to breathe yetanafas
brick tuub
bridge kobri ,
to bring ijiib *
broken maksuur
brother akh
brown bonni
bruise kadma, khabta ,
bucket dalu, jardal ,
bug hasharaat, bag ,
burn (injury) harak
to burn yaharak
bus otobiis
busy mashghuul
but laikan, bas ,
butter zibda ,
butterfly faraasha
to buy ishtirii A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 105
English Arabic in English
cabbage kromb
caf gahua
cairns (rock trail rojom*
to call yatasal
camel jamal
camel race sabak jamaal * ,
cameleer jammaal
camera kamira
camp mukhaiim
can (may) mumkin
can (tin) alba ,
can opener muftaah alb
to cancel yelghi
candle shama
cane (bamboo) gasab
canyon kanion, sig ,
car arabiiya
to care (for) yahtam (bi)
carob kharuub
carrot jazr
to carry ishiil
castle galaa
cat kotta
cave tabaga* * ,
center markaz
chair korsi
change taghriir
change (small money) fakka
to change yughair ,
cheap rakhiis
to cheat yaghesh ,
checkpoint kamiin, nogda ,
cheese jibna
chemist, pharmacy sadaliiya ,
chest sadr
chicken farkha
child, children ayl, ayaal . ,
chili shotta
christian misiihi
church kiniisa
cigarette sighaair
cigarette paper warag bafra * ,
city mediina
clean nadiif
clever zaki , A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 106
to climb itlah ,
close (near) graiib
to close igfil
closed magfuul
clothing huduum ,
cloud sahaab
coast shatt (beach), sahal ,
cockroach sarsur
coffee gahua
cold bard ,
cold (sicknes) bard, dishba* * ,
cold (feeling) bardaan, garsaan* * ,
to come yiji
come! taa'l
company shirka
compass bosla
to complain yashteki ,
complaint shakwa
composting (eco) toilet hamaam bii-i
concrete (cement) sement
congratulation! mabruuk
constipation imsaak
consulate konsuliiya ,
contact lenses adasat ayuun ,

cook (person) tabbaakh
to cook tutbukh
coral shaab morjaniiya ,
cordial (drink) asiir ,
correct masbuut * ,
cotton goton
cotton wool suuf
cough koha
country balad
court, tribal court mahkama, talba . ,
courtyard hoosh
cow bagara
crazy majnuun
credit card fiiza
cucumber khiyaar
culture thagaafa
cumin kamuun
cup kabaaya
cut (injury) jarah ,
to cut yigta A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 107
English Arabic in English
dance rags
to dance yargos
danger khatar
dangerous khatiir
darkness dalma, atma* * ,
date (fruit) tamr, balaah ,
date (palm) nakhla
date of birth tariikh milaad
daughter bint
dawn fajr
day yom
day time nahaar
dead maiit
deadly mumiit
deaf atrash
to decide yugarir ,
deep (water) ghawiit* *
descendent min asl ,
descent nazuul
desert sahra
destination itijaah
to destroy yudammar
development tatwiir
diabetes marad el sukkar
diarrhea is-haal
dictionary gamuus
to die imuut
different mukhtaalif
difficult saab, waar*
dinner asha
dirty mish nadiifa , ,
disabled mauag
discount khasm
disease marad
diving ghats ,
to do yiaamal, isuwi* ,
doctor doktor
dog kalb
donkey homaar
door baab
down taht
dream halm
drink mashruub
to drink yashrab
to drive isuug
driver suwaag A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 108
drums (instrument) tabla
drunk sakraan
dry naashif, yaabis ,
duck batta
dyke (geological) jidda*
English Arabic in English
each kol waahid
eagle nisr
early badri
to earn yaksab ,
ears ozonayn
earth ard
east sharg
easy saahal
to eat iaakul
eco bii-i
eco tourism siyaaha bii-iya
education taliim
egg bayd
eggplant bitinjaan
Egypt masr
Egyptian masri
electricity kahraba
embassy safaara
emergency tawaari
empty faadi
endangered species muhaddad bialangraad
engaged makhtub
enough kafaaya
to enter yadkhol
environment bii-ah
epilepsy saraa
equality biltasaawi ,
equipment muadet ,
evening bil layl, fil layl*
every kol
example misaal
for example masalan
exchange taghiir ,
excuse me loo samaht
expensive ghaali
eye, eyes ayn, ayuun . ,
English Arabic in English
face wish, wajah* ,*
factory masna A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 109
falcon sagr
fall (autumn) khariif
fall (accident) waga
to fall yaga
false ghalat ,
family ayla
famous mash-huur
fan (cooling) maruah
far baiid
fast sariiya
fat (stocky) takhiin
father ab ,
fault ghalta ,
fauna hayuanat
fear khof
feast ayd
to feel yihas ,
fence suur ,
ferry abaara
fever homma, sokhoniiya ,
few galiil
fianc/ fiance khatiib / khatiiba ,
film film
fig tiin
fig tree hamaata* * ,
to find yajid, yilagi ,
finger subaa
to finish akhlas ,
finished khalaas ,
fire naar
fire wood hatab
first aid isaafat auliiya
fish samak
flag aalam
flashlight kashaaf, batariiya
flat (surface) aadel ,
flood (flash flood) sayl
flora nabataat
flour digiig
flower ward * ,
fly (insect) dibbaana * ,
forbidden mamnuua ,
foreigner ajnabi ,
forever alatuul ,
to forget insi
fork shooka
food aakal * , A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 110
foot rijl ,
forest ghaaba
fossil hafrii ,
fox thaleb, abu husayn* * ,
free (of charge) balaash
free hor
freedom huriiya
friday joma
friend sadiik, saheb ,
front (in front of) gaddaam
fruit faakha
full milyaan
English Arabic in English
game laba
garbage zabayla
garden jiniina, karm* * ,
garlic thuum
gas gaaz
gas bottle anbuuba
gazelle ghazaala
generator mualid kahraba, motor ,
geology jilojiiya
gift hudiiya
girl bint
girlfriend sadiika, sahba ,
to give yiddi ,
glass gazaz *
glass (to drink from) kabaaya
glasses (to see) naddara
gloves juanti
to go imshi
lets go! yella, yella biina
goat mayza, anz* ,
god rab, allah ,
gold daahab
good kwais, helua ,
government hakuuma
to graft tarkiib shajara*
grandchild hafiid* *
grandfather jidd
grandmother jidda
granite jraniit, graniit
grapes anab
grave gabr
green akhdar A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 111
guava juaafa
guest dayf
guide diliil
gun baruuda* * ,
English Arabic in English
hair shaar
half nus ,
hand iid * ,
handicrafts mashoghulat
hand made sanaa yadawiiya
happy mabsuut
harbour miina
hard (difficult) saab, waar*
hard (not soft) khashn
harassment izaaj ,
hat tagiiya
to have iakhod
he hua, huu*
head raas
head ache sudaa
health saha
to hear yisma
heart galb
hearth magaad
heat har ,
heat stroke darbit shams
heater (air) dafaaya
heavy thigiil
helicopter tiyaara, helikopter ,
help masaada
to help yusaad
Help me! (in case of elhagni ,
herb ashab
herbalist, healer hakiim . ,
here hina, hini*
heritage turaath
high aali
high blood pressure daght dam aali
highschool sanawiya
hill tal
to hire iajar
history tariikh
hole fatha, khorm ,
holy mugaddas
honey aasal A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 112
honeymoon shahr aasal
horse hasaan
hose (pipe) khartuum
hospital mustashfa
host mudiif
hot sokhn
hot (feeling) haraan
hot weather har
hotel funduk
hour saa
house bayt, daar*
how kayf*, izay ,
how much/how many? kam ,
how much? (money) bikam
human bini aadam ,
hungry jaaan
hunting sayd
hurry aajala * ,
in hurry mustaajal
husband zuuj, jooz* * ,
hut (from palm leaves) hoosha
hyena dabbaa
English Arabic in English
i ana
ice talj
ibex (mountain goat) taytel, sayd * ,
id card botaaga
if lao
important muhaym
impossible mainfaash, mustahiil
indigestion osr hadm
injection hogna
injury jarah
insect khanbuush* * ,
insect repellent bairosol
inside juua * ,
insurance tamiin
interesting mumtah ,
international dauli
invoice fatuura
is fii, ikuun ( ),
is not mafiish, maikunsh ,*
island jaziira
itch hakka ,
itinerary bornaamij rahla A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 113
English Arabic in English
jacket banta* * ,
jail sijm ,
jam marabba
jar bortomaan
jewellery dahab
joke nokta
to joke ihazzar, idhak* ,
journalist sahafi
judge gaadi
juice asiir
to jump yinut
jumper (pullover) bulover ,*
justice adl ,
English Arabic in English
kettle baraad
key muftaah
kidney kilya
to kill yagtul
king malik
kiss buusa * ,
kitchen matbakh
knee rukba
knife sikiina, khoosa* ,
to know aaref, khaaber* * ,
English Arabic in English
lake buhiira
land ard
landmine alghaam
language logha
large kibiir
last aakhr
late mitaakhr
laugh dahk
law ganuun
lawyer muhaami
laxatives mula-in ,
lazy kaslaan
to lead yaguud
leader gaaid
leaf warag (shajar)
to learn yitallem
leather jild
to leave imshi * ,
left shimaal
leg rijl A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 114
lemon limuun
lentil ads
leopard (same as tiger) nimr ,
less (than) agal (min)
letter joaab
liar kadab, kudduub*
library maktaba
licence rughsa, tasriih * ,
to lie yakdub
life hayaa
light (not heavy) khafiif
light (brightnes) nuur
lighter wullaa
lighthouse fanaar ,
to like yihab
lion asad
to listen isma
little, small galiil, sughaiyir
little, few galiil, shuwaya , ,
to live yaiish
liver kibde
lizard (in general) zawaahaf ,
lizard (sinai agama) harduun* *
local mahalli
location mekaan ,
lock gafl
to lock igfil
long tawiil
to look ishuuf ,
to look for yidawar ala ,
to lose yidaya
loud aali
love hob
to love yihab
my love habiibi
low waati ,
low blood pressure hubuut
lucky mahsuus
luggage shanat
lump waram
lunch ghada
lungs riatayn
English Arabic in English
machine mekana ,
to make iamal, isui* * ,
man, men raajl, rajaal A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 115
manager mudiir
mandarin (tangerine) safandii *
mangrove mangroof
many kitiir
mango manja
map khariita
market suuk
married matjooaz
matches kabriit
mattress martaba
maybe mumkin
meat lahma
mechanic mikaaniki
medicine dawa
to meet yugaabal
melon shamaam
melon (water melon) batiih ( )
menstruation daura
metal hadiid ,
microbus mikrobas
midnight nus el layl
milk laban
mind (thinking) agl
mint nanaa
mint (wild mountain habak
minute digiiga
mirror miraaya
to miss (someone) yuhash nii
mistake ghalta
mobile phone mahmuul, moobail
mobile reception shabaka
monastery diir
money filuus, daraaham* ,
monk raahab
month shahr
moon gamar
more aktar
more (again) kamaan ,
morning sobh
mosque jaama
mosquito namuusa, bauuda* * ,
mosquito net namusiiya
mother umm
motorcycle motosiikl
to mount (a camel) yirkab
mountain jebel A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 116
mouse faar
mouth hanak*, khashm* * ,*
much kitiir
mud tiin, tiina * ,
mulberry tuut
museum mathaf
music musiika
musician azif muusika
muslim muslim
must laazim
mute saamet ,
English Arabic in English
name ism
nappy hafaad, bambarz
narrow da-yeg
nationality jansiiya
nature tabiia
natural, eco bii-i , ,
national park mahmiiya
nausea ghasayan
near graiib
necessary diruuri
to need yahtaaj
needle ibra
nervous asabi
net shabaka
never abadan
new jidiid
New Year sana jidiida
news akhbaar
newspaper jurnaal, jurnaan* * ,
next bad
next to jamb
niece bint akh/okht * ,
night layla
no la
noise, noisy doosha ,
noon dohr
north shimaal
nose anf, nokhra* * ,
not la, mish ,
notebook kuraasa ,
nothing mafiish * ,
now delwogti, el hiin* ,
nun raahaba A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 117
English Arabic in English
office maktab
oil zayt
ok tamaam ,
old (person) kibiir (fiil sin) ,*
old (thing) gidiim
olive zaituun
omelet omlet
onion basl
only bas
open maftuuah .
to open iftaah
operation (surgery) amaliiya
opposite aks
or au
orange bortogaal
oregano zaatar
to organize yunazzim
original asli
other taani *
outside barra ,
owner saahab
English Arabic in English
pain waja
palace gasr
palm (date) nakhl
palm leaf jiriid
pants bantaloon * ,
paper warag
party hafla
pasha baasha
passenger raakib ,
passport basbor, joaz safr
past, in the past zamaan
pasta makaroona
path tariik
to pay idfa
peace salaam ,
peach khokh
pear komitra, shitwi* ,
peas bizilla
peasant fellah
pen galam
people nas
pepper (vegetable, filfil
percent fiil miiya A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 118
permit tasriih
person nafr, fard ,
petrol benziin, betrool ,
pharmacy sidiliiya
photo suura
to photo yisaur
picture suura
pig khanziir
pigeon hamaama
pillow mughadda
pink bambii ,
pipe (hose) khartuum ( )
place mekaan
plant zaraa ,
plaster lazga
plastic blastiik
plastic bag kis blastiik ,
plate tabag
plum barghuug
poaching sayd aljaar
pocket jiib
poet sha-ar
poetry shar
poison simm
poisonous saam
police shorta
pollution talauth
pomegranate rumaan
pool (natural water galt, kharaza ,
pool ( swimming pool) hamaam sibaaha
poor fagiir
port miina
possible infaa, mumkin
post office bosta ,
pot (cooking) halla
potatoes botaatos
power taga, guua ,
to pray yisalli
prayer salaa
present, gift hudiiya
president rais
price saar
priest gasiis
prince amiir
princess amiira
prison sijn A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 119
problem mushkela
program bornaamij
to promise yuad
to protect yahmi
protected mahmii
pump tromba
pushy intahaazi ,
to put ihot ,
English Arabic in English
qualification tahiil, tadriib ,
quality jooda
quarry mahjar
quarter ruba
queen malika
question sual
quick siriiya
quiet haadi
quince safarjal, tafarjal * ,
English Arabic in English
rabbit arnab
race (competition) sabak
radio raadio
rain matar
rainbow aluaan el tayf * ,
rash boga jildiiya
rat faar kibiir
raw (uncooked) nayya
to read igraa
ready jaahez ,
really (originally) hagiigi ,
receipt fatuura
red ahmar
religion diin
to remember iftikar
to rent iajr
respect ahtraam
rest (remaining) baagi ,
rest raaha
to rest istaraiah ,
restaurant mataam
to return irja
rice ruz
rich ghani
to ride (a camel) irkab
right (correct) sah, masbuut ,
right (direction) imiin A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 120
road (general) tariik
road (asphalt) shayra, asfalt ,
rock hajar
rock hyrax wober
rocket (salad) jarjiir, rooka* * ,
rope habl
room ooda, looda* ,
round maduuar
rubbish zabayla
to run yajrii
English Arabic in English
sad (from) zalaan (min)
safari safaari
safe aamin
salad salata
salary marattab
salt milh
same (thing) nafs el shii
sand ramla
sandals sandal
to save (resources) yuaffar
to save (from danger) yunkiz
to say iguul
scared khaaiif
scarf shaal
school madrasa
scissors magas
scorpion agrab
sea bahr
to see ishuuf
to sell ibiiya
to sew ikhaat
shade dal
shampoo shambuu
shave halaga dign
she hiiya, hii*
sheep ghanm, kharfaan ,
sheet (for bed) milaaya
shell sadf
ship markab ,
shirt gamiis
shoes jazma
to shoot itukh * ,
shop mahal, dukaan ,
short gasiir
shoulder kitf A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 121
to show yubayn ,
shower hamaam, dush ,
shrine magaam
shrub shajara sughaira ,
to shut igfil
shy maksuuf *
sick mariid, wajaaan*, * ,
sickness marad ,
sign yafta
silver fadda
similar zei, mushaabih ,
simple basiit
since monzo, min ,
to sing yughanni
sister okht
to sit yagod
sitting place, hearth magaad
skin jild
sky samaa
sleep nom
to sleep inaym
sleeping bag kis nom
sleepy nasaan
slow batii
small sughaiyir
smell riiha
smoke dokhaan, dokhana* * ,
to smoke yudakhaan
snake thabaan
snow (ice) talj
soap sabuun
socks sharaab ( )
solar energy taga shamsiiya
soldier askarii
something haja
sometimes ahyaanan
son ibn
song oghoniiya
soon gariiban, graiib ,
sorry aasif
sound sot
soup shorba
south januub
to speak itkallam
spoon maalaga
spring (water) ayn A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 122
spring (season) rabiiya
square (shape) marabba
stairs, steps sillum
to stand yugof
star, stars nijma, najuum ,
to start yibda
station mahatta ,
to stay (remain) yibga
to steal yisrag
stomach maada
stomachache maghas
stone hajar
to stop yugof
to store yukhazzan
store room makhzan, gasor*
storm aasifa
story gassa
stove (gas) botogaz, mansab*
straight (direction) alatuul, doghri
straight (line, person) aadel, doghri ,
strawberry faraaula
stroke (health) jalta
strong shidiid, batraan* ,
student taaleb
sugar sukkar
summer sayf
sun shams, shamsh*
sun cream kriim shams
sun rise shruug
sun set ghruub
sure akiid
to swim aum
sweat arak
to sweat iarak
sweater (pullover) buloover ,
sword sayf
English Arabic in English
table tarabayza
tablet (medicine) gors dawa, asbirin* ,
to talk itkallam
tall tawiil
tasty helua
tea shai
tea pot baraad
teacher muderras
telephone tilifoon A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 123
to telephone (to) tasl (bii)
to tell iguul
tent khayma
tent (bedouin tent) bayt shaar
thank you shukron
there hanaak
they hum
thief haraami
thin rafiiya
thing haja, shii ,,
to think ifakkar
third, two third tilt, tiltayn , ,
thirsty atshaan
this haada, da ,
thought, idea fikra ,
thread khayt
throat zuur
thyme zaatar
ticket tazkara
tiger (same as leopard) nimr
time wogt
tin, can alba ,
tip (money) bakshiish
tired taabaan
tissues manadiil
tobacco dokhaan, khodri*
today innaharda, el yom* * ,
together maabaat, sawa
toilet hamaam, dorat el
toilet paper warag toalet
tomato tomaatom
tomato paste/sauce salsa ,
tomorrow bukra
torch, flashlight batariiya , ,
too, as well kamaan, bardo ,. * ,
tooth, teeth sin, sinaan , ,
tooth brush forshit sinaan
tooth paste majuun sinaan
to touch ilmis
tour leader morshid
tourist saaiah
tourist police shorta siyaaha
towel fuuta
tradition tagaliid ,
trail tariik ,
train gatar A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 124
to translate yutarjim
translator mutarjim
trap fakh ,
travel safar
tray (to serve food) saniiya
tree shajara
trek rahla
tribe gabiila
tribal law orfi
trousers bantaloon ,
truck loori, arabiiya nagl ,
to trust yasig
true sahiiah, hagiigi ,
truth hagiiga
to try ihaul
tuna tuuna
turkey (bird) dik ruumi, dindi* ,
turtle sulhafa
English Arabic in English
uncle (on father side) amm
uncle (on mother side) khaal
under taht
to understand faahem
university jamaa
up fog
Upper Egyptian saiidi
urgent diruuri ,
useful mufiid
English Arabic in English
vacation ajaaza
valley waadi
vegetables khudaar
vegetarian nabaati
very jiddan ,
view manzar
village gariia, balad ,
visa fiiza ,
English Arabic in English
to wait istanna ,
to walk imshi
wall hayta
walnut ayn el jamal
to want aaiiz ,
war harb
warm dafa A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 125
to wash ighsil
watch (time) saa
to watch ishuuf ,
water maya
water fall/cascade sid
water pool galt, kharaza * ,
water tank khazaan, hod * ,
watermelon batiikh
way tariik * ,
we ahna
weak daiif
weather jooa
wedding farah
week isbuua
welcome (for thank aafan
welcome (at arrival) marhabaa, ahlan u ,
well (water) biir
west gharb
wet mabluul
what ay, aysh* ,
wheat gamh
wheel ajala
when imta, mitay* ,
where fayn, wayn* ,
white abiad
who miin
whole kol
why lay, laysh* *,
wide waasa ,
wife zooja, maraat* ,
wild barri
to win iksab
wind hawa ,
window shibaak
wine khamra
winter shitaa
wire silk
with ma
without biduun, bala* , ,
wolf diib
woman, women mara*, hariim , * ,
wood khashab
wool suuf
word kilma
work shoghul
to work ishtaghal A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 126
workshop warsha
world aalam
worm duuda
wound jarh
to write iktib
wrong ghalat
English Arabic in English
year sana
yellow asfar
yes naam, aywa ,
yesterday imbarrah
yet lissa, bad ,
you (singular ente/enti, entu ,,
masc/fem, plural)
young sughaiyir
youth shabaab
English Arabic in English
zucchini koosa

Arabic by Suliman Subail el Heneny and Said Mahmoud Salah A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 127 A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai 128