Reach the higher peaks of South Sinai and the mountains spread forth like undulating heartbeats. From up here, you can see from north to south, from desert to sea. The geography is fluid. Borders overlap and intertwine, all defined and interpreted through the visions of developers, the Egyptian military, and Bedouin tribes.
In St. Katherine, the landscape remains unchanged. Centuries old camel and goat paths are etched into mountains, which emerge stark and jagged from the desert. An Ottoman fort overlooks the city. Family gardens, passed down through generations, scatter the range. Sprinkled throughout the area are long-abandoned vegetable cellars and cave dwellings.
I’ve come to the Sinai for a locally organized trek called “Sinai is Safe.” For two days, a group of Bedouin guides directs 65 Egyptians and a few foreigners through the mountains. We sleep beneath the stars in a Bedouin garden, under the cover of olive and pomegranate trees.
South Sinai has been struck with several major terrorist attacks
The event is partly an advertisement for the stunning landscape, an attempt to show off the potential for a thriving ecotourism business. But mostly it’s a public declaration against a deep-seeded stigma against the Sinai Peninsula and its people. The hike “will make the people be more brave to come to this part of Egypt, because in the media they keep on showing that is like a war zone, while is the most peaceful place in the planet,” says Omar, from Cairo, one of the trip’s organizers who came to Sinai several years ago and has been returning ever since.