Egypt sinai Eco tourism
Egypt sinai Eco tourism 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.Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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 world’s 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 world’s oldest continuously inhabited monastery.
Christian monasticism has its origins in Sinai- Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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.
Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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 Katherine’s 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.Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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.
Each page on the sights is laid out as follows:Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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 area.
5) Zoom map: Map showing the detailed geographic location of the area.
6) Points of interest within this area.
Maps to South Sinai-Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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 Society’s map of Sinai, coming in many separate sheets, is more detailed, but is rather expensive and for the High Mountain Region the local map’s inset is the better.
We used this inset for the sights around St. Katherine.
For other destinations we used Google Earth images.
Organizing a trek or safari
Sinai, and Egypt in general, is not for the hard-core independent traveler; you can’t 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 probablyinclude the Monastery of St. Katherine and Mt. Sinai and possibly a fast 4×4 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.Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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.
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- Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ingardens 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:Egypt sinai Eco tourism
they don’t 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 sinai Eco tourism
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 .
In the mean time, use common sense and always look behind the “green” façade – remember, green washing is a marketing strategy.
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:Egypt sinai Eco tourism
- Minimize impact
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
- 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.
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 nation’s 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 EEAA’s national parks system thus served as the beginnings of Egypt’s 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 Egypt’s natural heritage as the cornerstone of the ecotourism industry”.
In the past decade, international organizations–namely USAID and the EU–have become involved with tourism in the protectorates, expanding and emphasizing Egypt’s 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 Mövenpick resorts about environmental management.
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.
YOUR GUIDLENES FOR RESPONSIBLE TREKKING-Egypt sinai Eco tourism
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
- 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
- Respect Bedouin culture and traditions
- Ask permission before using wells, as these are usually private property
- 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