This Dangerous Hike In The Middle East Takes Even Professional Hikers Several Days To Complete

Egypt's allure as a destination goes way beyond swanky Red Sea resorts and camel tours of majestic pyramids and ruins. What many people don't realize is that the country also has large swathes of pristine wilderness and a burgeoning hiking scene, with an array of options from short day trips to pilgrimage walks and multi-week treks. Some hikes lead to exotic locations, such as the 7,496-foot-high summit of Mt. Sinai, a sacred mountain in Jewish, Islamic, and Christian traditions.  

A relatively new addition to the hiking scene is the Red Sea Mountain Trail, a 106-mile loop through the stunning Red Sea Mountains that's the first long-distance trekking trail in mainland Egypt. This remote and little-traveled route was developed by the local Maaza Bedouin tribe, who have been the guardians and owners of this rugged land for centuries. Tribal members provide guided trips to showcase the natural beauty of their homeland and generate sustainable sources of income for their families and villages. While exploring this trail is indeed an epic adventure, it's not exactly a walk in the park. To complete the whole loop, even advanced hikers would need around two weeks. That's quite the hiking marathon!

Discovery along the Red Sea Mountain Trail

Two weeks may definitely be warranted, as there's so much to see and experience. The Red Sea Mountain Trail is an immersion in the raw beauty of one of the most underexplored wildernesses in the Middle East. Walking the trail is also an opportunity to discover the rich history of the area and learn about the Maaza Bedouins' nomadic way of life. Ben Hoffler, the author of Sinai: The Trekking Guide, who helped open the Red Sea Mountain Trail in 2018 noted that "there's no better way to show who the Bedouin are than to walk a path with them," per CNN

The trail traces pre-existing paths in the area, including ancient Roman roads and routes used by traders, shepherds, hunters, and monks. It travels up and down through a variety of landscapes, from desert plains to deep canyons (known as wadis) with water pools and jagged mountain peaks. Ruins from the ancient Roman towns of Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites are scattered along the way, along with prehistoric rock art and chapels of the Desert Fathers, a group of early Christian hermits who pursued lives of simplicity in nature. While some sections of the trail are flat, other sections are quite rough, with steep parts that require rock scrambling. Fortunately, hikers can choose which segments of the route to target based on distance and difficulty.

Planning and logistics

All excursions on the Red Sea Mountain Trail must be arranged through the local Bedouin guides. Costs for one-day hikes include round-trip jeep transport between Hurghada and the trailhead, a guided hike, lunch, water, and tea. As of late 2023, the Red Sea Mountain Trail Association notes that overnight stays are not possible on the trail, so the route must be completed in one-day segments. However, this may change soon; check their website for updates. 

The starting point for trips on the Red Sea Mountain Trail is the city of Hurghada, which is easily accessible by flights into its international airport. This colorful resort town on the Red Sea has a warm and dry climate year-round and all the creature comforts, which you'll appreciate before or after your rugged hiking expedition. These include luxurious hotels and lovely beaches as well as a plethora of water sports, restaurants, bars, shops, and more. Hurghada also makes for a great home base when exploring other parts of Egypt, with famous sites such as Luxor, only a four-hour drive away.