Trekking in Today's Sinai
By Angela Wierstra
The "great and terrible wilderness" of the Bible has turned into a luxurious holiday paradise. Sinai has become well known for deluxe resorts located on the beaches of the Gulf of Aqaba and is famous for its extraordinary underwater world.
Little is known about the Sinai inhabitants, the Bedouins. Not long ago Sinais Bedouin were half-nomads, traveling the remote desert by camel and on foot. They were following a traditional way of life based on a pastoral culture of grace and honor.
Today, Bedouins are adapting to the new environment. Goat-hair tents made way for concrete buildings. Youngsters fancy TV more than listening to the old tribal stories as told by the elder members of the tribe. Sickness is healed by modern pharmaceutical products rather than by ancient herbal treatment. The camel is kept out of sentiment and as an attraction for tourists - 4 wheel drive has taken over transportation. Indeed, life has become a lot easier and faster. Yet, every now and then, every modern Bedouin disappears into the desert, "to clean the head" as they say, to take a break from the hassle of everyday life, away from the "dawsha".
A journey into the mystic wilderness is a worthwhile and authentic adventure experiencing the desert in a different way, through the eyes of the Bedouins. The Bedouins are proud of their ancient culture and independence, and they are known for their hospitality. During a camel trek, they invite us to be their guests. On this journey, we experience the desert in its pure beauty. At a slow pace, we explore the always-changing terrain. The silhouettes of the mountains change with the daylight. So do the colors. Time becomes meaningless - another dimension.
The loading, the shouting and accompanying mayhem, the meeting with your camel and the first tentative moments in the saddle, all add to the sense of anticipation. The caravan gradually comes together and moves peacefully and slowly into the mountain wilderness, leaving noisy civilization behind. Every day is different as the Bedu take us through wadis and canyons of many different colors and shapes of sandstone formation eroded by centuries of wind. Vegetation is sparse, and yet with some luck, we might see a desert fox or even a gazelle looking down on us from a high crag.
The daily routine starts when we wake up with the first sunbeam. A quick wash while our Bedouin friends have prepared breakfast consisting of sweet tea and delicious ash-baked bread. We load and move on. We are never in a rush. There is always time for a short walk to a breathtaking viewpoint or a little oasis. Around mid-day we stop for lunch, passing the hot hours of the day in the shade under a rock or a cliff or beneath an acacia tree. Before dark we set up camp for the night. Then we join the Bedouins around the campfire where they have prepared simple and tasty one-pot meals. We listen to their songs and stories of the old days, before we crawl into our sleeping bags watching the innumerous stars.
These treks need nothing more than a fondness of nature and outdoor living along with the ability to adapt to a simple lifestyle. The Bedouins guide us; with their extraordinary hospitality and kindness, they care for us and our concerns.
The positive feedback of camel treks has inspired us with the idea of a camel riding school. Not everybody has the chance and ability to join a trek, but curiosity remains about the Bedouin lifestyle. The camel once was the source of survival for the Bedouin. It was the common transportation, it was the travel companion, it provided with milk, water, meat, and from its hair clothing, rugs, bags and even parts of the tent was woven.
Since two cultures are interacting, this should happen in a safe environment on neutral territory. We have chosen Habiba Village in Nuweiba. Habiba is located on the beach, not far from the town center and its aim is to protect the essence of the Sinai: simplicity and relaxation combined with high quality services.
The school is held on the beach in a casual atmosphere. For the lessons, we have chosen experts among the Bedouins, who possess the traditional knowledge about camel-raising, herbal medicine and the desert. One of the Bedouin will act as a translator. The theme of the school is the camel, but the aim is to transmit the wisdom of life in a different culture. Since the Bedouins are talented storytellers ancestry and historical events are told by mouth from generation to generation they tend to easily catch the attention of the audience by a spirited presentation of facts and stories.
Treks after attending the course will vary. We collect the water. We cook the food and we learn how to make the tasty ash-baked bread. We learn how to collect the wood for the campfire, while taking care not to damage the fragile desert environment.
If you are interested in our Camel Riding School or a full desert trek, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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