When Ben Hoffler, a trail developer who has been based in Egypt for the last 10 years, spent the 2000s hiking in the mountains that shape the Sinai Peninsula, he used to stand and look toward mainland Egypt, fascinated by the range of hills that rose on the other side of the Red Sea. “I had the urge to cross and see whether those mountains would have a similar story to Sinai,” he told Al-Monitor.
Hoffler, whose main focus is exploring synergies between modern tourism and the conservation of ancient nomadic heritage, developed a plan for the area and it has finally been realized. On Jan. 28, the first long-distance hiking trail in mainland Egypt opened, designed and prepared with Hoffler’s help by the local Bedouins over the last five years. The Red Sea Mountain Trail, a 170-kilometer (105-mile) route, takes 10 days to hike. The route was created by members of the Khushmaan clan in their traditional territory. The Khushmaan clan is part of the Maaza, one of Egypt’s biggest Bedouin tribes, whose roots trace back to the Hejaz of the Arabian Peninsula and whose territory lies in the northern half of Egypt’s Red Sea mountains. Among them is Jebel Shayib el Banat, mainland Egypt’s highest peak at 2,187 meters (7,175 feet).