Dave Lucas has been operating in The Sinai Desert for over 10 years and has amassed huge amounts of information on the desert. He has now been approached by a publisher to produce the guidebook, but whilst that has been in the making he has often been asked for advice from climbers, travellers or people on holiday about how things work in the Sinai Desert.
Of course there are loads of people out there who could provide a great service, but the people I am including in this section have been tested and are trusted by the Expedition Consultancy.
Here are our most recent updates.
Getting to The Sinai from The UK.
You can fly to three airports within Egypt.
- Cairo. The capital city of Egypt is often convenient to fly to (BA and Egypt Air) but is still a 7-hour drive, 9 to 13-hour bus ride or a 45-minute flight to The Sinai. If flying with Egypt Air and getting another flight to Sharm el Sheikh make sure you leave loads of time to transit as you have to clear immigration, collect your baggage, change terminals and re check-in at the domestic flight terminal.
- Sharm el Sheikh. This airport is the best to fly to. It is a 2 to 3 hour taxi ride to St Katherine’s and a 1:15 ride to Dahab. Always prearrange your taxi ride from here otherwise you will end up paying at least double for the journey. EasyJet currently flies here but can be more expensive than BA.
- Taba. The Expedition Consultancy has never flown to this airport, but it is an airport that can also be considered.
Traveling between towns and airport in the Sinai
There are many police check points on the roads around the Sinai. There are five just between Dahab and St Katherine’s. So always travel with your passport in your pocket or day bag.
East Delta Travel used to run public buses to St Katherine’s from Dahab but this service has not been available for many years now. East Delta buses do operate between Cairo and Sharm, Dahab and St Katherine’s, and from Sharm and Nuweiba. These prices are much cheaper then taxis and should be considered if you are on a tight budget.
The easiest way to travel is by taxi. In my mind there is no better taxi driver then Hameed (+201003106228). He speaks passable English and understands the Sharm airport system so provided with your flight details will be able to meet you there. He drives fast but safely and does not mind being asked to slow down. He is also very trustworthy and knows most other people described in this section. The Expedition Consultancy can contact him for you if need be.
There is also a minibus service called the Bedouin Bus that runs between Dahab, Nuweiba, Taba and St. Katherine. It works well and is fantastic value at 50 LE/ one way. Click here for more details and the timetable.
Click here for the latest UK FCO advice.
As soon as you stray away from the village you will be told that you need a guide. Some people think they are above this and try to avoid taking a guide. There are many reasons why you should take one (local employment, to avoid accident or getting lost, avoid cultural and environment insensitivities, explanations of plants, animals and culture) and we at The Expedition Consultancy say you would be silly not to take one.
Part of Dave Lucas’ role whilst working in St Katherine’s was to help train a select group of guides up to a higher level to act as guides for an EU development project. These guides were trained and tested in first aid to the same level as the UK first
aid at work level. At the Expedition Consultancy we know which of these guides are the best cooks, who can speak which language and knows particular areas of the desert the best. If you require a specific skill set then please do not hesitate to contact us. Otherwise I really do think the best guide in the St Katherine’s area is Nasr Mansor +201229306533 (him on the right).
The South Sinai Desert is made up of 7 different tribes and if you are planning to explore an area away from the standard St Katherine’s highlands then you will need to employ a guide from that tribal area. Contact us for more information.
In St. Katherine, if you arrive at the Sheikh’s office and ask for a guide then he will give you one from the dor system. This is a rota that ensures all families get an equal opportunity for work. These guides cost 80LE a day and vary massively in standards. You may get lucky and get one of the best or you may get an old man who will tell you anything to get you to walk a shorter distance. That is of course if he speaks English. Often or not they will just walk 50m ahead of you and you will be left to talk to yourself and just guess what you are walking past. We strongly recommend to organise your own guide. The dor system is very strict though, so you may still have to pay the full 80LE a day for the guide you do not want. If you are lucky you may be able to convince your guide to stay home and only get paid 40LE a day.
In general each camel comes with their owner whom then becomes part of the team. So make sure you count them in when you buy the food. The camels also operate on the dor system and some camel owners are better then others. In 2011 a camel will set you back 80LE a day for a standard distance of up to 3 hours walking. If you want them to go further or do a return trip then be prepared to pay 120LE or even 160LE for the day.
The route the camels take will most likely vary to the path you walk on, as they need a wide stable path to walk upon. They will also walk at their own pace and turn up when they turn up.
Only tip the guide or camel owners if you think they deserve it. Tipping is very personal and the amounts are up to you. If you think someone does not deserve a tip for any reason then make sure they understand why you are not tipping them.
Sheikh Mousa (old and young, yes there are two of them) run the Bedouin Camp in the Village and are responsible for sourcing your camels and dor guide. For this and liaising with the police he will insist that you pay 80LE a day. This has most likely gone up to 100LE already. Some people do not like to pay him and creep off into the mountains without his help. If you do this bare in mind that if there is an accident he may just leave you to it and not help you in a rescue. If things go wrong he is someone you want on your side.
If you are staying at Fox Desert Camp and have arranged a trek there then Farrag will act as Sheikh and will ask for a similar payment. The image below shows the two Sheikhs with Farrag in the middle.
The current exchange rate can be seen by clicking here. Never get Egyptian pounds from the UK as you will loose up to 20% on the exchange rate. The best option is to draw money out from the ATM on arrival or exchange hard currency (€ are best but most accept £). The only ATM at Sharm el Sheikh airport is before you go through immigration. The ATM at the St Katherine’s Monastery and in St Katherine’s village does not always work. The ATMs in Dahab are more reliable. The bank in St Katherine’s is willing to exchange hard currency although you will need your passport to do this.
Other sources of Information
Zoltan Matrahazi (see below) has been living in St Katherine’s Village and working with the Bedouin for the past several years and has become a vast source of knowledge regarding the town and the local Bedouin. He has developed various websites and publications to advertise what The Sinai has to offer. Zoltan has agreed to write the cultural chapter for the rock climbing guidebook to the area.
- St Katherines net website is a great source of information regarding St Katherine’s Village. Click here to visit the site.
- Discover Sinai, also written by Zoltan, includes information on all sites within the Sinai. Click here to visit the site.
- Click here for Zoltan’s comprehensive list of books and suggested reading on The Sinai Desert.
A list of all the existing routes around St Katherine’s Village can be see here. Note that these do not include the other routes developed in the last 10 years in other areas on expeditions led by Dave Lucas. It has been reported that some of these topos and route descriptions do not match each other. The original route descriptions are shown on the Israeli Mountaneering website. These topos are hard to print so if you wish to save some time you can download a PDF of the topos of routes around St Katherine’s Village at the bottom of this page. Warning: these files are large and are in 2 parts. An over view of the routes can also be downloaded here.