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, travallers 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.
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 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. Easy Jet currently flies here but can be more expensive then BA.
- Taba. The Expedition Consultancy has never flown to this airport, but it is an airport that should be considered.
Traveling between towns and airport in the Sinai
There are many Police checks 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 in the last 5 years have stopped this service. 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 eaistest way to travel is by taxi. In my mind there is no better taxi driver then Hameed (+20103106228) 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 trust worthy and knows most other people described in this section. The expedition Consultancy can contact him for you if need be.
There is also a bus that runs called the Bedouin Bus and is working well click here for prices and details of 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 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 +20129306533 (see 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.
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 standard. 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 your self 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 your guide may be able to convince them to stay home and only get paid 40LE a day.
Each camel in general comes with their owner whom you will need to look after and feed. 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 will 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 liasing 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 show 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 you 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 Bedouinfor the past few years and has become a vast source of knowledge regarding the town and the local bedouin. He has developed various web sites 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 Expedition Consultancy will be spending March and April 2012 repeating as many of the routes as possible to improve the condition of the topos. These topos are hard to print if you wish to save some time then 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 there.
We have just spent the last month out in the Sinai Desert researching the area for the hopeful completion of the first Sinai climbing guidebook.
It was during this trip that we mapped the Abu Hsheb Canyon. This canyon has long been known about by the Israeli climbers, but it was not until 2008 that Dave Lucas first found it. (Click here to read an account of a trip he guided.) In that trip the canyon was dry as it was in June, but in this trip we were lucky enough to find water and we were forced to swim and abseil in our undies.
We also are pleased to discover that the local climbing scene is developing well. There are more climbers living permanently in the Sinai who are keen to help develop the local scene.
- Jenny Lord (+201099217029) and Jamie Browne (+201097951089) have started a climbing company together in Dahab called Above Sea Level that operates out of the Lighthouse at the northern end of Dahab Bay. They started in 2011 just after the Egyptian revolution. They guide experienced climbers on the local routes around Dahab and in St Katherine, and teach beginners and those wanting to increase their grade. If you climb any new routes around the coast of The Sinai then please leave this route information with them.
- Misha (Михаил Хоменюк) (+201069479518) is a Russian climber and keen windsurfer with extreme levels of enthusiasm. He will be working alongside The Expedition Consultancy to help translate the guidebook into Russian once it is complete.
- Marco (+201283244016) is a Swiss man living in St Katherine who is very active in developing routes around the coast inland from Nuweiba
They are all happy for me to post their contact details and do not mind to be called in case of problems and the need of a rescue arises. In fact Jamie and Misha were part of a Bedouin requested goat rescue. Click here to read the full account, note that it is in Russian.
The climbing scene in Dahab is also going through the inevitable access confusion as other tour providers become confused about their role. if you do require instructional services then make sure you shop around as quality between companies does vary.Recently a company have tried to fence of the Waterfall area of Wadi Q’nai so as to charge an entrance fee. The statement I have been given from the owner of the company is that they are using the money to pay Bedouin to clean the area. They also want to “control” the climbing scene to prevent injury and death. These are both good intentions, which hopefully will remain true.
Sheikh Mousa has increased the prices for guide, camel and sheikh permission for the area to 120LE per day. Note that the term per day is often used as a day’s effort so expect to pay guides and camels double or 1.5 times the amount if you do long days.
The Bedouin Bus is running well and the best way to travel around the Sinai.
The Bedouin Camp in St Katherine’s is becoming a great place to stay. Their dorms are only 25LE per person. Their bathrooms are clean and new, the showers are good and hot. Saleh, the manager for the camp, has now realised that there is a demand for a kitchen to be used by climbers and backpackers to cook their own food in. This is a great idea especially if you need breakfast and a coffee before heading off on early starts.
We are doing our best to collect all the existing route information for the Sinai. If you are reading this and realise you have route info that is not known about then please send it to us. Also as a lot of the routes around St Katherine’s have bad route descriptions. So if you have climbed an existing route recently and have a better route description then please send that to us. Clicking here will take you to a page that describes the way that we would like routes recorded. It is also possible to read how to star your routes and also the bolting ethics for the area.
An account of a journey completed coast to coast across There Sinai by a team of climbers lead by Dave Lucas written by Geoff Hornby and published in the Alpine Club Journal can be seen here
Mobile phone network, signal and internet update:
If in recent months you have been trying to reach your contacts in Egypt you may have found that the phone numbers no longer work. This is because all the phone codes for mobiles have changed. Below shows how they have changed, replace the prefix with the following respective number:
010 – 0100
016 – 0106
019 – 0109
011 – 0111
014 – 0114
012 – 0122
017 – 0127
018 – 0128
0150 – 0120
0151 – 0101
0152 – 0112
It is still easy to get SIM cards within all phone shops within Egypt, but be prepared to leave a copy of your passport for the phone number to be registered to. You may not need to with some phone providers, but after a day or so your phone will stop working and you will need to take it back it the shop to register. This is done with varying effectiveness depending on the shop owner. The last few times they just registered it with a passport they kept in a draw.
The signal strength along the main roads in The Sinai has been dramatically improved with new aerials being installed in many new locations. St Katherine’s phone signal and Internet often drops, but once in the mountains it is possible to find signal from towers further a field. In general Mobilnil has been the best provider for signal within the mountains.
WiFi can be found in all the towns of The Sinai, even in small Bedouin beach camps. This had had a knock on effect on making internet cafes less in demand and there fore less frequent.