The High Mountain Region is an area of rugged granite peaks, sometimes dubbed ‘The Roof of Egypt’. Home to Mount Sinai and the Monastery of St Katherine, the area is steeped in history and fable. Every trek starts and finishes in the town of St Katherine except one trek – the Jebel Umm Shomer trek – which leads all the way from St Katherine to the Gulf of Suez. Treks can be done as shorter, individual routes or linked together into a much bigger regional circuit taking 10-14 days. Read more about St Katherine as a trekking base HERE. For photos of the treks, check out our GALLERY.
NORTHERN PEAKS CIRCUIT The mountain massif to the north of St Katherine is the most untrodden part of the whole High Mountain Region. Its three major summits are ascended in the first half of this trek: Jebel Suna, Jebel el Ojar and Jebel Banat. The second half is more of a wadi walk; you pass the high waterfall of Sed el Nugra before cutting out of the High Mountain Region to the lowlands. You re-enter on a beautiful, centuries-old pilgrim trail to the Monastery of St Katherine, through Naqb el Hawa or Pass of the Winds. The last stretch is an easy, gently rising trail where it’s always good to ride a camel.
GALT EL AZRAQ This trek shows the High Mountain Region at its finest – it’s the best in the area. It begins by winding through rugged wadis to the deep blue pool of Galt el Azraq (where you can swim). You move into the wilder, western ranges of the mountains from here, climbing the frontier summit of Jebel Bab el Dunya. Meaning Door to the World this looks out over the Red Sea to Egypt and the jagged peaks of Africa rise in sharp outline on a good day. You traverse a line of high cliffs after this – with some dropping off nearly a vertical kilometre – before finishing in some pretty wadis lined with green Bedouin orchards.
JEBEL KATHERINA & JEBEL ABBAS BASHA Jebel Katherina is Egypt’s highest summit: an obvious, time-honoured trekking target. Jebel Abbas Basha, the second highest peak in the local area, is crowned with the ruins of an old Ottoman palace. This isn’t a remote trek but both peaks are climbed by adventurous, off-the-beaten trail routes where you’ll see Byzantine ruins. You can do it in two days or spend the second night on Jebel Katherina, making it three. Africa and Asia – the two biggest continents on earth – are both visible from the top and you’ll see the sunset, sunrise and shimmering lights of faraway towns at night.
MOUNT SINAI Mount Sinai – or Jebel Musa as the Bedouin know it – is a holy peak for millions of people. This is where it’s said Moses stood before God to receive the Ten Commandments. There are two tourist routes to the top: the Camel Path and Steps of Repentance (both often combined in a circuit). This trek takes you up another way, long favoured by local monks, pilgrims and the Bedouin. You can wander the mountain’s forgotten chapels and climb the peak of Jebel Safsafa – Mountain of the Willow – which some believe is the real spot God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. After that, you can go to Mount Sinai.
JEBEL EL DEIR Jebel el Deir stands opposite Mount Sinai: a mass of bulging cliffs and rounded pinnacles. It’s sledom climbed and has virtually no trails; it’s more a scramble than a trek and will appeal to the adventurous trekker. High up, it has a hidden complex of Byzantine ruins, complete with dams, stairways, old churches and a hermit cell, along with a beautiful high basin where you can gaze down on the Monastery of St Katherine. It’s an excellent spot to escape the crowds and is a great spot for sighting ibex.
JEBEL UMM SHOMER Egypt’s second highest mountain, Jebel Umm Shomer is a mass of sharp teeth and foreboding pinnacles. It remained unclimbed until 1862, defying several intrepid explorers. The way is well-trodden today, but it’s strenuous with plenty of scrambling. The second half is all downhill; you follow an ancient mountain road that once linked Mount Sinai with the port of Raithu. There’s a spectacular gorge in the last stretch; one of the Sinai’s great natural wonders. You finish on the Plain of Qa – a huge seaboard plain that stretches down to the Gulf of Suez – from where you can move on to the town of El Tur; a town with hot, therapeutic springs, great for soothing aching limbs.