Finding maps for trekking in the Sinai can be an orienteering challenge in itself. Everything worth anything you do find will be at least 30 years out of date. Old maps obviously won’t show new roads or settlements and water sources – once full – might now be empty. But even old maps are worth taking. They’ll instantly improve your sense of orientation; what’s more, they’ll tell you place names, camel routes, the whereabouts of old ruins etc and your surroundings will mean more. Some of the best maps you can get on the Sinai and a few notes on how to find them are sketched out below.
BRITISH SURVEY OF EGYPT, 1:100,000 These were published in the 1930s and remain the largest scale English language maps available for the Sinai today. They don’t have contour lines and accuracy is lacking in some places, most notably the High Mountain Region; but even so, they help when navigating big, easy wadi treks in the desert. They cover the whole of the Sinai and come in a series of large sheets. Each sheet is GBP£10 are you can buy copies from the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY library in London.
SURVEY OF ISRAEL, 1:100,000 The Survey of Israel made excellent maps in the 1970s. The best was a 1:100,000 map, with accurate co-ordinates, contours and an overlay of English names. It’s not available to buy any more. You can still see it in a few libraries but you can’t take copies. A 1:250,000 Israeli map is the next best option but it’s more a map for getting a broad idea of what’s where than one for real routefinding on trail. A derivative version called the Sinai Map of Attractions is sold in the Sinai but prints are often poor.
SOVIET MAPS, 1:200,000 These are similar to the Israeli maps, with contours and co-ordinates, but everything is written in Cyrillic. You can get them online and they’re so detailed you can zoom into a higher scale. Once you’ve identified the areas to cover, you can even print copies to take. They’re available at the VLASENKO MAPS website. Find the English title at the bottom left corner of the homepage and go from there.
OTHER MAPS A High Mountain Region map – based on the original high-scale Israeli maps – is widely available. You’ll find it in the inset of the Sinai Map of Attractions, which you can buy in the Sinai (mentioned above). Some versions – like the one in the picture – don’t have contour lines, which makes them less useful. Another map that came out in 2011 is the Saint Catherine Trekking Map, by Geodia. It’s a higher scale than most other maps – which makes it good for trekking – but it only covers the High Mountain Region.
OTHER OPTIONS Satellite imagery is widely available online today. You can zoom in to high scales and images will show new roads, settlements etc. But there are drawbacks: satellite images don’t show important things like water sources, place names etc and – in the mountainous areas – they won’t show trails and short cuts over rocky terrain. It’s a great tool but best used alongside more formal maps. GPS is also excellent: waypoints will help confirm where you are and GPS tracks can make following trails much easier. Useful as GPS is though, it’s accuracy is reduced in mountain areas where the view of the sky is limited. Batteries die, devices break, and satellite signals can be scrambled too.