The Tribal System
The Sinai is a land of Bedouin tribes. Eight Bedouin tribes live in South Sinai today and in the whole of the Sinai, North and South Sinai together, there are more than 20 tribes. Every tribe has its own territory, which it controls closely. Generally, Bedouin tribes working in tourism rule hikers must be accompanied by Bedouin guides. Independent hiking - where you walk alone without a guide - is not allowed. As a further rule, tribes usually require this guide be one of their own tribesmen. In the lands of the Garasha, for example, a tribesman of the Jebeleya is not allowed to guide independently. Similarly, tribesmen of the Garasha can not guide alone in Jebeleya lands. Some tribes are more easy going than others. The Muzeina and Awlad Said do not oppose guides of other tribes working in their lands. Nevertheless, it can depend on circumstances. For bigger groups of hikers, it is more likely the tribe will insist their own tribesmen must be represented. Camels must always be hired from the local tribe. Completing the Seven Summits involves hiking in the territories of four different Bedouin tribes: the Garasha have one of the Seven Summits, the Jebeleya, two. Three of the summits are in Awlad Said lands, and just one in the territory of the Muzeina. Everything about tribes, guides and camels is made clear on for every mountain. When fixing any trip on the Seven Summits hikers can contact us.
Bedouin guides are mandatory. Hikers are not permitted to walk without them in the Sinai. Bedouin guides will not only show the way; they'll tell you about the place names, legends of the landscape, tribal history and boundaries; they'll tell you about the plants and how to use them, along with the tracks of the animals. They'll keep you safe in a remote environment the Bedouin have lived in for centuries and they'll speak on your behalf with people you meet on the way. Hikers shouldn't feel like a Bedouin guide will constrict their independence. The Bedouin are a firecely independent people who value freedom and guides often become as much a part of the journey as the mountains themselves.
Supporting a hike
Completing the Seven Summits involves visiting a remote mountain wilderness. Most of the time, there are no settlements, shops or easy end-of-the-day conveniences. Although some summits can be completed in 1-2 days, most involve multi-day hikes. On longer journeys hikers must set out with everything needed and carry it until the end. Carrying water, food and hiking gear is difficult over multi day journeys - especially on strenuous mountain ascents involving tricky scrambling - and consequently ascents of the Seven Summits are usually supported with camels or jeeps. The system works like this: hikers and their Bedouin guide walk during the day, each carrying a small backpack with water, lunch and other essentials. Bigger bags, usually called 'camel bags' - with tents, sleeping bags and other heavy overnight gear - are carried by the support team to an evening rendezvous on an easier route. This means hikers walk light during the day, but have everything needed at night.
For thousands of years, the Bedouin loaded their camels with water, food and tents, making journeys in search of water and grazing for their flocks. Although jeeps have pushed the camels out of service in many parts of the Middle East and parts of the Sinai, they remain common in mountain regions. Camels remain the only way of carrying heavy loads through most parts of the Sinai and they are important for hiking groups on the Seven Summits. We encourage hikers to use camels wherever possible; travelling with camels has a much lighter impact on the environment and it helps conserve traditional Bedouin knowledge skills and liveilhoods in an era it remains endangered.
Jeeps became more common in the Sinai in the second half of the 20th century. Today, jeep roads crisscross most parts of the peninsula outside the mountain regions and most of the Sinai's mobile Bedouin families use them to get around. Jeeps can carry heavier loads and allow faster travel than camels. Although it is recommended hikers use camels where possible jeeps - or more commonly pick-up trucks - can be useful too. They often save hikers 1-2 days time in approaching advanced trailheads. On many hikes, jeeps and camels can be used together. Jeeps can meet camels at advanced trailheads, which carry baggage onward, going deep into the more inaccessible parts of the mountains.