Jebel Um Shomer

A sharp, jagged summit with an almost Alpine feel, Jebel Um Shomer towers 2587m over a wilderness of rugged hills and winding wadis. Thunder was once said to echo around its summit, leading some to suggest it was the real Mount Sinai of The Bible. One legend has it an immortal maiden - whose hair flowed in rich waves down her back - lived in its high crags, bewitching wayfarers with enchanting song before disappearing forever when a hunter tried to catch her. Up until the 19th century, Jebel Um Shomer was reckoned to be the Sinai's highest mountain and it became a prestigious target for European mountaineers, all of whom wanted to be the first to reach the top. Swiss explorer J. L Burckhardt - the first European to see Petra - attempted an ascent in the early 19th century, but turned back before the steep summit crags. Englishmen T.E Yorke and T. J Prout - whose names remain carved into a summit boulder - made the first recorded summit climb in 1862. In the following decades, it was conclusively shown Jebel Um Shomer was the Sinai's second highest mountain after Jebel Katherina. From the top of Jebel Um Shomer, hikers can gaze over the Gulf of Suez to the high summits of mainland Egypt and Africa. Sometimes in clear weather the Hejaz mountains of Arabia are visible too. Jebel Um Shomer gives an excellent mountain adventure, with steep scrambling almost all the way to the summit. 

Ascent routes

Jebel Um Shomer is best completed in 2 days. The classic ascent begins from a place called Zeituna, about 20km south of St Katherine. A rough trail leads over the peak of Jebel Abu Shejera from Zeituna to the mountain. Getting up Jebel Um Shomer involves scrambling up a ravine. A return to Zeituna can be made via the chapel of Deir Rimhan, which also gives a good camp spot. The pass of El Brega leads  from here to Zeituna. Another option is to walk from Deir Rimhan to the Sinai's coastal plain via Wadi Isleh, which narrows into a dramatic gorge in its final section. On this route, 3 days are recommended. With an early start fit, active hikers can finish Jebel Um Shomer in 1 day, starting from Zeituna and returning the same way. 

Tribes & territories

Jebel Um Shomer is in the territory of the Awlad Said tribe. The Awlad Said have a large territory in the Sinai and three of the Seven Summits stand within their tribal borders. Alongside Jebel Um Shomer, Jebel Rimhan and Jebel Thebt are in Awlad Said territory. The Awlad Said are not as strict as other tribes in enforcing a rule that every guide must be one of their own tribesmen. Jebeleya guides commonly work on Jebel Um Shomer. Nevertheless, we recommend Awlad Said guides are part of any team as this is their region and it should be their right to work. Whichever tribe the guide is from camels must always be hired from the Awlad Said when journeying through their lands. Everything can be arranged in St Katherine.  

Getting there & away

About 20km south of St Katherine, it is possible to walk to Zeituna in a day but a 4x4 accelerates the journey time to a little less than 2 hours. An empty monastery storeroom gives shelter at Zeituna if required. For hikers walking to the coastal plain, a Bedouin village stands at the end of Wadi Isleh. 4x4s can be hired here for the 25km onward journey to El Tur. From El Tur, buses run to Cairo, Sharm and Dahab. Hikers climbing Jebel Um Shomer on a 2 or 3 day schedule are advised to hire a camel to carry food, water and bags. Camels do not go to the mountain itself; they walk to Deir Rimhan, where camp is made. Having them means hikers do have to carry heavy bags on the scramble to the top.  

Difficulty level

Jebel Um Shomer is one of the more challenging peaks of the Seven Summits. Trails are rough and steep, sustained scrambling is involved. It is rarely exposed but the occasional tricky step has to be passed below the summit. Everything will be harder for hikers who carry their own gear rather than hiring a camel. After Jebel Um Shomer the walking is easy: a good, well-trodden camel trail leads up the pass of El Brega to the trailhead of Zeituna. For hikers going to the coastal plain, the walking is downhill and easy all the way. Jebel Um Shomer is a good peak to attempt after easier mountains like Jebel Katherina and Jebel Tarbush have been successfully completed. It gives an excellent introduction to scrambling.