Egypt Independent

Newsweek: Bedouins trained to become tour guides revitalizes tourism in Sinai

A tour guide program is training Bedouins to be guides in South Sinai, in an initiative to lure tourists back to the peninsula, Newsweek reported Monday, adding that the program has already shown positive results.

The magazine referred to the experience young Bedouin man, Hosni Mubarak, from the Jabaliya tribe, who was selected last year to take part in the training program.

The magazine said that Mubarak has spent most of his life walking the desert in Egypt, so he knows where to find shelter in a flood, which plants are medicinal and when a storm is coming.

The class gave him additional skills, such as training in first aid and GPS navigation. Mubarak said he wants to be part of a grassroots tourist industry that will revitalize a community battered by geopolitical disaster. Tourism was the mainstay of the Sinai economy in the 1980s, according to Newsweek.

The waters abound with coral reefs that appeal to divers, and the rugged mountains have lured the hikers. The attractive, diverse atmosphere has benefited business for Bedouins in the past, but the political turmoil and security issues over the past years have destabilized the thriving industry.

According to the magazine, the deteriorating tourism sector pushed many tourism workers to leave their profession. Some Bedouin families sold their livestock or abandoned the gardens and farms that had supported them for years and trips across the desert came to a halt.

The idea of integrating Bedouin youth into the government’s plan to revitalize tourism is the first step towards building a proper tourism system based in preserving Bedouin culture and promoting tourism, according to the magazine.

The article points out that this plan can succeed despite the continuing unrest in Egypt, because South Sinai area is relatively calm, there have been no attacks in the mountains of South Sinai that have resulted in civilian casualties.

The magazine pointed out that the tribes cooperate with the government to monitor the region, provide information and ensure the community is invested in keeping the region stable.

The training for Bedouin youth focuses on walking the ancient route used by merchants and pilgrims to Mecca centuries ago.

The track is now fully equipped with detailed maps and credited guides, it said, and hikers will be allowed to walk 137 miles from the coastal plains off the Red Sea through canyons and deserts before ending at Mount Catherine.

Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm