Strictly speaking, as marked on the locally available map, the High Mountain Region is the area around the town of St Katherine – this is where Egypt’s highest and holiest peaks, Mt. Katharina and Mt. Sinai, are found. This area also corresponds to the tribal territory of the Jabaleya Bedouin tribe. However, the whole south-western tip of the peninsula is a mountainous landscape and in fact some of the highest mountains, such as Jebel Umm Shaumar and Jebel Serbal, are located further away from St. Katherine. Sometimes this whole mountainous area is referred to as the High Mountains, while the area around St. Katherine as Central High Mountains. On this page the attractions in the broader area are listed.
Bab el Donya: Bab el Donya and Jebel Bab are two peaks of the same range, on the perimeter of the high mountains. To the west you get spectacular views of lower ranges running towards the Gulf of Suez and in clear weather you can see across the sea. The spring of Ein Najila, at the foot of Bab el Donya, drips from the mountain to a stone fountain. The overflowing water forms a little creek running through a series of shallow granite pools and disappearing in the sandy wadi floor.
Blue Desert: The Blue Desert – marked as Blue Valley on some maps and known locally as the Blue Mountain – is a big open plain close to the town of St. Katherine. Several boulders have been painted blue by Belgian artist Jean Verame to commemorate the peace between Israel and Egypt. It is a popular picnic site, usually approached by car from Nabi Salah, but the best views on it are from the pass of Naqb Dirwa. You could easily arrange a hike, with a car first dropping you off at Farsh Umm Qaysum, then picking you up at the Blue Mountain.
Ein Kid: It is a secluded and remote oasis between St. Katherine, Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh, with only a handful of Bedouin living there. Approachable from St. Katherine only on foot, and via a one-way 4×4 track from the Sharm- Dahab road, it remains largely untouched offering a feel of what a real oasis is used to be. There is not much to do, apart from enjoying the setting and having a Bedouin tea, but that’s what gives its authenticity and character. Cars cannot drive all the way to the oasis and you have to walk about 10 minutes.
Galt el Azraq: Located 2 days walk from the town of St. Katherine, Galt el Azraq is the largest water pool in the High Mountain Region, and probably in the whole of Sinai. It is full all year round, being fed by underground streams. It is in Wadi Talla Kibira, a long, steep and green valley starting at Farsh Rumana and leading from the high mountains to lower wadis. Galt el Azraq is about halfway down.
Jebel Abbas Basha: Approachable on foot from the town of St. Katherine, Jebel Abbas Basha is located in the centre of the high mountains with stunning views all around, to the mountain ranges, the lowlands and to the town of St. Katherine with Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa). The unfinished palace of Abbas Pasha is on top, its massive walls still stand firm. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or before sunset. Hidden, below the summit, is the green, secluded basin of Farsh Abu Mahshur. Climbing Jebel Abbas Basha is a moderate trek: steep climbs, but good path. However, reaching Farsh Abu Mahashur involves some scrambling and the path is a bit difficult.
Jebel Banat: Located near the town of St. Katherine, Jebel Banat can be reached on foot either starting from the settlements of Abu Seila, Sheikh Awad or Abu Zeituna. It is a fairly demanding trek. Standing on the northern perimeter of the high mountain massif, the peak of Jebel Banat offers superb views of the whole high mountains region on one side and the lowlands on the other.
Jebel Naja: Located in the high mountains near the town of St. Katherine, Jebel Naja is quite a walk. You can also start from the settlement of Abu Seila. Either way, the route starts from near the water pools of Kharazet el Shaq. Jebel Naja stands on the perimeter of the high mountain mass in the north. As you approach it you are already high up, and the top of the mountain looks like a small hill from this side, but on the other side you feel the depth as you look down on the lowlands and the distant Tih Plateau.
Jebel Serbal: Dominating the view over Wadi Feiran, the tough looking Jebel Serbal is indeed tough to climb. The route starts from the Convent into Wadi Aliyat, and it is a day to reach the mountain top. You find little secluded basins, water sources, gardens, ancient ruins and inscriptions – then of course the views: you can see the Gulf of Suez and mainland Egypt, the desert to the north and the high mountains to the south.
Jebel Umm Shaumar: The second highest mountain in Egypt, standing on the perimeter of the rugged mountainous interior, with long wadis and smaller ranges running towards the sandy plain and the coast at El Tur city. You can see across the Gulf of Suez to mountain ranges in mainland Egypt. It is a tough climb, and even to get to the base involves some walk. A car can drive out to Wadi Zawatina from where the trek starts.
Kharazet el Shaq: Located in the high mountains near the town of St. Katherine, the water pools of Kharazet el Shaq is quite a walk. You can also start from the settlement of Abu Seila. It is located at the top of Wadi Shaq Tinya, a steep gully connecting highmountain wadis to lower Wadi Itlah. The whole Wadi Tinya area, including part of Jebel Abbas Basha, drains through this single gully. There are overflowing granite pools at the very top, with one of them big enough for a dip. There is always water in the main pool, and after rains other pools and water falls form below.
Sida Nogra: Located near the town of St. Katherine, it’s a fairly demanding trek to reach Sida Nogra, usually combined with a climb to Jebel Banat. You could either start from the settlements of Abu Seila, Sheikh Awad or Abu Zeituna. Sida Nogra is a dramatic sight, especially when there is water flowing in it – usually there is a little in the granite pools at the top, fed by underground streams collecting water from a huge area.
Mt. Katharina: Mt. Katharina is the highest mountain in Egypt at 2642 metres, with a small Orthodox church on the summit. According to tradition this is the place where monks, after a dream, found the missing body of the martyred St. Katherina. Jebel Musa (Mt. Sinai) is below, and the views onto it and the whole high mountain area are stunning. It is a tough climb, but worth the effort.
Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa): Mt. Sinai is the most visited site in the Sinai interior, but most people don’t realise how much more to it than its revered peak. Forming one massif with Jebel Safsafa, you find several little secluded granite basins harbouring churches, gardens and ruins of Byzantic life, as well as offering great views to areas not seen from the peak, including the town.
Wadi Isla: Wadi Isla is part of the traditional caravan route between St. Katherine and El Tur, used by pilgrims as well as the Bedouin and the monks to deliver goods to the coast and get supplies. The long and winding wadi becomes narrow and lush towards the end, with many date palms, canes, trees and a creek running through a pretty gorge. The sight of the plain of El Qaa from the very end, Seil Isla, is also very dramatic. It can only be approached on foot involving a longer walk.