• Orchards of Saint Katherine

    Discover a unique part of Bedouin culture in the high mountain orchards of Saint Katherine – colourful islands of green in a rocky landscape of red mountains.


When you walk through the Sinai today, it can feel like a land where green is a forbidden colour – like an elemental realm of bare rocks and windswept plains, the fabled ‘waste howling wilderness’ of the Bible in which few things survive. Move into the highlands around Saint Katherine, though, and you’ll find small, walled plots of trees in the wadis – vivid flashes of greens, pinks, and snow whites in the early springtime. These are the mountain orchards of the Sinai, where everything from apricots to pomegranates, pears and almonds is grown; and they are one of the most remarkable and historic features of the Sinai’s landscape.

These orchards developed in early Christian times, growing out of a basic survival necessity and developing slowly into the more sophisticated horticultural plots seen today.

Over the centuries, orchard gardening became central to the culture of the local Bedouin tribe – the Jebeleya – as well. They designed their seasonal migrations around the orchards and relied on them for food and trading commodities. Gardens became key to local survival. Cultivation of permanent, settled plots of land was rare in Bedouin culture, and the gardens represented a critical point of difference between the culture of the Jebeleya and that of other tribes.

Though once central to Jebeleya life, these orchards are now in decline. Bedouin lifestyles have been reframed around wage-paying occupations rather than the more traditional alternatives, and decades of drought have made gardens expensive to maintain. There were once over 400 orchards, but less than 40 are currently active. Today, some gardens are diversifying, restyling themselves as hiking lodges.

Along the Abraham Path in the:

MT. SINAI REGION


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Sites in the Mt. Sinai Region:

Ancient Leopard Traps

See the old leopard traps of the Sinai: on windswept mountain passes, hunters used these to trap leopards until the great animals’ disappearance in the 1950s.

Blue Desert

Discover a desert mountain where the rocks are painted blue. One of the Sinai’s most surreal landscapes, it commemorates Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Ein Hudera

Visit one of the Sinai’s most beautiful oases, a watering point on the old pilgrim route between Jerusalem and Mount Sinai and – according to some – the biblical Hazeroth.

Hajar al-Maktub

Examine a rock etched with graffiti by millennia of pilgrims as they passed between Jerusalem and the peak of Mount Sinai.

Mt. Katherina

Gaze out over the distant Red Sea from the peak of Egypt’s highest mountain, where legends claim that St. Catherine’s remains were found many centuries ago.

St. Katherine’s Monastery

Visit the Byzantine Monastery of St. Katherine, probably the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world and certainly one of the most iconic.

Mt. Sinai

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Wander the little-trodden corners of one of the holiest mountain peaks in the world, discovering chapels, mosques, and other remnants of past centuries of veneration.

Nawamis Tombs

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Explore the Sinai’s prehistoric nawamis tombs, burial chambers built by the early peoples of the peninsula with doorways facing the setting sun.