CAIRO: “Sinai – specifically South Sinai – is not the danger zone it is often made out to be,” according to the Sinai is Safe campaign’s Facebook page.
In an effort to change perceptions of Egypt’s Sinai as dangerous tourist destination and promote the country’s ailing tourism sector, a group of hikers from all over the world along with local Bedouins from the Sinai have launched a mountain hike campaign, that kicked off on Friday.
“Following the positive impact of the community, focused campaign’s first version in October 2014, and thanks to the strong support of the local community, we decided to continue the second in order to try and keep the message alive” said Ben Hoffler, co-founder of the campaign.
A 2-day hike started at 7a.m. Friday from the foot of Mount Catherine; Egypt’s highest mountain known also as Jebel Katherina, and ended at the same point around 5 p.m. Saturday with an overnight in a traditional Bedouin orchard.
“There were around 60 hikers from different nationalities along with Bedouin tour guides who made a morning brief before we set off through the beautiful mountain,” Sashi N. Perera said, adding that “the scenery and the friendly atmosphere” were the highlights of her trip.
On the second day around noon, the group reached the summit of St. Catherine.
The view from the top of the mountain worth the effort, said Fayez Antonios, a Cairene who travelled to participate in the hike with his wife and two children.
“Climbing Mount Catherine, which stands tall at 2,645 meters above sea level, offers trekkers a more challenging experience, more spectacular views and relative solitude on its quiet summit,” said Antonios.
Following the military-backed ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, news about the Sinai-based militancy and Islamist insurgency has left people apprehensive to travel to any part of the Sinai Peninsula. “The whole situation has had a devastating effect on local communities that rely on tourism,” said Ben.
Footages and of violence, protests and blasts and aired on TV stations across the globe “has had a devastating effect on local communities that rely on tourism.”
Tourism is Egypt’s second most important source of national income after the Suez Canal, and provides direct and indirect employment to up to 12.6 percent of the country’s workforce, according to official figures.
More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million after the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. The sector picked up in 2012, attracting 11.5 million but shrank again to 9.5 million in 2013 after various attacks on tourist destinations.