Monday, April 26, 2010

Centre for Sinai


is a non-profit, non-governmental organization created in 1998 by Ahmed El-Sadek, Motaz Ahmed, and Ezzat Abdelmaguid together with their Sinai Bedouin friends .Our aim is to highlight and preserve the culture and history of this tiny peninsula which is as old as time immemorial. There is very little literature about the Sinai and any interested person would have to do a lot of research to get any in-depth information .We therefore attempt to present our knowledge and research of the Sinai and related topics to the outside world from an insider’s perspective

We seek to promote the Sinai in a positive and academic perspective, emphasizing the importance of the local Bedouin population as a major contributor to its culture and future. Our very existence aims to further preserve this native culture in their native home by providing work and insuring steady incomes for those very few families who choose not to change their traditional way of life, preferring to stay in the desert, keeping this culture alive and prosperous. It would be a great shame and loss to the whole world if this culture were to disappear like many others before it. This is after all the only culture that preserves the way of life of the Old Testament Patriarchs of the Judeo-Christian tradition. They also preserve the culture of the Prophet Mohammed and the early followers of Islam in its purity

ISLAM, meaning to give up to God’s will and accept fate as it has been preordained by the greater unknown power of the Creator, was the religion of Abraham. He accepted to slaughter his son as he was ordered to do and thus he became the first Moslem.

Abraham had two sons. Ishmael and Isaac. From Isaac was the Hebrew nation born, although not all Jews are descendant from him. Ashkenazi Jews are the descendents of the Khazars who converted to Judaism only to remain neutral in the feud between the Christian Byzantine Empire on one hand and the new Moslem Empire on the other. His elder son, Ishmael, had seven sons and they are the ancestors of all Arabs.

CONCLUSION ; Semitic Jews and Arabs are cousins. When an Israeli accuses an Arab of being Anti Semitic, this is ridiculous. Arabs ARE Semitic.

Even before the Diaspora, the Jews had lost their native culture intermingling with the peoples of the Middle East. The Moslem Arabs also mingled with the different cultures of North Africa and the Middle East, like the Jews keeping only the religion while losing the traditions of the desert.

CONLUSION ; Only the Bedouins who have absolutely not changed since the times of Abraham are pure blooded Semitic nomads. It is only through living or traveling with the Bedouins that one can get a feeling for life as it was in the ages of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus Christ and Muhammad.

The Bedouins of south Sinai have been the poorest of all because they lived in the remote mountains and were not on any main route of commerce. They had almost no contact with the rest of the world and are therefore the purest in blood and tradition. It is this culture of the original Arab that CENTRE FOR SINAI hopes to preserve and rekindle.

We depend on our own private means to finance and upkeep the center using our knowledge of the Sinai and our very good relations with the local community to further finance it. We offer expeditions through different regions of south and central Sinai for many reasons:

- Preservation of the native culture of Sinai
- Exploration of new areas
- Providing income for the native desert dwelling population
- Systematic collection of garbage during our expeditions (sinai-clean-up)
- Finance, upkeep and development of the center

We hope that the presence of the Center will act as a catalyst and bring about a better appreciation of this very special piece of land by those who chose to visit it.


Centre for Sinai is based on a small team of elite and distinguished multilingual desert guides. Each one is driven by a love of nature and a passion for deserts. Ezzat and Ahmed, desert guides for more than 2 decades, established the center and operation in order to fulfill longstanding ambitions to learn more about the Sinai and establish a desert tour operation, which focuses on the spirit and beauty of the desert rather than the repetitive set-itinerary tours offered by other operators. Keen desert conservationists, Ahmed and Ezzat are aware of the problems facing the future of the Sinai and the rest of Egypt’s deserts in relationship to the ever-expanding tourist business. Their systematic efforts, to clean up the mess created by other local tour-operators have been highly appreciated by the Egyptian Ministry of the Environment.

Throughout the years they have consistently leaned their tours towards the more enigmatic and spiritual aspects of the desert. Having recognized the growing demand for real and adventurous desert expeditions, their longstanding ambition to create a unique tour operation based on the beauty, spirit, solitude and peace of the desert was fulfilled with the creation of Centre for Sinai.

Center's Office and Information Resources
The Center features a modest library containing between 150 to 200 books on different topics related to the Sinai, deserts, Arabs in general, Egypt and other Arabic speaking countries, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict with reference material to previous writers and travelers, to recent works and more scientific material. It utilizes the Internet when acquiring information on behalf of others as well as providing material for general reading in the Center.
It also displays items of ancient Bedouin culture, (jewelry, dress, weapons, household utensils), medicinal plants and local wildlife (Sand vipers, scorpions etc). Also on display is our unique collection of maps dating back to the 18th century showing the original names of valleys and mountains which have been lost in the oral tradition

Irascible Dahab, a place with a spirit that can charm and frustrate within the same breath. It is located on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, and has retained its challenge against the eroding effects of institutional ways. Eroding in that one quickly learns about a sense of freedom that is lost in the west.
With the sun shining [about 364 days of the year], a cool wind blowing and the coffee being tasted as the waves lap just a meter away, it is hard to get too serious about time management, business schedules, and of course all the unspoken 'p' words such as 'plan', 'propose' and 'procedure' though 'probably' is ok.

This all happens in the northern part of Dahab called Masbat, where the camel still competes with the two-legged travelers, and each of the restaurants takes on its special character. To the south is the 5 star hotel areas, where those who need luxury can find it there. The Centre for Sinai on the other hand tends to promote accommodation of 1 billion stars and have our guests experiencing a difference in 'bedding', food and transportation that would not be found possible in other places. Dahab and its neighboring mountains and reef, is an antidote for the pressures of the technological age, try it!

Ahmed El-Sadek
Born in England in 1962, Ahmed has spent many years abroad, having spent this time in a variety of countries [Europe, Africa and America] as a result his father's profession. Because of this he is fluent in Arabic, English, and German and not too bad in French.

Though he started work in the tourism industry in 1979, he formalized his interest, graduating from Hotel Administration School in West Germany in 1984, then came to the Sinai for his first visit in 1985. Here he worked ever since as a desert guide, working with various travel agencies. Now with his own operation, started in 1993, he organizes camel and vehicle safaris and foot treks. Most of the time, he guides his customers on camel-back personally through the Sinai. These days I spend more time working on this site.

He has acquired much knowledge of the Sinai in many of its aspects: flora and fauna; history; and local culture. Based on this he has established the only comprehensive information center (CENTRE FOR SINAI) concerned with the Sinai and is available for anyone to visit, to read or simply to hear the stories over a glass of Bedouin tea. He has been gathering this information over a long period of time as there has been little work done in this regard by others.

He is conscious of environmental abuse especially through the tourist business and supports efforts by Bedouins in their attempt to bring about responsible attitudes towards keeping the Sinai habitat in good shape.(Sinai clean-up)

He eschews the stress of city life, preferring in its place the solitude and beauty of the desert, and is fascinated by the simplicity of the Bedouins, their lack of material possessions and their hospitality.

You can contact me directly at

Seraye Abdullah Jabaly
...Bedouin - 56 years

Seraye was born in Bir Zreir in the mountains running along the east coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. When a young lad, he preferred to roam the hills and wadis, discovering the land he was to get to know best while learning the time honoured culture of the nomadic Bedouin. He met Ahmed in 1985 when Ahmed first arrived to the Sinai. He is Ahmed's trusted and faithful friend and vice versa.

He remembers when they would dry the dates and the fish, make charcoal and go on 1 month round trip to Suez to trade this for corn. The corn was then ground and mixed with goat's milk which was their daily diet for many months. The coastal Bedouin were better off than their mountain cousins as they had a virtual supermarket of reef fish on their doorstep - the coral reef of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Seraye spent most of the young adult years fishing and tending the family's date plot. When tourism

Ezzat Abdelmaguid

Of Sudanese origin, born in Cairo in 1958, Ezzat developed a passion for the country lifestyle especially now in the desert areas of Egypt. In the Sinai, he has found his home. Having lived for many years in the Sudan and traveled through America and Europe, he thought that the western lifestyle would make him forget the desert. But it was to the contrary. Anything that the materialistic world may provide is no compensation for the natural, simple life of the desert, its mountains and the sea

Lacking the taste for urban cities, he started to work as a desert guide in Sinai in 1985. He has lived there ever since. Now as a major contributor in CENTRE FOR SINAI, he specializes in mountain bike off-road safaris (his favorite), camel trekking, and foot trekking in the High Mountain Range and the Western Desert of Egypt

You can contact Ezzat directly at

Manshad Ibn El Salman
...Sinai Bedouin - 51 years

A man known for his smile and voice. Always on safari, Manshad entertains and teaches those with him the traditional Bedouin songs. His is extremely hospitable, forever making sure the comfort of the guest is considered. Though this rough warmth is ever present, he would not tolerate irresponsible acts by those trekking. He is well aware of the limitations of working with camels, and prepares things accordingly, making sure the riders stay together, that they don't get into a situation where they have not been properly prepared.

He runs several head of camel, one of the largest in Dahab. They are all well kept and of good temperament.

As a child he was living the life o2f a nomad with his mother, father and extended family. He was free to roam, to fish, and to learn the ways of the desert. He has seen this being slowly eaten away by the increasing presence of tourism in the area.

He's not sure when he was born, but we do know from an old-timer that there was a ship wrecked near Sharm el Sheikh, which would have been in 1950. From this we know he is now 51, not that it makes much of difference when you live this sort of a life.

Bassem Amer
...Egyptian - 30 years

Now a consultant for the National Parks of Egypt [having worked initially as a park ranger], for the South Sinai region, Bassem got to know the surrounding mountain areas well and the Bedouins who lived therein. With the benefit of this he now provides expert guiding services. He studied at the Alexandria University 1993 attaining a BSc [Botany] - he speaks Arabic, English, French and some Spanish.

He sees he has a responsibility for the maintenance of Bedouin culture and their surrounding environment by attracting quality tourism to the area. This includes camel safaris into areas to study the local plants, animals and geological formations. This can also be achieved by hiking treks into these parts, supported by the local Bedouins and guided by Bassem. In this way, the trekker can maximize his or her stay, by having someone on hand to explain in detail the various characteristics of those things discovered along the trail.

Being a painter, Bassem encourages other artists to come here to experience the grandeur of the Sinai, there to be inspired by it in producing their works. As a botanist, he has also accumulated significant knowledge in traditional Bedouin herbal medicine, and frequently speaks to the masters of this lore, working with them to develop and sustain this talent.

Eid Salim El-Atrash

Better known as Eddy or Zohar, to his friends, Eid was born on the afternoon of February 23rd 1973 in Ras Sudr, on the western coast of south Sinai. He is one of the very few Bedouins who actually know when they were born He belongs to the clan of El Gesar (the short ones) of the Tarabin tribe and grew up helping his father who traded between Ras Sudr, El Arish and Jordan.

They carried water melon seeds to El Arish and braught

cloth, rice, tea and coffee , back home. He grew up traveling the Sinai on camel-back and has developed more than casual interest in his surroundings and home

Today, he plays a major role in a study of Bedouin dialects and understands at least 17 of 26 different dialects of Bedouin Arabic spoken in Sinai

He is also in charge of our local excursion department and is a desert guide of top quality.

Working hard to make a living is his philosophy and while he was working hard in the mountains, two years ago, his only son, Selim, was kidnapped by his Hungarian mother to Hungary and he has not been allowed to see or speak to him on the phone ever since. He has also been denied the pleasure of receiving photographs of his kidnapped son. He fears his son will eventually be turned against by his hostile mother.

He is still working hard hoping he will soon see his son again but has not taken any legal action.

Contact Eid directly

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