Under the present conditions of mass development and mass tourism, it will not be long till the Sinai becomes an environmental disaster. Colorful plastic bags flying in the wind will overshadow the divine beauty of the landscape. The sweet smell of vermouth and other endemic plant-life of the mountains and valleys will be overpowered by the stench of accumulating garbage. Mt. Moses will become a monument to the ignorance, indifference, and stupidity of mankind.
The Egyptian Ministry of the Environment, with the help of the National Parks has been trying very hard to solve this problem organizing clean-up campaigns and trying to instill an awareness of the environment in the native population of Bedouins.
The Bedouins on the other hand have been waiting for the big flash floods for years, believing that the floods will carry the garbage away depositing it somewhere else; not that this would be a solution to the problem. We are still waiting for the great floods.
Still the problem is overwhelming. Mass construction of hotels is already ruining the landscape and I can’t think of any beach left on the Gulf of Aqaba that has not been sold, developed and devastated. This only increases the amount of ignorant tourists led by ignorant guides working for ignorant travel agencies who are only interested in making money, regardless of the damage they are causing.
Those of us who truly who come to enjoy everything that has made Sinai so special and care about the environment are doing our best to reverse these devastating effects by collecting any garbage we find while on safari, depositing it at specially designated centers in town.(ie HEMAYA in Nuweiba), where it is sorted out and transported out of Sinai to to the Nile Valley for recycling
CENTRE FOR SINAI also organizes groups of otherwise aimless youth to collect garbage in and around Dahab. This useful garbage thus provides useful income for its collectors.
But towns like Dahab, Nuweiba and Sharm el Sheikh at least have their local town councils who are supposed to be doing a good job for the money they are being paid. It is the interior of Sinai that needs all the help it can get. Who is responsible for the interior? It should be people like us, living, working and loving the Sinai as we do, who should be given a mandate by the government to take care of the job.
There are still many areas in Sinai which have not been designated as national parks. Not that it helps much to designate an area as a national park without setting up some kind of authority to implement the required guidelines. Even so, in the most famous of these (St. Catherine Nature Reserve), when the Bedouins plant their every once in a while crop of Cannabis in out of the reach mountainous areas, the Egyptian Army goes in to burn all these illegal plantations. The place is wasted.
Everything is burnt, (plastic irrigation hoses, cannabis plants, fertilizer) and is left there to rot. All this we collect when we find on our expeditions. The real shame is that indigenous plants like palm trees are also not spared the destruction. Small oases that have existed for thousands of years are sometimes burnt to the ground.
WHAT A GOD DAMNED SHAME!
How you can help:
Anyway, in an effort to make a difference and influence our environment in a positive manner, CENTRE FOR SINAI will operate any of our safaris in Sinai at almost cost price during the low season (April to September), for any interested group of people, the main goal being to collect garbage.
We will set up a schedule for these clean-up safaris during the summer. In the meantime, if you are on a very tight budget, wish to see the Sinai and don’t mind the summer heat, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will be more than happy to help you help us clean our own beloved back-yard.