Discover rich Bedouin heritage, a strong legacy in ecotourism, and some of Egypt’s highest mountaintops.

ST Katherine

Religious and cultural history of the St. Katherine Protectorate is revered across all Abrahamic traditions. Inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks, St. Katherine Monastery is the oldest continuously occupied monastery in the world. The peak of Mount Moussa, long a site of pilgrimage for many, remains a popular destination for visitors today for its strong cultural and religious significance. The level of biodiversity covering almost 4,300 km² in St. Katherine is quite simply incredible as there flourishes the Sinai Wild Rose and Acacia tree. Also, the Sinai Blue Baton Butterfly, the world’s smallest butterfly, the Caracal and Striped Hyena can be spotted roaming freely around the region. The St. Katherine area was declared as a protectorate in 1988.

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natural phenomena, animals and plants

St. Katherine Protectorate lies in the heart of the Sinai Peninsula and boasts 4,300 km² of impressive mountainous terrain. The area includes a few of Egypt’s highest peaks, including Mt. Katherine (2,641 m) and Mt. Moussa (2,285 m). Coupled with the area’s rich flora and fauna, St. Katherine’s many archeological sites and interesting geological features make it the ideal getaway destination for an array of travelers. St. Katherine is one of Egypt’s biggest biodiversity hubs. From Olive trees, to medicinal herbs, to the Egyptian Henbane plant – much of St. Katherine’s flora is put to both medicinal and nutritional use. Holy bramble, the plant commonly thought to be Moses’ burning bush, can also be spotted in St. Katherine, as with the Sinai Wild Rose. With only 90 left, the Sinai Wild Rose is one of the rarest plants on earth and grows only in St. Katherine protectorate. An unmissable feature of St. Katherine’s fauna, however, is the Sinai Baton Blue Butterfly. One of the smallest butterflies in the world, this rare species is unique to this area, living on mountainside thyme bushes in the St. Katherine Protectorate. St. Katherine also hosts the highly endangered Egyptian Wolf species; Fennec Foxes (also the smallest of their kind!).

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activities and excursions

There are plenty of opportunities to camp, hike, and safari in St. Katherine, with Bedouin-led trails up and down the area’s mountaintops taking place on a regular basis. Birdwatchers and Stargazers are sure to enjoy this national park as well, which offers expansive, serene plains to reflect, spot your favorite species, or lose yourself gazing at the stars.

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local people and tribes

St. Katherine is inhabited by the Jebeliya Bedouins, who have lived in the region for over 1,400 years, which explains why they are the only tribe able to withstand living in the harsh, cold weather found atop the Sinai mountains. The Jebeliya are descendants of Eastern European soldiers who were stationed in the area to protect the St. Katherine monastery, which locals still do today. Similar to other Bedouin tribes, Jebeliya women are skilled at making crafts using striking embroidery and beadwork. The Jebeliya people are also known for producing honey derived from the nectar of Sidr flowers. Renowned for their unique cultural customs and traditions, especially during weddings, the Jebeliya Bedouins share the spirit of generosity and hospitality with other Bedouin all over Sinai. There are 472 types of medicinal plants in St. Katherine, 19 of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. So, if you have a question about any of them, be sure to ask a member of the Jebeliya Tribe, who tend to be quite knowledgeable about the medicinal qualities of local flora. Tip! Meet Dr. Ahmed Mansour at Wadi Itlah and hear his fascinating story! Catch up with Amria at the stunning Wadi Jebal.

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places to lodge

El Karm Ecolodge is a popular destination for visitors to St. Katherine, where you’ll also find a number of locally owned and operated campsites.+check our trusted green list