Worth a Trip: Following History’s Footprints to Serabit Al Khadim

Sinai’s rugged expanses are dotted with traces of early settlements and pilgrimage routes. A journey to the area around Serabit Al Khadim captures a sense of this ancient history and takes travellers into the rugged, desolate heartland of this region.

The most straightforward way to visit this area is to arrange a trip with a tour operator in Dahab (a two-day 4WD tour costs roughly LE800 per person for a group of six). Advance planning is required as the tour operator will need one week's notice to apply for the permit to visit this area.

Highlights of this lesser-seen part of Sinai:

  • Serabit Al Khadim One of Sinai's most impressive sites, this ruined Pharaonic temple is surrounded by ancient turquoise mines and starkly beautiful landscapes. Turquoise was mined here as far back as the Old Kingdom, and the temple, dedicated to the goddess Hathor, dates back to the 12th dynasty. Beside it is a New Kingdom shrine to Sopdu, god of the Eastern Desert. Inscriptions upon the temple court walls list the temple’s benefactors, including Hatshepsut (1473–1458 BC) and Tuthmosis III (1479–1425 BC). Serabit Al Khadim can be reached via an unsignposted track just south of the coastal settlement of Abu Zenima or, more interestingly, from a track branching north off the road running east through Wadi Feiran via Wadi Mukattab.
  • Wadi Mukattab Here Sinai’s largest collection of rock inscriptions and stelae, some dating back to the 3rd dynasty, give evidence of ancient turquoise-mining activities. Unfortunately, many of the workings and stelae were damaged when the British unsuccessfully tried to revive the mines in 1901.
  • Forest of Pillars Inland from the temple of Serabit Al Khadim, a long track heads through the colourful wadis of Gebel Foga to the cliffs that edge Gebel Et Tih Tih and the Forest of Pillars (a mound of naturally occurring tube-shaped rocks). It's accessible by 4WD and camel.