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Hiking through the Secret Gardens- Summer 2009

Hiking through Katrina Valleys- Summer 2009

These words were first addressed to my fellow safarsits in Sahara Safaris Community in an attempt to share with them my personal reflections on my hiking trip through beautiful valleys in St. Katherine, a trip that kicked start the long-awaited Hiking Season of 2009.

Under the auspices of Mohamed Mabrouk, the leader and founder of Sahara Safaris Organisation, and accompanied by some 18 people, we took off to Saint Catherine one Thursday night in April 2009, arriving there by around 4 am, and spending the night at Sheikh Mousa’s Camp.

We woke up next day as early as 7 in the morning to start our hike, in two separated groups, through Wadi Jbaal and other valleys and Orchards, called the Secret Gardens, for the beautiful and rare plants they have, in the beautiful mountainous region of Saint Catherine.

Katrina was as beautiful and graceful as I had known it during the number of visits I was privileged to have there. A place filled with spiritual vigor that makes departing it not as simple as any leave-taking of any other place you happen to trip to.

One group was led by Mabrouk, and was actually lucky enough to get a glimpse of his wealth of knowledge about the region, the plants sprouting there, among a variety of natural characteristics of the place. Another group was put at the very safe, caring, & enjoyable leadership of Amr Kamel, and had a plenty of fun that drew a big smile on its members’ faces they descended- as if they haven’t done any effort whatsoever.

In the evening the two groups were reunited in the orchard that witnessed our hilarious chats, blizzard of laughs, as well as the colorful camp we set up that night.

Saturday morning, we woke up, had our tasty and healthy breakfast, continued the laughing match we started the previous night, and bid Amreyya, the owner of the orchard farewell, to split again into two groups, going on different hiking routs down to Sheikh Mousa camp, where we dined, laughed again, and were lectured by Mohamed Mabrouk in a very interesting orientation session about the potential project of Sheikh Sina, aimed at serving the Bedouins Community in the region while attracting the world tourism industry to the highly aesthetic region of Sinai. Originally funded by the European Union, the project, already up and running, is expected to draw a variety of highly talented and experienced calibers from within and outside Sahara Safaris.

Around 4 pm, we prepared our cars and set off to Cairo.

The prime elements that made the trip a success were many among which I shall list a few…

As for the discern place of Saint Catherine, it’s a God-given gift, and what adds to its very much felt holiness and spiritual value, as suggested by Mabrouk during our talks, is probably the number of Holy people and Prophets who graced it with their presence and visits. And above everything, it was on top of Saint Catherine’s Mountains that Allah (SWT) manifested to one of his prophets; Prophet Moses (PBUH).

Coming to the leadership, it’s not new of Mohamed Mabrouk to orchestrate a successful, highly disciplined yet enjoyable trip, whether on top of the mountains or at the heart of the deserts.

But an addition to successful leadership was Amr Kamel, a judge, who put more joy to the trip by his warm presence and spontaneous willingness to provide help in all its forms, verbal and physical, whenever and however. I have known Amr as an exceptionally helpful passenger with great company, but seeing him leading a group of us on top of the mountains, giving people’s varying level of fitness and experiences with hiking, handling them so perfectly well was innovative.

Coming to my humble self and my passion for hiking in general and the graceful region of Saint Catherine, something many fellow Safarists have already reckoned having accompanied me on occasional hikes- What can I say… my passion is growing and is indeed taking different dimensions.

Now I have to bring into light a personality I plan to research about and explore to the maximum… Sheikh Mousa- whose serious look and somber charisma did not hide his truly kind and caring nature that manifests patently clear when he speaks of his people and the Bedouin’s community, talking of their needs and difficulties facing their rough life. Now Eid, the guide who accompanied my group… He is really something. The man is extraordinarily tranquil and quite, yet he has a very cheerful and inspirational smile. He doesn’t speak unless asked, but when he does, you should expect an ocean of knowledge.

I must also tell you about a very interesting personality that accompanied us, Mareike, a German lady who embarked voluntarily and quietly during the course of the trip, on a mountain cleanup initiative, encouraging others to do the same, to have, by the end of the hike, two massive garbage bags, full of wastes that were scattered across the valley we hiked through, spoiling much of its beauty.

During this trip I was accompanied by many new and old faces, most of whom I easily connected with, which encountered me with different sides of human nature. I was introduced to new personalities and had the chance to rediscover those I’d known from before. This trip was another rich experience that added to my perception of life, humans, and, on another much deeper level… myself.

Maha Youssuf

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