Undeterred by the recent fears of travelling to Sinai, we head out to the picturesque Wadi Gnai to challenge gravity and reach personal new heights as we take on rock climbing...
Terrorism grows at the cost of tourism, and, with multiple tragedies gripping global headlines, it is a foregone conclusion that these days aren’t the safest to travel. But, how much of what is being reported reflects the on-the-ground reality? Wanting to find out if it is still possible to go rock climbing in Sinai, we travelled to the isolated and breathtaking Wadi Gnai.
On an adventure to challenge our vertical limits, we departed on Thursday evening from the historic Baron Palace with a dozen fellow thrill-seekers. The journey was long with numerous security checkpoints attempting to provide safe passage for travellers who refuse to allow propaganda to scare them away from exploring Egypt’s beauty #BeyondCairo. We eventually checked in at a hotel in Dahab at 4:30 AM, looking to catch some much-needed rest before embarking on our adrenaline rush. Waking only a few hours later, we found breakfast waiting for us which we devoured with gusto, knowing we had a challenging day ahead of us. Upon speaking with the co-founder of Destination 31, Omar Hossam, who told us about the itinerary, our pulses were racing and we were raring to go.
Located about 20 minutes away from Dahab, we arrived to the gorgeously remote Wadi Gnai. At first sight, the almost completely vertical rock cliff face appeared very intimidating. As newbies to the sport, we weren’t sure how high we’d be able to reach, but we were definitely excited to find out. And a tad scared. The first climb was supposed to be for beginners, but upon our first glance we doubted our chances of even making it so much as halfway up. After multiple security checks to ensure our harnesses were in place, we took off and - much to our own surprise - managed to make it to the top thanks to the helpful tips provided by Omar and a local guide.
Still on an adrenaline rush, we decided to roam freely around the rocky desert in search of rocks to climb and conquer. There was a moment where we felt that time stood still in a perfect escape. We were thankful that we were able to see this natural beauty despite the endless media warnings describing Sinai as a terrorist stronghold. Upon finding a trickier rock to climb and with our confidence boosted, we began taking turns challenging gravity and climbing for the skies. It’s hard to describe exactly how one feels while dangling over a cliff. Some of us wanted to stop and take in the scenery in but, fuelled by high octane adrenaline, standing still was easier said than done. Each vertical step required a degree of strategy, as the wrong step could trigger a mini rock avalanche and send you plummeting, which is why our harnesses were triple checked.
Returning to ground level, we were treated to an authentic and mighty delicious Bedouin meal. Stuffed, we waited for 30 minutes before ditching our climbing gear for bathing suits for a memorable sunset swim in the three pools, aptly named for three beautiful untouched coral reefs. As darkness set in, we built a fire and prepared to camp under the cover of magnificent stars. It was during this time that we bonded with our Destination 31 tribe members, as we spent the night playing games, exchanging spooky stories, and counting the shooting stars until we fell asleep.
Awaking to a spectacular sunrise over the deep blue Red Sea, the sunlight mimicked our route, climbing the side of the mountain in dramatic fashion. After a Bedouin breakfast, we set out to do one more climb before heading back to dreary old Cairo.
After a bit of searching we found the perfect rock, complete with a Lion King-esque ledge that overlooked the picturesque setting. After doing our best Rafiki impressions, we took our time coming down as everyone dreaded the eventual return to Cairo. After a delicious lunch and quick tour of the nearby market, we piled back into the bus to crummy Cairo.
At no point on our trip did we feel unsafe. Sinai is big, and allowing a handful of terrorists to hold it hostage in a country of 90 million is unfair. We were worried that with the recent tragedies our trip would be cancelled, but, thankfully, Destination 31 wasn’t scared off and ensured not only an adventure of a lifetime but a sense of safety and security that put any fears to rest.
Photography by Fouad el-Batrawi