Little known to the outside world, there are hundreds of Bedouin orchards around the town of St. Catherine in South Sinai. The tradition goes back all the way to early Byzantine times, when monks and hermits from the Mediterranean settled in the region, bringing with them species otherwise not found in Egypt.
The local Bedouin group, the Jabaleya, took on the tradition and still practice it very much like in the past. However, a changing life style, tourism at the Monastery and Mt. Sinai and severe droughts forced many people to abandon their gardens. Nevertheless there are still many dedicated gardeners who care about their orchards and spend their time in the mountains. However, early this year there were snows and rains not seen for decades. While everybody is very happy for the abundance of water, the consequent flash floods caused a lot of damage, destroying garden walls and buildings, washing away soil, trees and equipment.
To help the dedicated gardeners to restore their gardens, and to encourage the younger generations to carry on with the tradition, the Jabaleya Bedouin started an initiative. The aim of the project is to invite people to visit the gardens and contribute to the work. Visitors will have the chance to see and learn about this unique gardening tradition, to have an authentic Bedouin experience and to discover the Sinai high mountains.
However in this case, instead of paying a tour company, visitors’ contributions will go directly and in full to restoring the gardens. The gardeners used to receive trekking groups in the past and are used to dealing with foreign visitors, and many gardens have simple, but adequate facilities, such as composting toilets and showers. There are also excellent Bedouin safari and trekking guides who take part in the work, so visitors will feel comfortable at all times.
To learn more about the project please visit: http://sinaigardens.net/