“Normally, a woman’s role is to take care of the household, family and children,” Umm Yasser, a Bedouin member of the Hamada tribe, explains to a Los Angeles Times reporter. “Hiking is the first time I earned an income.”
Last year, Umm Yasser became the first woman to serve as a guide on the Bedouin-led hiking route along the Sinai Trail, one of the only long-distance hiking routes in Egypt. At the age of 47, she led her first group of hikers, testing the traditional gender norms among Bedouins.
The trail covers more than 340 miles and can take six weeks to complete. During the 2018-2019 hiking season, the trail raised the equivalent of about $60,000, part of that going to the eight Bedouin tribes in the area. Head trail guides like Yasser can roughly make $40 per day guiding tourists.
Last April, Yasser led the very first Sinai Trail trip led by a woman. The trip was restricted to female tourists, with a special agreement for some male journalists to attend. The 16 female hikers and six journalists were not permitted to camp overnight in the wilderness and returned to their village before sunset. Still, the Times commented, “it marked a milestone.”
Back at her family home, Yasser recounted, “The other tribes had objected before the trip because they thought it’s shameful for women to walk with tourists… I don’t think it’s shameful so I’m not concerned. I believe what I’m doing is right because work is a good thing.” As she spoke, the reporter noted, her husband walked past several times, beaming with pride and support.