The oasis of Wadi Feiran is the largest oasis in the Sinai and is also known as The Pearl of Sinai.
Between the ECO LODGE and EL TUR you drive slowly through the oasis Wadi Feiran (Firan, Faran, Pharan) where you will find no hotels, restaurants and cafes for tourist nor support from national or international projects.
Bedouin tent hangs in the tree, ready for usage.
In Sinai live approximately 70.000 Bedouins of which approximately 7.000 live in and around Saint Katherine. There is a lot of attention for the Uzbeliya tribe that is concentrated in an around the region of St. Katherine. In particular the Bedouin tribes of the Gebeliya, Mszeina and Tarabin have so far benefited from tourism and international projects for development. One hardly ever hears anything about all the other Bedouin tribes in this region, while typically amongst them poverty, unemployment and social backwardness prevails. Also here, in the oasis of Wadi Feiran, where you will find a mixed local population consisting of Bedouins from the Gebeliya, Mzeina but also Sawalha, Huwaitat, Oualed Saied and Alleget tribe and some other Egyptians who migrated to the oasis.
Wadi Feiran is the Biblical Rephidim: "And the entire community of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sinai. After their trip they set up their tents, according to God's commands, in Rephidim ... Then Amalek came and fought with the children of Israel in Rephidim." (Exodus, 17:1.8)
According to tradition, Joshua defeated the Amalekites in Wadi Feiran.
Moses and Aaron supported him with prayers while they viewed the fighting from the mountain Gebel El Tahona. In the footsteps of Moses and his brother Aaron, you can walk upon the ancient path to the top of the mountain from where you have a view over the whole valley. You walk by the ancient graves and buildings, including the remains of two Byzantine churches.
Wadi Feiran is an oasis of 4 kilometres surrounded by palm trees, vines and trees. Here everything is grown: corn, barley, wheat, tobacco and tamarind but the main harvest is still the dates. Previously, all fruits and vegetables for the Monastery of Saint Katherine were grown in this oasis. There were large citrus orchards, but now there is little or nothing to be found. In recent years there is an increasing shortage of water. There is less rain, large hotels have been built in Saint Katherine (even with swimming pools) and one lives no longer according to the nomadic lifestyle so in some places an excessive drain on the available water is made with serious consequences for the surrounding areas.
The Greek orthodox Monastery of the seven sisters (also known under the names: The Monastery of Moses, the Monastery of Feiran, the monastery of the seven girls (Dir El Banat) or (Dir Za'ir) the convent of the seven nuns) is built on a well in the middle of the oasis. The building with its surrounding gardens stands out between the other local houses. This convent is now under the authority of the monastery of Saint Katherine and it was built in the 4th century.
The Monastery of the Seven Sisters has always occupied an important place in this local community. According to the ancient Christian (and Islamic) tradition it is important to care for your fellow-man and especially the fact that in ancient times the Christian healers/doctors (now canonized) of the Monastery were committed to serve the local population for free. Even today there is a care clinic for the local population in the monastery. Before 12.00 pm and not on Fridays, Sundays and Orthodox Christian holidays the nuns are willing to let you in for a viewing of a part of the monastery for a fee. Donations can be made and are used to maintain the care clinic for the local population.
You can visit the monastery of the seven sisters and afterwards walk around the backside of the monastery, along the cobbled hill (this gives a strange, magical feeling) where several archaeological excavations are to be found.
Inscriptions behind the monastery in Wadi Aliyet
The monastery is even referred to by the first Anchorites (the predecessors of monks) who were already here in the year 365 and the Christian community in this oasis is already mentioned in writings from the 2nd century as the oasis of Wadi Feiran was one of the first Christian centres in the Sinai. Here was the seat of the Archbishop of the Sinai (from the 4-6 century).
During archaeological excavations in Wadi Feiran they exposed the foundations, floor and a wall of an old church and buildings that belonged to the residence of the Archbishop of Sinai.
This place is mentioned in Genesis 21:21 as the place where Hagar wandered with her son, after she was expelled by Ibrahim (Abraham). You can visit these ruins by walking up the hill behind the monastery, along the nuns cemetery. Local people were never informed by the government and no one has been appointed to monitor these ruins, so poor, uneducated Bedouins have been unsuccesfully digging here hoping to find gold and this has seriously damaged these ruins.
The old El Banat Monastery
This oasis with old monasteries between the old El Banat Monastery, the hill El Mhered, the mountain El Tahona and these ruins date back to the 5th century, when many monks lived in Sinai. There are 9 walls, churches, tombs and to the north of Wadi Feiran you can find WADI MUKATTAB (the valley of inscriptions) where ancient writings and graffiti is carved into the rocks of a stretch of non less than 3 kilometres.
On November 1, 1994 the EAO (Egyptian Antiques Organization) has requested to add this site to the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
When you first spent time in the touristic small town of Saint Katherine and then travel to Wadi Feiran, you will not just notice the difference in economic standards but also to the difference in people. Here you will find curious Bedouins who will share the little they have and the largest part is for you as their guest, according to their traditional hospitality.
Simsimeya player in Wadi Feiran Baby crib in Wadi Feiran
If you take the time and effort to drive off the road with a 4x4 car and go into the mountains, you will find homes in very remote areas. Children here are very shy, because they rarely see a stranger. Here, many children do not go to school because of cash shortage or simply because the facilities are not there. On a distance from the houses you will find a small tent or sheltered spot with shade. If you sit there as a traveller, they will bring you water and tea. This is how things are done here.
During your 4x4 trip you will probably meet camels who are on a 'holiday' and are now on their way home to Wadi Feiran.
If camels have worked for some time than they may first relax again.
They come back home by themselves when the time is there.
Sinai is still very much the land of the camels.
On the way you will pass the Echo-rock, the Wishing-rock and the Cave of the Shepherdess.
We share stories about these places and the people you'll meet...
During a trip around the area of Wadi Feiran you get an impression of the vastness of the area. Wadi Feiran lies between two mountains: Gebel El Banat and Gebel Sirbel.
According to the early Israeli tourists, Gebel Sirbal was the most beautiful place in Sinai. After a major flood, the trails were destroyed, but recently there are again local guides who can guide you safely, through this unspoiled piece of nature, to the summit.
A view on the mountain Sirbel with Nawamis in the foreground.
Between the ECO lodge and Wadi Feiran you will find the mysterious Nawamis. These are circular stone tombs dating back to 4000 BC (the copper stone age). Archaeologists have found here coloured beads, bracelets of shells, bones and tools. It is thought that these items were sacrificed at the burial of the people. What kind of people these tombs have been built is not clear to date. The Nawamis are made of sandstone and 2 to 2.5 metres (6,5 to 8 feet) high and 90 to 183 centimetres (3 to 6 feet) wide. The tombs had rounded roofs and they all have an opening on the west side. The roofs are no more intact but there must have been interim maintenance of these tombs, because it is highly unlikely that they are so well preserved after so many years.
When you visit Wadi Feiran during a time when the children not attend school, prepare yourself for swarms of children calling for Caramella (sweets). Try to make a little fun with them and do not get irritated.
The little boys and girls can indeed provide colourful holiday memories when you make a picture.
We hope that the information on our website has stimulated your appetite to travel in our Sinai and we hope to see you soon...