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Sheikh Musa Abul-Heim - one of the leaders of the Jebaliya Bedouin, a tribe who have looked after the safety of the monastery for the past 1,500 years - is in agreement. 'Go into the desert,' he says, 'and you will see why God chose to reveal himself in this place.' The following day, led by one of the Sheikh Musa's knowledgeable guides, I do exactly that.

Rough wadis (valleys) lead to mountain passes, the red basalt crumbles underfoot, mountains loom overhead. There are surprises - a blooming of flowers, a herbalist collecting plants, the tracks of what might have been a gazelle. We come down from a pass into a valley to Al-Karm Ecolodge: a series of stone buildings, on the edge of a wadi that has enough water to sustain a garden. Dinner is simple grilled chicken, more delicious for being eaten here. I am in a place the monk had made me hope I might find - where life is simple, the stars sit close to the earth and one might believe again in miracles.

Further information

  • Book a desert trek with Sheikh Musa Abul-Heim (

Anthony Sattin is co-author of Lonely Planet's Egypt, and has written several books on the country, most recently A Winter on the Nile.



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The article ‘The Perfect Trip: Egypt’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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