There are three reasons to climb Gebel Abbas Basha.
1. Abbas Basha was an ottoman monarch dying in 1754 due to bad health, apparently asthma. He hoped that living in the Sinai mountains with its excellent air quality would cure him. So he started to build a palace in 1750 at an altitude of 2304 m. He died before it was finished, without having ever been on this mountain. Some walls can still be seen, also the platforms where the camels were unloaded.
Map: South Sinai (Map of Attractions), Osiris Office, Cairo 1:250'000 with High Mountain Region 1:50'000.
2. Abbas Basha knew why he started the construction up there. The view is magnificent, the air with its steady breeze very pleasant. On most days you can see the Gulf of Aqaba and the mountain region of Saudi Arabia.
3. Normal starting place is El Malga, this is also the place where many trekking excursions start. The excursions, led by beduins with camels, pass the Abbu Giffa Pass, and enter a valley that leads to a saddle below the summit. From there it takes only half an hour to reach the palace. The trekkers leave their baggage at the pass.
From El Malga follow the camel path between the housings of the beduins. It zigzags up to Abu Giffa Pass. Go down into the valley on the other western side where some green plants can be seen. There must be some water, we heard children talking. The trekkers often stay over night here (one hour). Always stay in the valley, which makes a sharp turn to the right (north). Once in a while you see a tree and some Beduin housings. After a while you can see the pass below the palace. It is getting windier and colder.
From the saddle (ca. 2100 m) it takes half an hour to the palace (2304 m). Another half an hour is needed to go to the top of Gebel Abbas Basha (2383). Between the two is a saddle at ca. 2250 m. From Mulga to the palace: ca. 2.5 hours, going down is not much faster due to the Abbu Giffa Pass and long horizontal stretches.
The trekkers leave their belongings at the saddle and the guide keeps watch. Although we did not make a depot, the guide kept a virtual eye on it and did not join us to the palace and the summit.
Gebel Abbas Basha is in the region of the Saint Katharina, you can start from a hotel in this region or start early from a tourist center at the Gulf of Aqaba. There is no group travel for the summit only. Only trekking for one week with climb is available. So I had to hire a driver at a tourist office in Dahab. Since the price of one or two mountains a day was the same I decided for the Moses Mountain at sunrise and and 1 guide for 2 mountains on one day and paid for me and my wife 200 Swiss francs (ca. $ 120) plus tip. (Prices as of March 2002)
The hike starts at El Malga and we reached it after Moses Mountain at 8 a.m. We had told the driver to meet us there. So we changed our clothes and got rid of our winter equipment (gloves, wool caps etc) and put on light trousers and other summer garments. A new bottle of tea was welcome. Moreover we ate breakfast at a restaurant in El Malga.
There is a tourist office at El Malga headed by a Sheik who provides permits and guides for all mountains in this region,
either to another tourist office at the Gulf or to the tourists directly. Our Mount Moses guide disappeared suddenly after asking us not to mention anything about our climb to the Moses Mountain. Obviously he had not bought a permit!
Now we had to get another guide and permit for the Abbas Basha mountain. Soon the Sheik appeared, my driver of the Dahab tourist office paid the bill on behalf of the Dahab office, then we waited for a guide, who had to be organized. I got nervous about the delay because I was afraid of a horrible afternoon heat. At about 9.30 a.m. we were ready to go and reached the palace at noon. The air was dry, a breeze of ca. 3 bf. blew constantly, so the heat was absolutely no problem (March 2002).
When To Climb
I believe you may risk this tour any time of the year. Just look at the sky. North wind is a good sign. In winter snow is possible. A strong breeze in Dahab will likely mean an even stronger breeze in the mountains.
No accomodation in El Malga, but food.
If you only want to climb mountains in the Sinai, you will find accommodation near the intersection below the monastery.
Daniela Village (hotel)
Zetona Camping (tents to rent)
Morganland Camping (rooms and restaurant)
El Raha Hotel
The airport is not open!! (March 2002)
For a combination of water sport with climbing, I recommend Dahab
, which is 1.5 driving hours away on the Gulf of Aqaba. Dahab has many nice hotels on the beach, hospital, taxies, etc. Due to a steady breeze it is excellent for wind surfing (beaufort 2-3), small waves.
The next international airport is 150 km south at Sharm El Sheik, bigger and noisier than Dahab, but too far away for one day climbs in the Katharina region.