Catherine Exists

This is the story of a place I chose to call home, a place called St. Catherine’s. St. Catherine’s is an isolated, mountainous protectorated located in South Sinai, Egypt, its locals are Bedouins from the Jabaleya tribe, an indigenous minority subject to discrimination.

The Sinai Bedouin community in Egypt has been struggling for their civil rights for decades; being unacknowledged by the government, deprived from their lands, lacking proper medical & educational facilities and being misrepresented in the media are some of the obstacles they face on daily basis. Tourism which is considered their main source of income have been heavily impacted; number of foreign & local tourists have dramatically dropped more than 60% since 2011 due to misleading safety rumors about the area & lack of security from the government’s end.

Catherine Exists project came to life in 2009 and has been running ever since to tell the story of St. Catherine’s and its people and their struggle for survival. Documenting the natural and cultural heritage of the land to preserve an important part of the Egyptian identity and shed light on the topic.

This is a sample of the project. The project is a series of photo-stories depicting the richness of the land and the inspiring people living in it; images are taken throughout the years 2009-2017. Catherine Exists project grew through the years to become a community development program that empowers the indigenous Bedouin community and preserve its culture.

Currently, the project is taking a huge leap of impact “THE NEXT BIG THING” ; building a community center where local residents will be able to access medical services, take classes, and pursue income-generating activities. To contribute to its mission and sustainability, the center will also provide facilities for travelers to stay, learn about the local culture, attend classes conducted by locals; experts in agriculture & other fields and volunteer in the local community.
A website dedicated sloley for the project will be launched soon.

Bedouin children taking care of a new born goat. Chidlren are the most exposed to different skin conditions due to the harsh & extreme weather of St. Catherine’s; despite the lack of medical care they are resiliant to most critical diseases.
Saleh, a Bedouin trekking guide taking some rest under a small shade. In the early 90’s Bedouin tribes in Sinai made an agreement to maintain an equal distribution of income all around the peninsula; each tribe became responsible of a certain area and industry. The Jabaleya tribe are in charge of trekking and hiking tours in st. Catherine’s protectorate.
Bedouin men are stereotyped as harsh and aggressive but in reality they are light hearted, family oriented and very humble.
The unique colors of St. Catherine’s.
St. Catherine’s during Eid Al Adha. During the celebration of the islamic holiday; young girls from the community embellish their hands and arms with traditional Henna and accessories. Traditionally, girls would wear their most precious gold jewelry for the occasion but as the economic situation in Sinai deteriorated the girls’ jewelry were replaced with plastic accessories.
The great scale of mountain to man.
Women have a strong role in the Bedouin community both at work and home. A Bedouin woman leading a herd of goats in the mountains.
The great scale of mountain to man.
A Bedouin kid learning how to lead a herd of sheep & goats supported by his moth following him in the back.
Mohammed, a 10 year old Bedouin kid working as an assistant on long treks to support his family. Mohammed does not know how to read or write, he left school in an early age. Mohammed is capable of navigating around the desert, taking care of a full camel herd and cookng delicious meals for his customers with very basic tools.
Saleh the Bedouin guide. Saleh is a war veteran who fought on the front lines with the Egyptian army to retrieve the land of Sinai from Israeli forces in the 70’s.
A Bedouin trekking guide on top of Mt. Umm Shumar; the second highest peak in Egypt over looking the Suez canal.