Life in Sinai
While the current state of affairs seems much the same on the surface, every trip shows life is just a bit more difficult for the Bedouin people. Apart from the weather being very hot and making ordinary activity hard, it is a temporary problem unlike the rampant inflation which continues to make life tougher for everyone. Basic foods and necessities have risen in price by up to 600% and cooking gas by a staggering 1200% . For an already impoverished community with next to no work, this is very distressing and depressing. However we had a very nice message from senior Bedouin, delivered by Sheikh Ahmed. He said that the people were telling him that the only organisation that has really helped the community over the last 15 years is The Makhad Trust. Our wells project is bringing water and hope to many people who would otherwise not have help. Water is life, he reminded us. He asked me to pass on their very grateful thanks to all our sponsors and supporters.
The Makhad Trust hasn’t brought the big money that an EU project does, but the funds we do bring, help the people directly with no middle men involved. We follow up the projects and ensure that they are working properly and have an ongoing consistent presence in the community. In short, we can be relied upon. The money that is given to the well owners, or to the beekeeping course, or to the Herb Growing Course (more later), will stay in the community, being spent several times over, paying well diggers, who then buy food from the supermarkets, or camel men who then buy camel fodder, or fuel for generators. Mahmoud says that everyone looks forward to the date of the next visit by the Project Manager, because they know that there will be more money around. In an ideal world, somehow more jobs would materialise, bringing prosperity to the area again. It doesn’t look as if tourism is going to provide this economic boost as numbers are still very small and few of the visitors to the monastery want to go trekking in the mountains like people used to do. The Bedouin would love to see more tourists and work with them.
The Wells Project
As a result rising commodity prices, the builders, diggers and suppliers have also had to put up their prices. Now we have to consider increasing the amounts paid out for well restorations, so that the restorations are still feasible for the Bedouin. At present each well owner contributes between 2000 to 7000LE of their own money, depending on what the well needs. More people are growing vegetables now and more are coming forward to ask for their names to be added to our waiting list. As a result the waiting list keeps getting longer despite us restoring nearly 50 wells this year.
During this trip we brought sponsorship for the restoration of 11 more wells, and made site visits to over 20 more wells which are underway. We are aiming to restore 50 wells this year and have started 32 so far. With two more visits this year, we need to start 9 more each time. It would be wonderful if we could exceed our target.
Here are some well stories:
Not every well restoration goes according to plan. Hareib had problems from early on.
He has a small well that was nearly dry, providing drinking water for 8 families inthe vill
age of Abu Sila. Hareib has worked as a guide in the past but there is no work for him now. He is the brother of Mahmoud Monsur and Nassr Monsur, both well known by visitors to the area. We started his well in July of last year but he was not able to start work straight away as his 16 year old son was involved in a serious motorcycle accident and was hospitalised in Sharm El Sheikh. By the time we visited next, in November, his son was better but the government had come and built one of their many dams across the wadi, so that the well now stood in the bottom of a dry lake. The next flood would be sure to fill the well with gravel and rocks. The plan was for Hareib to continue working on the well, and build a flood protection wall about 2 feet (80cm) high to keep out flood water, and to make a hole in the dam to let out excess water. It was not too difficult to make the hole as the dams are not built very robustly. The dam will be slowing the water and this will bring silt into the area by the well which is ideal for growing vegetables, so he has made a small garden there. On our visit in July we found the well was finally finished and the small garden already looking established. Now Hareib plans to extend the garden and grow lots of food for his family and neighbours.
Mohamed Mansur Awad has a well in the high mountains in Wadi Buleia. Many people have stayed in his garden while trekking in the mountains and his work has been as a mountain guide. We had often passed his garden while walking in the mountains and it had been sad to see so many of the trees dying. Just the long rooted pomegranates seemed to be surviving. We started Mohamed’s well in May and found that the work was all complete on this trip. He had not only dug the well deeper so that he had 2 m of water now, but he had repaired the areesha, planted grape vines and watered all the existing trees. He has lots more small trees in pots at home, waiting for the winter time to plant them in his garden. It was already transformed when we saw it last week but will look forward to seeing it bloom over the next year or two. He will be bringing his wife and children to stay in the garden all summer.
Hamid lives in Eggreyradt and we first visited this community in October 2015. It is situated far round the back and most southern part of Mt Sinai, about one and a quarter hours drive from St Katherine’s. We found a very remote community with hardly any water in a dried up but very beautiful valley.The track to Eggrayradt is steep and tortuous and difficult for any vehicles to tackle except jeeps, and very few people have them. Because it is so remote, with not enough water for growing in their gardens, the people could only buy vegetables once every three to four weeks. One of the elder ladies told us of how she would walk for 7 km with her donkey to the nearest well to get 60 ltrs of water and then walk back and do this every 3 days. Many of the families spent months at a time away from the community, with their children in schools in the next valley but where there is also access to water and food. In fact the community was dying, even though the people loved it there and would have liked to live at Eggreyradt all the time.
This was all before we were able to sponsor the first well here started in July 16 and finished in November 2016. Since the help from the Makhad Trust, with 3 wells restored, there is now enough water for everyone to drink, for all the goats and camels too, plus there is enough to grow vegetables in two of the old gardens. They have been putting waste water on the old trees by their houses and these are green again. Now the families who had moved away are coming back more often, at weekends and holidays, and all the summer. What was becoming a ghost community with only the elderly people left is now thriving with 15 large families. But it is not just a group of families, it is a strong community of people who want to live here and who now can.
Herbal Horticulture Course for Fatherless Children
We called this the Orphan Herb Course last year but the title wasn’t really accurate. While there may be some children who have had the misfortune to loose both parents, it is quite rare, whereas there are lots of children who have lost their father. Life is difficult for these children as there is little money coming into the family and there is a feeling that their loss and grief puts them outside the community. This course is an attempt to address this problem by teaching these children how to grow and sell herbs the traditional way, making them belong to a special group too. The new teacher, Slim, has come up with a very good plan to make this work, based on the results of the prototype we funded last year. He has put forward 10 students, 3 of whom are 18+ years old, and who will act as team leaders. He will put the students into 3 teams, each with an older team leader, and they will work together on their team’s garden. The course will run for 3 months into the Autumn and then resume in the spring for 3 months which will take them through a full year of herb growing. He plans to teach them about their environment, ecology, geography and traditions as well as about the herbs themselves, in order to put the course in a Bedouin context. He will be giving them notebooks and pencils to keep records of their study. The course will cover many areas of their present educational syllabus but in a practical way. At least two of the students had been on Atia’s course last year and are very interested in learning properly this time. The students come from Esbaia and Wadi Raha. Slim plans to take them into the mountains to see the herbs growing in their natural habitats. The photo shows 7 of the children from Wadi Esbaia who came to meet us.
We met with Salem, the Beekeeping teacher in his garden in Wadi Buleia, in the mountains. First he updated us with what has been happening with the students on this, the second beekeeping course. He said that he is happy with the way that the students are getting on with their bees, the bees are well and producing honey. They have not yet harvested the honey and expect to do so in the forthcoming weeks. They will make another harvest in mid autumn. We will visit all the beekeepers and their gardens during the next visit in September.
We then talked about the possibilities of running another course next Autumn. Salem was happy to do this. Thanks to significant funding from the Eva Crane Trust and to the Didymus Trust we can support this project again for the forthcoming year (September 2017 to September 2018) and with an increased number of students. By training 10 students, all of whom have gardens in far away wadi’s, the bee pollinating population will be spread wide over the area.
The library is ever more popular, largely due to the enthusiasm of another of our supporters, Mahmoud Abed. He was an Astrology graduate in Cairo but wanted to live in St Katherine’s and now helps with the library. Mahmoud has been running activities in the library for 2 months now, since school finished. On Mondays they have a film, usually an informative documentary, shown on the projector and screen that his friends had donated. On Wednesdays he runs workshops including recycling rubbish into art and useful things. One day they made muppet puppets out of old socks and the children loved this.
There is now a new lady running the library, called Zainab, as Farhana is pregnant and will have her baby in about 3 months. Now that it is summer, we hope many more children will be spending their large amount of spare time in the cool of the library.
A few days ago, the children had a visit from Omar Samra the son of one of our trustees and a world class mountaineer. Omar was the first Egyptian to summit Mt Everest and has completed the explorers grand slam of climbing the highest mountain on every continent plus skiing to the North and South Poles. He is a great role model for the children.
Bottle Gardens and Horticulture.
We have been trying a low key approach to getting more people to grow food by encouraging everyone make more of their gardens or to make new gardens. As food prices rise, lots of people already want to do this but need more seeds and to experience different ways of growing. The Horticulture Project is just getting going to support this. Mahmoud Abed has just taken on the challenge of getting people to grow food in their yards by the houses by planting leafy veg in bottles, so that even people without gardens can participate. He is starting by encouraging children to make these gardens and we hope it will get children interested in growing things. It should be possible for people to eat well on a much reduced budget and to be healthier. The photo shows how we hope the bottle gardens will look.
Encounter with small children
While Mahmoud and I were puffing up Abu Giffa pass in 35 degree heat at 7 am one morning, we heard children’s voices. We stopped for a rest in the shade just before the top of the pass when along came two children and a donkey. They were Mohamed who is 7 and his brother Abdul who is 5 years old. They didn’t have any parents or adults with them and were going to visit their garden in wadi Shaq where their family stay in summer, about a 4 mile walk from home in the town. Mohamed, the elder brother was riding the donkey but its blanket saddle had slipped so he got off. Abdul, who, to remind you, is only 5, adjusted the blanket and then started to tie it up with some good rope. He had to pull hard to get the girth right and do some good knots to keep it there. He had no problem with this at all and would have put some adults to shame. It made me think of how my 5 year old son refused to learn how to tie bows and knots and never actually had laces until he wore climbing shoes as a teenager. I don’t think he was unusual. Seeing Mohamed and Abdul reminded me how different life in Egypt and UK are. In Egypt, children are encouraged to take an active part in family life, doing some of the same work as their parents, and they are given a lot of freedom in the world at large. I am sure they were both quite safe. Everyone here knows almost everyone else and would look out for other peoples children when needed, there is a very strong community.
Journeys to Sinai
You could also join a hike on the Sinai Trail (a separate organisation – www.sinaitrail.org) at any time. This is a 200km trek from the Gulf of Aquaba to the top of Mount St Katherine’s. Visitors create much needed jobs and bring income to the impoverished Bedouin. More news of the Dam Journey in the next newsletter.
Helen’s next journey to Sinai will be from 15 September to 5 October, with the next newsletter following closely after.
You can get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by using the contact details below. We would love to hear from you.
Makhad Trust Wolseley House Cheltenham Gloucestershire GL50 1TH England
T +44 (0)1242 544546 F +44 (0)1242 544565 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.makhad.org
The Makhad Trust Registered UK Charity No. 1100377 Registered Company No. 4583140
A downloadable leaflet is available here: Fox Camp Bedouin Museum
Phase 1 – Identification of artefacts
Phase 2 – Cataloguing
Project Title: Restoration of Garden Wells for the Bedouin of South Sinai, Egypt
Region: South Sinai Mountains of St Katherine’s, Egypt
Project Time: June 2007 ongoing
Project Budget: £65,000 annually for well restoration
Well Cost: £1300 for 1 well (relief of poverty for 50 – 150 individuals) Donations of amounts up to £1300 will be amalgamated to the required amount.
The Makhad Trust is a Not For Profit organisation, a British Registered Charity No 1100377 (since 1993). In 2005 it became registered as an Egyptian Foreign NGO.
The Makhad Trust sets up projects with vulnerable nomadic communities to assist their economic and social wellbeing while ensuring the protection of their environment and culture. All projects are based on long term independent sustainable development.
Successful completed projects include the construction of a Craft Centre for a Bedouin women’s co-operative, the restoration of a herbal garden and school for a renowned Bedouin herbal doctor for the conservation of knowledge of medicinal plant growing and use, and the construction of a school for the desert Bedouin of Nawamis.
About this Project
This project began in 2007 and aims to restore Bedouin orchard and garden wells and Community drinking wells. The water table in the area has been depleted due to the tourist industry on the coast and the change in climate. This has meant that the Bedouin wells are not deep enough or have been fatally damaged by unusually violent floods, so they no longer hold water.
- Drinking Water: There is no provision of drinking water for any of the people in South Sinai by the Egyptian authorities as the tanker water trucked in which has to be paid for has too many salts and cannot be drunk by people or animals. The people have therefore to rely on the few of the old Bedouin wells that still hold water. Each well will supply between 15-30 families and their goats and camels per day, and these are running out.
- Orchard & Garden Water: The Bedouin have traditionally relied on the grazing of goats and the growing of fruit trees and vegetables to support themselves. Each garden has its own well, but with no water the families cannot support themselves or feed their children. The earth is mineral rich but, with no well water, the soil is dry. Each watered garden could support several families of 6-10 people per family.
3. Why the Bedouin cannot help themselves: The Bedouin of South Sinai are a very poor community who have been marginalised by the Egyptian authorities. Many professions are forbidden to them and they have had to rely on an uncertain tourist industry which has collapsed due to recent events and the political climate. With practically no paid work and no money, the people cannot repair their own wells which require skilled paid workmen and other expenses such as cement and transport.
- Main Result of assistance for the wells: The main result of giving assistance to the wells is that the Bedouin people can retain their independence and are in a position to help themselves to survive. As more wells and gardens are restored the possibility of the whole community becoming self sustaining for food can become a reality.
How the Project Works
Following a request from an owner and an assessment of the well made by the Project Manager, Helen Cranston and our Sinai Manager, Mahmoud Ahmed, the well is paid the restoration money in two halves to enable him to start the work on his well including flood prevention measures. The owner signs a contract which commits him to lawful use of his water and careful inspections are made by the Project Manager 3-4 times during the progress of the work which ensures there is no corruption possible.
The small stone dams are constructed by our volunteer groups from the UK working with Bedouin labour and by agreement with the St Katherines National Parks organisation to help fill the water table during the infrequent rain or snow falls.
Since the start, this project has been managed by our Project Manager, Susie and now Helen, working both in UK and the Sinai along with Mahmoud in Sinai. Annual inspections evaluate well use and improvements in the orchards and gardens and offer encouragement. We have a 90% success rate because with restored water the family is able to care for their families. Reports, photographs and all costs are kept at all stages.
The Project’s Main Achievements
- Since the project began in July 2007 we have restored 370 wells (190 garden wells and 180 community wells). Some of the small garden wells also supply drinking water for neighbours.
- We have built 19 small stone dams to preserve the scarce rainfall.
- Orchards which were abandoned or struggling have been restored to productivity. The produce helps to feed a family of at least 8 people.
- Clean drinking water is made available and the people can use the water also for grazing their animals which helps to sustain them.
- Each contract will generally give employment to 6-7 Bedouin men for possibly 20-30 days giving them much needed cash which will be sufficient to feed a family for several months.
- Knowledge of garden horticulture is preserved
- Nearly 200 gardens are now flourishing bringing food and better health to many families.
- Extra produce is sold locally, one of the few ways of earning cash to pay for school and medical bills.
- Where we help the gardens and perform regular inspections drug growing cannot move in
- Friendship, knowledge and understanding is created between nationalities.
Funds are raised through individual, group or Trust Sponsorship. We also raise funds through the sale of Bedouin women’s handicrafts.
Makhad Trust Finances – Year ended 28 Oct 2016
Income – £69,143
Expenditure – £65,203
The Project began in 2007 and we aim to complete the project in 2025. We aim to complete 50 wells a year, but do not start a contract until the funds are in hand for that particular well. The need for help now is greater than it has ever been due to extensive flood damage over the last 3 years. There are over 400 names on the waiting list for help and the Bedouin beg us to continue with the work.
Budget for Each Well Repair
Overheads for this project cover UK office costs and the UK manager’s travel costs to and from Sinai and during site inspections.
Ground Costs on each Well include our Bedouin Manager’s salary, labour payment to builders/well diggers, and labourers plus camel transport of materials, cement, water, works tools and food for workers.
|Item||Ground Costs||Overheads||Unit Cost||Quantity||Total Costs|
What £1,300 will provide
£1300 will enable us to restore a well for up to 50 people depending on well use.
About the Jebelia Bedouin
Although we do work with 3 tribes, most of our wells are owned by the Jebelia “mountain” Bedouin. They are gentle, proud independent and hospitable people, always extremely grateful for the help they receive.
A downloadable leaflet is available here: Community Drinking Wells