In a first, Bedouin women lead tours in Egypt's Sinai
This Bedouin woman is leading tours in Egypt
In pic: Umm Yasser, the first Bedouin female guide from the Hamada tribe, looks at Umm Soliman as she plays the flute, near Wadi Sahw, Abu Zenima, in South Sinai, Egypt.
Breaking new ground
"It is against our culture, but women need jobs," the 47-year-old Umm Yasser said. "People will make fun of us, but I don't care. I'm a strong woman."
In pic: Umm Yasser (C), an Egyptian Bedouin woman guide from the Hamada tribe, leads a group of hikers.
Founded in 2015, the project has set up a 550-kilometer (330-mile) trail through the remote mountains of the peninsula, a42-day trek through the lands of eight different tribes, each of which contributes guides.
The project has been successful in bringing some income to the tribes, who often complain of being left out of the major tourism development of the southern Sinai, home to beach resorts and desert safaris.
In pic: Umm Yasser offers tea to during a women's only circle of tourists and Bedouin from the Hamada tribe, at her home in Wadi Sahw, Abu Zenima, in South Sinai, Egypt.
But even after years of trying by Hoffler, almost all the tribes still reject women guides. Only one of the smallest, oldest and poorest tribes, the Hamada, accepted the idea.
In pic: The first female Bedouin guides, from (R) Selima, Umm Yasser, Umm Soliman, and Aicha, pose for a photograph in Wadi Sahw, Abu Zenima, in South Sinai, Egypt.
Terms and conditions
Each day before the sun sets, the group returns to the Hamada's home village in Wadi Sahu, a narrow desert valley.
The organizers also urge the tourists to photograph the guides only when they are wearing a full veil over the face that covers even the eyes with mesh.
In pic: A group of hikers led by Egyptian Bedouin women guides walk in Wadi el-Sahu in South Sinai governorate.
Umm Yasser prepares tea for hikers
Their tribe is a poor one, living in small concrete houses strung along the Wadi Sahu. Electricity runs no more than five hours a night and there is no running water. It is isolated deep in the mountains of south Sinai, far from the tourism centers in Sinai along the Red Sea coast or near the famed Saint Catherine's Monastery. The men often leave the village to find work, either at resorts or in mines further south.
"We need money to help support our families for basic necessities," Umm Yasser said. "We need blankets, clothes for the children, washing machines, fridges, books for school."
In pic: Umm Yasser prepares tea for a group of hikers in Wadi el-Sahu in South Sinai governorate.
Hardest years for tourism
On a recent tour, 16 female tourists - from Korea, New Zealand, Europe, Lebanon and Egypt - were led by Umm Yasser and the other three women guides, Umm Soliman, Aicha, and Selima, through the rugged landscape in and around Wadi Sahu.
In pic: Umm Yasser, the first female Bedouin guide from the Hamada tribe, poses for a photograph in her home in Wadi Sahw, Abu Zenima, South Sinai, Egypt.
Will more women join Umm Yasser?
In the evening, the group returned to the Hamada tribe's village. The women sat on the floor of Umm Yasser's home and the tourists asked the guide about life in the village, marriage and divorce.
Umm Yasser is skeptical other Bedouin women will join her as a guide or in working in general any time soon. But, she said, "There is no shame in working. This is what I believe in, and it makes me strong."
In pic: Julie Patterson, a Sinai Trail trip officer rests with guide Umm Yasser, on a trek in the mountains, near Wadi Sahw, Abu Zenima, in South Sinai, Egypt.