Archaeologists have found that the very earliest known settlers in the Sinai–they arrived about 8,000 years ago–were miners.
Drawn by the region’s abundant copper and turquoise deposits ; these groups slowly worked their way southward ; hopping from one deposit to the next.
By 3500 BC, the great turquoise veins of Serabit El-Khademhad been discovered.
At the same time, the kingdoms of Egyptbecame united under its first pharaohs, and these great rulers soon turned their eye eastward.
By about 3000 BC the Egyptians had become masters of the Sinai mines, and at Serabit El-Khadem ; they set up a large and systematic operation. For the next two thousand years, great quantities of turquoise were carved from Serabit El-Khadem ; carried down the Wadi Matalla to the garrisoned port at El-Markha (just south of Abu Zenima), and set aboard boats bound for Egypt. For the Egyptians, the brilliant blue-green stone served myriad purposes: scarabs were carved from it, and the bright mineral enamels of powdered turquoise were used to color everything from fine statuettes to bricks.
To mine the turquoise, the Egyptians would hollow out large galleries in the mountains, carving at the entrance to each a representation of the reigning pharaoh–a symbol of the authority of the Egyptian state over the mine and its yield. Although many of the region’s pharaonic reliefs were destroyed by a British attempt to re-open the mines in the mid-nineteenth century, the excellent bas relief of Pharaoh Sekhemkhet on the east face of Gebel Magharasurvives. Also at Serabit el Khadem are the ruins of a temple dedicated to Hathor, containing a large number of bas-reliefs and carved steles.
The point of view of our gust :
“Great outdoors adventure, history and culture” Serabit El Khadimis the most significant Pharaonic site in the Sina ; and the Temple of Hathor is the only Pharaonic temple.
The ruins are far not as impressive as other sites on mainland Egypt ; but the stunning natural environment makes it very special. It was a turquoise mining outpost, the “Pharaohs” did not have any other interest in this harsh region.
Getting to Serabit el Khadim is half the fun – from the coastal town of Abu Zenima it is mostly off road ; although at times there is suddenly a short stretch of asphalt road which soon disappears again in the sandy desert.
There is a small settlement at the base of the site where mostly Bedouin of the Aligat tribe live ; although there are also ; Muzeinaand other groups. People visiting the archeological site have to take a guide from here ; even if they have their own guide with them.
To reach the site ; you have to climb up a recently paved foot path – it is not a very strenuous walk ; but the heat might add to the difficulty.
Along the way you will pass several inscriptions on the walls, before reaching the top of the barren plateau.
There are many shafts where turquoise is mined with the hieroglyphic tablet of the reigning Pharaoh above.
The ruined temple is further along ; with columns scattered all around. The views to the wide sandy desert belt and the Tih Plateau in the distance are stunning.
From here you can return the same way you came up ; or if you made arrangements, carry on and descend on the other side via a rocky path.
This is the shorter and more beautiful way but it involves some scrambling so, is not for everyone.
From the settlement you can return to the coast the same way you came, or, time permitting, via Wadi Sieh and Wadi Mukattab.
Other sights in the area include Wadi Magara “turquoise mines”, Gebel Fuga “the forest of pillars” and Wadi Feiran (Convent, Jebel Tahoun, hermitages).
You might be able to get a car to Serabit El Khadimfrom Abu Zenima, but the best is to organize the program in advance with the best team in South Sinai ” My Sharm Adventure team “.
There are a few operators in Sharm el Sheikhwho do this program specially ” My Sharm Adventure team “in Dahab and St. Catherine.