During one of his hikes, 39-year-old Ahmed Abo Elseoud found a small plant struggling to grow from a rock in the middle of a mountain. “Seeing it put all my problems in perspective; the biggest challenge I’m facing can’t possibly compare to the ones this plant faces to get the water it needs to grow,” he explains.
Abo Elseoud is known as the co-owner of Dayra Camp in Nuweiba, Sinai, but he is also the founder of Abo Elseoud Xperience, where he strives to offer guests the same experience he went through when he first discovered his love of hiking. He is the only Egyptian in the area who is allowed to go on hikes unaccompanied by Sinai Bedouins since he’s managed to form a unique rapport with them.
Hearing his stories, one can begin to understand why he describes his hikes as a humbling experience; they offer individuals the opportunity to challenge their physical abilities and observe how their bodies engage and interact with the wilderness around them.
A Man’s Journey Out of the Big City
Running his own marketing company in Cairo, Abo Elseoud’s life used to be the complete opposite of what it is like now. He worked on organizing events and, like any Cairene, was used to the hustle and bustle of the big city – until his life was turned upside down when he tragically lost his older brother, Hisham.
“Hisham was like a father to me, and I had to be the one to break the news to my mother. I had to stay strong for her, but after six months I completely broke down,” he recalls.
Life in Cairo became increasingly difficult for him because he was surrounded by memories of his brother: “I knew I had to leave town. I was offered a job in Dubai and went through the process of moving there.”
However, his plans changed when he met Mohamed Serag Eldin and Randa Said, the co-owners of Dayra Camp, and found out they had similar aspirations to leave Cairo but not Egypt. The trio decided to pursue the idea of establishing a camp in Nuweiba and went for a one-week visit that eventually became seven years strong.
“When we first came to Sinai, I sold my house in Cairo,” he says. “I took it as a challenge; even if I failed, I didn’t want to come back.”
However, even after the camp began growing in popularity, Abo Elseoud still felt like something was missing. “I began realizing that my passion lies there,” he says, pointing to the mountains behind him. “Here in the camp, I utilize my marketing experience as the camp operator as if I’m organizing an event, but going into the mountains is a humbling form of meditation for me; it’s changed me completely as a human being.”
The Abo Elseoud Xperience
As he settled into his new life in Sinai, Abo Elseoud was intrigued by the wilderness behind the mountains. He began visiting Nuweiba’s most famous hiking trails and destinations, such as Wadi El Wishwashi, but still felt unsatisfied by the commercialized trails.
He then met a Bedouin man who began taking him along on his hikes; spending two years accompanying him and observing his skills, such as what he does when he gets lost or what to do in case of an emergency.
Abo Elseoud then took several courses to give himself an edge as a hiking guide, including a wilderness first aid course and a survival skills course. He began combining different elements from his hikes with different guides until he managed to form his own fusion to offer a unique experience. Once he felt confident enough, he started going on solo hikes.
“I wanted to explore new routes beyond the commercial ones offered to tourists and offer a meditative experience. I wanted to change the mindset of people and enable them to experience what I’ve experienced,” he says.
He explains that his hikes have challenged him both mentally and physically; teaching him to be more creative, how to think mindfully and not panic in the face of danger, and showing him how small human beings are in the grander scheme of things.
His favorite hiking trail is what he refers to as ‘The Lizard Canyon.’ It is originally called Wadi El Muhaymad,’ but he decided to rename it due to the vast number of colorful lizards in the area.
“I go there alone whenever I need to think about something; it’s like a fascinating color palette. If I go in feeling stressed or angry, I always leave feeling relaxed; I can feel the difference even in my facial muscles,” he says.
Abo Elseoud strives to offer a meditative experience that pushes individuals to challenge their bodies and overcome their fears in a calm environment completely off the grid and away from technology.
“Life in the city doesn’t force you to rely on yourself completely because there are so many elements that make life easier, but the primitive lifestyle forces you to become self-reliant and discover your true potential. The reason we are so developed now is all thanks to primitive human beings and their creativity,” he says. Interestingly enough, he recently discovered historic markings inside a cave dating back to the Nabataean and Thamudi eras.
One of the things he enjoys the most is watching the fruits of his labor come to life through the positive feedback he gets from his guests. “Back in Cairo, I’d be happy watching my billboard installed, but I never got to see the true impact of my work on individuals. Watching the passion in my clients’ eyes motivates me so much more in comparison,” he says.
When he’s not taking guests on adventures in the mountains, he goes by himself in an attempt to recharge and disconnect.
“After every hike, I ask my guests the same question: ‘Were you preoccupied by anything going on in your life during the trail?’ They’re always surprised to realize that they were completely focused on the experience and nothing else, and I tell them it’s because it’s the first real mental break they’ve had in a long time. The desert gives you a chance to press pause,” Abo Elseoud says.
Abo Elseoud’s experience with hiking and mountain climbing was recently featured in a new film titled ‘Beyond the Edge’ by Amr Essam and Ahmed Ragab. The movie originally tackled a fictional storyline, but the creators were so moved by Abo Elseoud’s story that they decided to dedicate the entire production to the story of how he left Cairo and ended up in Sinai. It will be submitted in several local and international festivals, including El Gouna Film Festival.
The Abo Elseoud Xperience offers a broad array of hikes that can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. Hiking packages begin from EGP 400 and can be organized by contacting Abo Elseoud on Instagram or Facebook.
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