Hundreds upon hundreds of pharaonic temples dot the entire country, whatever in the desert oases or in the Nile Valley. However, only one temple is found in Sinai: Sarabit El- Khadim, one of ancient Egypt’s most peculiar ruins.
The mining complex of Sarabit El-Khadim is located on a small plateau north of south Sinai governrate’s capital city El-Tur, with the small coastal town of Abu Zeneima the nearest urban center at 40 kilometers east. Its story dates back some 8,000 years to when man first inhabited Sinai. Drawn by the riches hidden in the earth, the peninsula’s early settlers were soon mining the depth of the dirt. It was 3,500 BC by the time they discovered the “mother vein” of turquoise the biggest deposit in the area. Turquoise was mined at Sarabit El-Khadim for almost 2,000 years.
Sarabit El-Khadim actually acquired its name from the Bedouin word Sarbot, singular for Sarabit, meaning “erected column” referring to the number of the temple’s columns are still standing the test of time. El-Khadim on the other hand means the servant a local reference to Hathor, the ancient goddess of copper and turquoise miners.
Today, though the 12 Dynasty temple cannot be compared to lavishness of Karnak, or any other of the Nile Valley’s colossal temples, it still clings to the charming beauty of ancient Egypt not to mention the thrilling adventure in exploring it. Located in the middle of the desert a top of a plateau some 1,100 meters above sea level, Sarabit El-Khadim is becoming easier to reach, with a tarmac road connecting the plateau to the coastal highway being constructed. It is not finished yet though, so a for-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to cover this 40 kilometers ride. Once you make it to the foot of the plateau, another adventure begins: the hike to the temple.
Don’t even think about tackling Sarabit El-Khadim during the Summer time. Though the altitude means some breeze, the temple is located in the middle of the desert, and the scorching heat can easily become unbearable. Go for autumn or early spring; though be warned that the cold desert night can be also a challenge. Spending the night at the foot of the plateau and hiking at dawn is the best option, as you will avoid the morning soon and enjoy the spectacular scenery with the first rays of the light a dream for any avid photographer.