Goats and sheep scatter around the horizon as the sun spreads it rays over the short green grass patches, which decorate the yellow sand of the desert and the mountain at Saint Catherine.
The magic of the place has haunted the photographer, Rehab ElDalil, and inspired her to produce “Catherine Exists”, a photography project with a social cause.
ElDalil has worked on the project since 2010, when she was an applied arts student. As she used to go and study in Saint Catherine, she got closer to the people there, felt responsible towards them and decided to help, she said.
“There are non-commercial spots that most Egyptians do not even know about,” she said. “Only Mount Catherine and Mount Moses are well-known.”
These “non commercial” spots do not only lack recognition, but they also lack services, she said.
Residents of Saint Catherine do not have access to medical support, she said. They use available herbs in most cases, while severe cases have to be taken to Suez or even Cairo.
“If someone has a bad tooth they have to go to Cairo,” ElDalil stated. “They have to drive for seven hours to get a tooth fixed.”
Rumours about security problems there discourage other Egyptians from visiting, even when they are not true, according to Khaled. “They are misunderstood for political reasons,” she added.
Through portraits and landscape photos, Khalid tells stories of Saint Catherine and its people.
One photo shows the view of Mount Um Shamar, one of the most important mountains in the region. Another photo shows a 13-year old boy ElDalil met in one of the rides between Saint Catherine and Dahab. The boy, who never went to school, learned the Arabic alphabet, how to write his name and read the time by the end of the 6-day trip.
“To see such potential wasted, just because there is no money to build enough schools, is frustrating,” she said. “He could have done something for the country.”
The self-funded photographer sells her photography work from Saint Catherine and intends to send 60% of the revenue to help the people there.
ElDalil’s potential plans include using the money to set up an educational centre, provide frequent health check visits to the people of Saint Catherine and organise trips to the “unknown” spots. However, the plans remain dependant on the amount of money she will be able to raise.
“I don’t want to give the money to one of the tribe leaders there to spend it in a couple of months,” she said. “I want something sustainable.”
ElDalil hopes her photographs travel to different cities locally and internationally, raising awareness about Saint Catherine, but the lack of funding poses an obstacle, she said. Some local initiatives, however, offered her exhibition spaces for reduced process or for free.
“Catherine Exists” can be viewed between 30 August and 5 September in Agora Arts and Culture at 2 Faraana Street, Azarita, Alexandria. Some photos can also be seen on the project’s Facebook page.