Egypt remains in a state of emergency, and the security situation in North Sinai continues to cause concern. Government advisories warn against travel to the north, and many fewer tourists are visiting South Sinai this year. The local economy was already in severe decline when the monastery was forced to close for three weeks in August and September. The consequences were immediate, as recent press reports make clear (Guardian, 5 September, 'Mount Sinai monastery latest victim of Egypt's upheavals: Closure of St Catherine's monastery due to security concerns has devastated tourist trade of nearby town named after it'. Washington Post, 4 October, 'Ancient monastery has few visitors amid Sinai unrest, but Bedouin neighbors protect it').
Close to 1,000 Bedouin families live in the vicinity of Saint Catherine's, many of them at or below the World Bank's absolute poverty standard of US$1 per person per day. The poorest are now going hungry, and they cannot feed their camels and animals. Many of them have appealed to the monastery for help, and the Fathers are doing what they can to provide assistance, but the monastery's resources are very limited.
The Bedouin of today continue to protect the monastery, just as their ancestors did in Justinian times. In recognition of their role as guardians of the monastery, the Saint Catherine Foundation's boards in London, New York and Geneva have allocated funds for distribution by the monastery to the most needy. A total of $24,000 will be disbursed over the coming winter, an amount that should provide relief to the most desperate families. The foundation is appealing for donations to augment these funds, and the proceeds of Christmas card sales will go entirely to the Bedouin.