The term “Bedouin” in the Arabic language refers to one who lives out in the open, in the desert. Eutyches, the ninth century Patriarch of Alexandria, writes that when Justinian built the monastery, he settled next to it some two hundred families brought from the Pontos of Anatolia, and from Alexandria, in order to guard, defend, and assist the monks. The modern day Bedouin are considered to be the descendants of those families that converted to Islam in the seventh century, and today form the Sinai Bedouin families that make up the Jebeliya tribe. Its members, to this day, trace their lineage to these soldiers as part of their cultural identity.
The monastery is an integral part of their lives and has always respected their rights. They are peace-loving and hospitable in spite of the widespread poverty in the region. The Bedouin participate in the life of the monastery both through their work, and through involvement in its everyday life.
Instrumental to its unbroken history of peace with its Bedouin neighbors is the Sinai Monastery’s emphasis on personal freedom based on tolerance through non-judgment of others. The Sheikh of the local Jebeliya tribe was quoted in the Egyptian press, saying "The peace that has existed between the monks and the Bedouin people has made Sinai an emblem of peace" that has served pilgrims and visitors of different faiths, languages and cultures.
According to tradition, the founder of Islam, Mohammed, received hospitality from the Sinai monks, and The Koran mentions the Sinai holy sites. In the second year of the Hegira, corresponding to AD 626, a delegation from Sinai requested and later received a letter of protection from Mohammed stamped with his handprint. In AD 1517, Sultan Selim I confirmed the Monastery's exclusive rights, but transferred the original document to Constantinople .
As part of its philanthropic work, in the 1980’s and 90’s, the Monastery built new medical and dental clinics, including donated state of the art laboratory equipment, providing free treatment to anyone seeking help, whether Bedouin, visitor, or monk.