Combined petrographic and geochemical methods are utilized to investigate the provenance, tectonic setting, palaeo-weathering and climatic conditions of the Cambrian Araba clastic sediments of NE Egypt. The ~ 60 m thick Araba Formation consists predominantly of sandstone and mudstone interbedded with conglomerate. Petrographically the Araba sandstones are mostly sub-mature and classified as subarkoses with an average framework composition of Q80F14L6. The framework components are dominated by monocrystalline quartz with subordinate K-feldspar, together with volcanic and granitic rock fragments. XRD analysis demonstrated that clay minerals comprise mixed-layer illite/smectite (I/S), illite and smectite, with minor kaolinite. Diagenetic features of the sandstone include mechanical infiltration of clay, mechanical and chemical compaction, cementation, dissolution and replacement of feldspars by carbonate cements and clays. The modal composition and geochemical parameters (e.g. Cr/V, Y/Ni, Th/Co and Cr/Th ratios) of the sandstones and mudstones indicate that they were derived from felsic source rocks, probably from the crystalline basement of the northern fringe of the Arabian–Nubian Shield. The study reveals a collisional tectonic setting for the sediments of the Araba Formation. Palaeo-weathering indices such as the chemical index of alteration (CIA), chemical index of weathering (CIW) and plagioclase index of alteration (PIA) of the clastic sediments suggest that the source area was moderately chemically weathered. On the northern margin of Gondwana, early Palaeozoic weathering occurred under fluctuating climatic conditions.