Dahab1 is a small town on the eastern side of the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, Africa. It sits on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, in the Red Sea, looking across to Saudi Arabia. Being to the east of the Gulf of Suez means that it is technically part of Asia, although some travel insurers will class Egypt as Europe, their definition being 'it's on the Med'.
The weather in Egypt is reliably hot: it lies entirely within the Sahara, and so has a desert climate. Summer temperatures can reach as high as 50°C, and even in the winter the thermometer rarely dips into single figures. Snow is not unheard of on Mount Sinai (2,400m high), but it is an unusual occurrence. Dahab is more comfortable than many inland locations, as the sea breeze keeps it fresher and cooler, but even here the December average daytime temperature is 23°C.
The almost-guaranteed cloudless sky and the lack of light pollution make for some very good stargazing night skies.
Dahab found fame in the 1960s as a hippie haven, as it was a popular stopover on the backpacking trail across Egypt and Israel. It still retains that relaxed, 'chilled'2 atmosphere today, although more modern hotels and facilities have recently sprung up. The shops that line the sea-front promenade are full of tie-dye baggy pants, beaded jewellery and flip-flops (as well as the obligatory souvenir T-shirts, stuffed camels and pyramid shaped paper weights). The shop-keepers themselves are charming salesmen, and very adept at parting you from your Egyptian pounds.
Things To Do
The main reason visitors come to Dahab is for the diving, largely due to its proximity to the infamous Blue Hole, which still claims 3 or 4 victims per year, as they try to make the deep descent. The main diving resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is also the nearest airport, is about an hour's bumpy ride away, and many divers from there come on day trips to Dahab. Other spectacular dive-sites accessible from Dahab are Moray Gardens, Eel Gardens and Canyon.
Snorkelling at any of these sites is another great way to see the fantastic variety of fish and coral that live in these waters. Lucky observers may even catch a glimpse of a turtle or a dolphin.
The stiff breeze on the water makes this a popular wind-surfing location as well.
Out of the water, camel safaris are a popular trip, usually to a nearby oasis, and sometimes involving a night stop. Mount Sinai is well worth a visit, especially at either sunrise or sunset, when the colours bring the sandy mountains to life. Mount Sinai lies in the St Katherine's protectorate, a World Heritage site, and the monastery there houses what is claimed to be the remains of the burning bush whereby God spoke to Moses, so it has enormous religious significance. Longer trips of around three to four days are possible to the red rocks of Petra, in neighbouring Jordan.
Food and Drink
Being a seaside resort, the quality and variety of the seafood is vast, and restaurant staff will gleefully drag you to look at the stunning array of red snapper, calamari and prawns that they have to offer you. The promenade is full of brightly coloured restaurants, gaily lit by fairy lights at night, which make a magical setting for a meal. Along with the freshly-cooked fish, visitors can expect accompanying salads, hummous, tahini3, and flat bread. Alcohol is not available to buy in restaurants or shops, although it is not forbidden to consume it if you have brought your own supply. There are a couple of bars where alcohol is available, usually attached to the new hotels. Local drinks worth trying include lassi (made from yoghurt), freshly squeezed4 lemon, and cold rosehip tea, all of which are very refreshing.
Egyptian plumbing is a special treat - no paper products can be flushed down the loo, so instead must be placed in a handy bin. Understandably, these bins can get rather smelly.
Driving in Egypt is viewed as a competitive sport, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine on which side of the road the vehicles are supposed to be.
Should I Visit It?
A series of fatal bomb attacks in April, 2006 have understandably affected the numbers of tourists to this amazing place. It was included in the BBC series and book Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die, and regularly features on various Top Ten lists of Must-See places in the world. The seemingly unstoppable tide of modern hotels and holiday apartment developments will certainly change its character over time, so visitors wishing to experience a touch of laidback hippydom, combined with unsurpassed diving opportunities, should not delay their travel plans for too long.