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Revision as of 08:02, 12 August 2006

Easy living on the beach

Dahab (دهب) is a town in Egypt, located some 85 km (53 miles) north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Gulf of Aqaba, near the southern tip of Sinai.

Contents

Understand

Dahab was once an isolated coastal village, but now there are "more backpackers than Bedouin", and the town has become something of an alternative resort, the "Ko Samui" of the Middle East.

Super cheap accommodation positioned right by the beach, inexpensive food and drink and a relaxed atmosphere combine with the natural wonders of the Red Sea (swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving) to make it a heady enticement for the young and young at heart.

Orientation

Dahab has two distinct parts. To the north is the former Bedouin village of Assalah on the kilometer-long beach, full of backpackers, cheap accommodation and the part that most resembles Ko Samui. To the south is the modern town of Dahab, where the resort hotels, banks and other amenities can be found.

Get in

Buses connect Dahab with Sharm el-Sheikh (11EGP - 1h), Cairo (65/75EGP - 9h) and Suez daily. Alternatively, Eilat and the Israeli border at Taba are only around 2 hours away by taxi (100-180EGP) or by bus (21EGP - 3h). You can book bus tickets at most of the hotels/hostels or simply pop up at the last minute, they will also arrange a taxi (5EGP) to the bus station which is a short drive out of the tourist strip . Shared taxis, in essence mini-buses are a cheap way to travel local.

From/to Sharm el-Sheikh, you can get a private car to/from Dahab for around 150EGP if you miss the bus or simply want to avoid the hassle of dealing with various taxis and a more reliable schedule. Most lodges will also arrange pickup on request.

Get around

Shared taxis, in essence mini-buses are a cheap way to travel locally, these do not tend to conform to a timetable so become useful if you have missed the day's bus to the closer spots such as Sharm el-Sheikh or need to get into Dahab when arriving on the Aqaba ferry. To get to Dahab from Eilat if you don't have a car, take a taxi to the border, walk across, and grab a shared taxi on the other side.

Getting around Dahab itself is quite simple on foot, the promenade runs right along the seafront, with all the amenities appearing along it.

See

Dahab itself has practically nothing in the way of sights, but you can easily arrange tours to some nearby points of interest.

  • Ein Khudra, a Bedouin oasis.
  • Coloured Canyon

Do

Dahab's activities can be divided in two: there's diving, and then there's everything else.

Diving

Diving is extremely popular in Dahab and the reefs here are still in relatively good shape. Known dive sites includes Abu Helal, Blue Hole, The Bells, Canyon, Coral Garden, Eel Garden, Lighthouse, Moray Garden, Islands, Three Pools, Gabr El Bint, Ras Abu Gallum.

  • Red Sea Relax Diving Resort. +20 (0)69 3641 309 http://www.red-sea-relax.com]. New British run diving operation enjoying a prime beach side location in central Dahab, meters from the teeming reefs but also convenient for Dahab's famous bizaars, lively nightlife and modern amenities. As a PADI Diving Resort on site accommodation is available with a choice of either discounted standard en-suite rooms or a bed in the dormitory complex- offered totally free for divers! A beachside restaurant (with internet terminals free to guests)and a safari office complete the all-in-one facilities. Red Sea Relax Diving Resort and its team of professional instructors offer a host of diving activities. PADI diving courses range from beginner through to Assistant Instructor, or for those already qualified daily diving takes place to any of the 20 specatacular local reefs. For those more adventurous Boat excusions and Camel Dive Safaris are easily arranged.
  • Bedouin Divers. [1]. Very familiar dive center directly at the coast of the Red Sea in the Mashraba area of Dahab. Bedouin Divers is located in the Bedouin Lodge Hotel, which acts very individual and can arrange for you everything: Daily Diving, PADI Courses, Camel Dive Safaris and Boat Dives ... but further desert safaris and anything else giving you a good insight into the Bedouin's life.
  • Desert Divers. [2]. For anyone up for a taste of the Bedouin life, this is the home of the Camel Diving Safari and has become Dahab's center for diving & desert adventure in the Sinai. Their story began 15 years ago when the owner, Said, became Dahab's first Bedouin to learn to dive. The place is right on the beach in the main bay (Masbat Bay, inbetween the bridge & Lighthouse Reef). Excellent for diving (PADI 5 Star Gold Palm Resort), plus unique specialities including Freediving & Freediving Safaris, Deep Desert Safaris, Rock Climbing and Yoga Safaris. Plus their famous Camel Diving Safaris, from 1-5 days with the Sinai's most experienced guides.
  • Poseidon Divers. [3]. Certainly the best and most professional dive center in Dahab if you plan to embrace a professional career, get into technical diving or simply do fun dive or courses in a safe and professional way. It is the only PADI Career Development Centre in town as well as a PSA and TDI Instructor facility (the only one in Egypt), you will get no shortage of divers if you do your PADI DiveMaster or Instructor course here which is a definite plus for the qulity of your course. Poseidon Divers is also home to the top of the crop of technical diving with World Record Depth diver Mark Andrews as a manager and instructor.
  • Nesima Diving Center. Tel. 069 3640320. [4]. French-run diving center generally judged to be the best in town. They charge a premium pricewise though, as two dives will cost you €47 (plus €20/day for gear rental). Package discounts available. A 5-day PADI Open Water course here is €302.
  • Blue Realm. Tel. +20 69 364 1413; mobile +20 12 744 4873; e-mail info@bluerealmdiving.com; web site http://www.bluerealmdiving.com. Great native-run diving center (English, Dutch, German, French and Arabic available: the owner's wife is actually Dutch and has been living there for 6 years now). They charge for two dives €45 (plus extra for gear rental, see the web site). Package discounts are available. A 5-day PADI Open Water course here is €260, incl. equipment (see also Special Offers page on web site). In addition to Dahab, Blue Realm arranges custom diving holidays throughout the Egyptian Red Sea.
Travel Warning WARNING: Dahab's most infamous dive site is the Blue Hole, 107 meters deep with an arch opening onto the reef face at 58 meters. This site regularly kills inexperienced and experienced divers foolish enough to risk it. In truth, a shockingly high number of instructors and divemasters have met their fate in the Blue Hole, even many who had succesfully passed the arch dozens of times. Should you be interested in attempting this dive you MUST go through technical dive training and visit the Blue Hole on the correct gases. Diving this site on air alone is near suicidal, so even if a very experienced person offers to take you through, do not at any price do this unless you have technical training and are using it.

Free-diving is the new kid on the block in Dahab thanks to the very convenient Blue Hole site and an ever increasing range of world top freedivers coming for training such as Lotta Ericson, Natalia Molchanova, Sebastien Murat, Sam Still, Andreas Guldner...

  • Lotta Ericson [5] - Swedish champion, world top freediver and official 2** AIDA trainer lives in Dahab and offers freediving courses. She also organizes the Dahab Challenge Triple Depth competition.
  • BlueSkunk Freedivers [6] - Offers a very complete and progressive range of course: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Deep, ... It is not the goal of the course to push towards a new personal best as they emphasize technique development and depth adaptation before increasing depth! Safety first!

Other

Climbing is also an option in the Sinai, although the brutal climate takes its toll and this isn't particularly suitable for beginners. Deep in the desert, Mt. Sinai (St. Catherine) has incredible tradclimbing and world-class bouldering (absolutely no bolting in St Catherine please). The main area near to Dahab, including sportsclimbing (bolted routes), is Wadi Gnai:

  • Vast amounts of perfect bouldering on granite boulders in shaded, sand-floored valleys
  • Single and multi-pitch equipped sport routes for all levels of climbers in Waterfalls and Fake Connection
  • Almost endless possibilities for trad climbing lines on bomber granite
  • Plus new routing possibilities for sport climbs in many easily accesible areas.

Desert Safaris are organized by loads of small safari shops all along Dahab's Masbat Bay. In addition to day tours (see Get out), you can arrange to get deep into the desert with the Bedouin, who'll take you for up to 2 weeks!

  • Bedouin Safari Dahab. [7]. Here, Bedouins from the South Sinai can arrange for you the individual desert trip you are looking for.

Buy

Great buys are the usual Egyptian suspects: water pipes, rugs, oriental lamps, shirts in different lengths with brodery, backgammon games, silver jewellery, etc. Prices are geared for tourists, so haggling is a must, pay max. 50%-60% of the first price offered, anything else is a rip-off. If you are not sure about the price, go to the next shop, they all offer more or less the same things, and start bargaining again there.

Eat

  • Friends Restaurant. One of many effectively identical beachfront restaurants offering the same Arabic fare at the same prices.
  • Stone Ginger. Located at the Blue Beach Hotel on the beach front, provides comfortable eating with an extensive and interesting menu. The food is well cooked and the steaks in particular are renowned in Dahab. The restaurant is inside and provides warm shelter in the winter and a cool environment in the hot summer months. Can also cater for large groups but book ahead as is often full.
  • Eel Garden. At the northern end of the promenade, sitting on nice bedouin coussins, friendly staff, good food european and egyptian you wont find everywhere, e.g. mashi, couscous or fatta.
  • Dai Pescatori. At the very northern end of the promenade, good italian food, especially the mixed appetizers, and the semi-fredo desert.
  • El Dorado. Also at the northern end of the promenade, with its own beach. Owned by Italians, who serve excellent Italian fare, with pizzas to die for! Especially popular with the locals. Be careful when receiving the check, as the owner of the place has his own ideas about what to charge, should you have any special request.
  • Budget places. In the side streets, you can eat at very low prices (2-15LE) such as falafel, koshari, chicken at the "chicken king".

Drink

There is little alcohol in these parts, although overpriced beer can be arranged in many restaurants. Instead, the local thing to do is chill out by the beach at one of the innumerable beachfront cafes, lying on a mattress and puffing on a shisha (water pipe).

Egyptian alcohol mimics the names and labelling of better known liquors elsewhere. Restaurants will often advertise Stella beer, which isn't Stella Artois, but a domestic beer that is actually quite good. Keep an eye out for 'Finlanda' vodka as well.

  • Elzar Bar, next to the ruins of the old harbour on the beachfront. The best place in town for anyone wanting to get pissed late at night. Chris the Aussie barman is always on hand until the sun comes up serving a variety of alcoholics including the drunken Welshman and unconfrontational Dave the Canadian nice man.
  • The Furry cup, at the Blue Beach Hotel, where local Westerners hang out at the sound of U2, Coldplay, etc.
  • (kind of) Discotheques, are Tota, Rush and The Tree. The front of Tota is built like a ship with tables on the top deck as well as inside and more outdoor seating in a small garden area. There are pool tables and a small dance floor inside.

Sleep

Dahab has a plethora of cheap accommodation. All are rather the same, generally offering bungalow/chalet type accommodation at very reasonable prices. For the those on an extreme budget, most have areas where you can sleep on mattresses in the open air, usually for under a dollar a night, including a blanket and pillow.

Budget

  • Star of Dahab, tel. 069 3640130, e-mail: starofdahab@hotmail.com [8]. A pleasant family-run guesthouse at the southern end of Assalah, offers basic lodgings at basic prices. Excellent beachside location, but it's a bit of a hike to the center of Assalah.
  • Dolphin Camp, tel 0020 69 3640081. Offers very good, clean and cheap rooms right on the beach in Dahab. The rooms are from 20LE-70LE some with bathroom and AC. The camp is well run and the staff are really helpful and laidback. They can arrange excellent desert trips and excursions to St Katherines monestery and Mt Sinai almongst others.

Mid-range

  • Ali Baba Hotel, tel. 069 3640876, [9]. Egyptian-run hotel in a mixed European/Oriental style. Minibar, sea view, balcony, and air-con for around 25€/room/night, there is also a "suite" (double size with bathtub) for 33€.
  • Bedouin Lodge Hotel, tel. 069 3641 125, [10].

Bedouin owned hotel directly at the coast of the Red Sea in the heart of Dahab (El Mashraba). Simple rooms equipped with bathroom, AC or fan. Small beach, sun roof, restaurant, dive shop.

  • Blue Beach Club is located between Eel Garden and Lighthouse. Clean ensuite, air conditoned rooms at reasonable prices and a fresh water swimming pool are available. www.bluebeachclub.com
  • Neptune Beach Hotel, tel. +20 (0)69 3641 308, [11]. Part of the Red Sea Relax Resort, Neptune Beach offers comfortable accommodation directly on the beach in Central Dahab. Choose from a Twin or Triple ensuite, air con or fan from around 24 Euro per night. All rooms equipped with minibar and free coffee and tea making facilities. Alternatively take a budget bed in the Dormitory complex- free if you're diving at the Dive Shop. A Terrace Restaurant, Internet Cafe, Safari Office, PADI Dive School and Post Shop complete the facilities.
  • Self catering villas - great value at E50 per villa per day, sleeps four people. 30 seconds from the sea and run by europeans - clean and well looked after. www.dahabholidayrentals.com or email info@dahabholidayrentals.com
  • Penguin Village and Diving is a clean, well-run 30-room hotel right on the water, which has a good restaurant and a dive shop. It's popular with travellers in their 20s and 30s who are looking for a reasonably priced place, but who aren't on a really tight budget. Rooms are around E25 for a double. Also at off-season double rooms with shared bathroom are available for only 20EGP.
  • Dahab Divers is a clean and obviously newer hotel and dive centre. Rooms are air conditioned, and there are excellent showers - a rarity in Egypt. Official price is €37 per night, but is negotiable. We were particularly impressed with how helpful they were in arranging to get us out of Dahab after the bombing, given that it was in their financial interests to get us to stay as long as we'd planned.

Stay safe

Drugs, particularly marijuana, are widely available in Dahab and famously cheap. This does not make them legal, so consider very carefully if you want to risk at best large fines and at worst lengthy prison terms in Egypt's notoriously squalid prisons before indulging.

Women travellers are pretty safe in Dahab. As a matter of courtesy to the local customs, even though you will see quite a few girls with short skirts and tight t-shirts, please respect the fact that you are in a moslem country, and dress appropriately in the city (at the beach bikini is no problem).

Get out

  • Mount Sinai, 2 hours away by car, is a popular overnight trip from Dahab. Any guesthouse can arrange return transportation for around LE 30. Alternatively, gather a group of people, charter a taxi and beat the crowds by climbing during the day and seeing the sunset instead. It gets cold, so bring a jacket!
  • The 10:30 am bus to Nuweiba arrives there early enough to be able to get onto the 3pm fast boat to Aqaba, Jordan.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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