Dahab (دهب) is a town in Egypt, located some 85 km (53 miles) north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Gulf of Aqaba and 175 km south from Taba, near the southern tip of Sinai. It is a place that many have fallen in love with over the years, and return to time & time again.
Dahab was once an isolated coastal village inhabited only by the local Bedouin. As little as 30 years ago, there were fewer than 30 Bedouin families in Dahab. Like the Bedouin inland, they had a self-sustaining lifestyle but in Dahab this was based on fishing as well as traditional goat herds. During the summer, many inland Bedouin came to Dahab for fishing and to collect dates, and to enjoy life by the sea. To this day, favorite presents from Dahab (for the inland Bedouin) are dried fish & dates.
Dahab's isolated location, idyllic setting and laid-back Bedouin hospitality made it a favourite destination for all who stumbled upon it. In the beginning (1970s), this was mainly Israeli soldiers or people from the kibbutz during their leave. During the 1980s it turned into a hippie hangout, and in the 1990s adventure enthusiasts from around the world began to discover Dahab's natural wonders. The combination of Red Sea & Sinai desert make Dahab perfect for world class windsurfing, scuba diving, freediving, rock climbing & of course desert trekking with the Bedouin. Add to this cheap accommodation on or near the beach, inexpensive food and drink and a relaxed atmosphere, and you have a heady enticement for the young and young at heart.
Today's Dahab has evolved into an "alternative resort" - the home of independent & adventurous travellers, but also with some more upmarket resorts & hotels. Most of the latter are in the Laguna area or outlying. For some people, this mix is part of Dahab's charm ("everyone welcome"), others regard the mix up as a problem: Prices in Assalah are artificially increased which makes it less and less interesting for backpackers, though some locally-run camps still keep affordable. In contrast to that, many package tourists and families won't feel comfortable with the lacking conveniences and the all-handmade-look among the hippies. Note the grotesque, forever unfinished concrete structures as a sign of this mismanagment. Likewise for travellers who wish to stay long term, Caireens have discovered this as a moneymaking scheme and have the tendency to collect properties and rent them out on short term basis only for incredibly increased prices (think 5-700le per night). This has essentially destroyed the rental market in Dahab for both locals and tourists alike and it's nigh on impossible to find anything lower than 3000le per month these days for something that requires work.
Still, for everyone with an open mind, Dahab is definitely worth a visit and a place to fall in love with. Particularly in the old part of Dahab (Masbat & Mashraba), you will rarely find a visitor who comes only once to Dahab. To many people this has become a second home.
What you can do
The most "traditional" thing to do in Dahab is not to do anything. It's one of the best places in the world to indulge this most exquisite passion and a lot of Dahab's reputation among travellers is based on that. Anyway, if "doing" something to you means "activity" or "sites" there's also a great variety of options:
- Kite surfing
- Scuba diving
- Desert excursions
- Desert Trekking
- Rock Climbing
- Yoga, Reiki, Chi Gong, etc
- Horseback riding (& camel riding of course!)
- Quad bikes
- Learn Arabic
Wind-surfing & kite-surfing
Dahab has about 270 days a year of wind. Wind patterns are different in summer and winter and between these seasons (mid Oct - mid Nov) you may hit occasional 1-4 relatively windless days in a row. Lagoona area is divided into kite surfing (north) and windsurfing parts and provides a good protection from waves and currents, while keeping the wind good. Right outside the lagoona there's a professional zone with higher winds and waves.
- Wind surfing: There are at least 6 big wind surfing stations around Laguna area offering all levels of courses, as well as equipment rentals. Experts with their own equipment can also surf from Masbat Bay, but must take great care not to hit the snorkellers & freedivers on Lighthouse Reef.
- Kite surfing is mostly done in a shallow "kite lagoona", as well as at other places, like Eel Garden and other local spots. Recently, some kiters have started heading out to the Laguna at Ras Abu Galoum - stunning location and you will be just 1 or 2 kites rather than 10 or 20!
Diving & Freediving
Diving & freediving are extremely popular in Dahab and need a bit more explanation. The reefs here are still in relatively good shape in town, and excellent shape in the Protected Areas like Ras Abu Galoum. Known dive sites include Abu Helal, Blue Hole, The Bells, Canyon, Coral Garden, Eel Garden, Lighthouse, Moray Garden, Islands, Three Pools, Gabr El Bint, Ras Abu Gallum.
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 is considered to be the most dangerous scuba diving site on earth, regularly killing inexperienced and experienced divers foolish enough to risk it. A high number of instructors and divemasters have met their fate in the Blue Hole, as well, including many who had successfully passed the arch dozens of times. Should you be interested in descending to the arch 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.