Gold. This is Dahab. A photo essay.
The name Dahab, literally means Gold. And golden colours is what you will find here. I’ve been to Dahab many time since 2005 and not much has changed over the years. Unfortunately, their revolution kept the tourist away which resulted in quite a few businesses closing down. But if you can look past the dirty back streets and the partial third world infrastructure, it’s still one of the best places to chill out on a very small budget. In the 90’s and early 2000’s Dahab was know to be a hippy retreat, but not any more. It’s grown up since then. There are loads to do and it’s very easy to fall under the Dahab spell of becoming a master at chilling out.
Dahab is located on the south east coast of the Sinai peninsular in Egypt. The usual way to get there from Europe is to fly with one of the many low coast airlines to Sharm El Sheikh. From there it’s about a 45min taxi ride to Dahab. Depending on your bargaining skills, you could pay anything from 300 to 400 Egyptian Pounds. From Cairo, you could still fly to Sharm or if you are on a budget, you could take a overnight to Dahab.
Things to do in Dahab.
Dahab is mostly know for it’s beautiful scuba diving, in waters where the visibility is always more than 30m. With the calm waters, the diving here is very easy. Most of the dive sites has an easy walk in entry, which makes it comfortable for all skill levels.
Walk along the promenade and you’ll find that almost all the hotels are attached to a scuba diving school. In fact, where ever you choose to stay in Dahab, there will be a diving school attached to it, or at the very least, their neighbours will have a school. Due to the stronger £ and $, diving here is very cheap. But shop around. Some places will offer cheaper rates if you stay with them. So once you’ve done your shopping, you can even change your accommodation for better rates. My personal choice has always been Bedouin Divers. I have a long history with them, and their instructor, Bakr, knows his stuff and has been in Dahab for many years. All my scuba diving courses was done with them, from open water up to Divemaster.
Here are a few of my favourite dive sites.
The Blue Hole.
The biggest diving attraction here is it’s famous Blue Hole. Sometimes also describe as one of the most dangerous dive sites in the world (only if you don’t follow the rules). The Blue Hole itself is pretty boring, unless you are into free-diving, but the drift dive from the Bells (just north of the Blue Hole) to the Blue Hole is something special.
Dahab The Blue Hole 01Dahab is famous for it's dive sites like the Blue Hole and The Canyon. The Blue Hole, in the South Sinai desert, a few mile north of Dahab on the Red Sea Coast, is a submarine sinkhole about 130m deep. Because of the high number of fatalities, the Blue Hole is also know as the "World's Most Dangerous Dive Site" or "Diver's Cemetery".
For many scuba divers, this dive site is their favourite. Mine too. It’s another easy entry dive through a lagoon with beautiful colours that wait in the open ocean. During your short swim to the canyon, keep an eye out for the resident octopus.
The canyon opening starts at a depth of 20m and drops down to 30m. It does slope down further to over 50m, but that’s only for the tech divers. If you do your Advance Open water here in Dahab, this site is where you most probably will do your “Deep Dive”, and that’s only down to 30m.
Dahab The Canyon 07Dahab is famous for it's dive sites like the Blue Hole and The Canyon. The Blue Hole, in the South Sinai desert, a few mile north of Dahab on the Red Sea Coast, is a submarine sinkhole about 130m deep. Because of the high number of fatalities, the Blue Hole is also know as the "World's Most Dangerous Dive Site" or "Diver's Cemetery".
Dahab Underwater 11Underwater photos and marine life from Dahab, Egypt Looking up from inside the Canyon
Dahab Underwater 12Underwater photos and marine life from Dahab, Egypt The "Bubble zone" is what you'll see when you come out of the Canyon
TIP: If you do decide to dive with Bedouin Divers and you are experienced enough, ask Bakr to deviate from the usual dive plan and enter the canyon from the bottom at 30m. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll have to keep a cool head, cause you are in for a cool ride.
Probably one of Dahab most under rated dive sites. You don’t even have to go out of town to get to this site. The entry is from underneath the bridge that divides the old part of Dahab and the new. As soon as you enter the water you might think this is not a beautiful site, but keep going.
There are a few surprises just over the hill. In the sea grass, over the hill, more often than not you’ll find sea turtles. And if you have good eyes, you’ll find sea horses or even a few dragon moth fish. The first big reef here have more small fish than any other sire around Dahab, so it’s easy to spend your entire dive just here, marvelling at the abandons of seas creatures.
Only 5m drive from town, this is the first dive site south of Dahab. But the islands are not visible from land. You enter the site, one by one through a small rock pool, emerging into a huge pool. The home of a big blue trigger fish. From here you’ll follow your guide as he leads you through the islands. It’s very easy to get disorientated, so don’t get left behind. At the end of the island, there is a big open sand slope, and if you dive with bedouin Divers, they will show you a few special activities to do here :)
Sunset Walk Okay, so those are a few of my favourite dive sites and I’m not going to go through all the dive sites in detail. Further south of Dahab, about 20min drive, are a few more. Well worth a visit. 3 Pools, Moray Gardens, Golden Blocks and The Caves.
The last two is my choice when visiting the south. Then there are two more in town. The very popular “Lighthouse” where most training divers go and where open water course are done. Just a little further north is Eel Gardens. Like all the others dive sites, this site very colourful with the added extra, the eel garden. Go have a look at these creatures, it’s worth it.
Needless to say, all theses dive sites in and around Dahab is also great places to snorkel.
Scuba Day Trips.
Fancy a camel trip with great diving. Then Ras Abu Galum is where you should go. Well, getting on camel is optional if you don’t mind walking. But the camel will go with you to carry all the heavy scuba gear. A trip here can easily be done in a day, but many people choose to “unplug” and stay the night. You’ll have complete silence and clear skies to pass the night with star gazing. Your guide will also arrange a tasty bedouin dinner with fresh fish.
If you prefer the luxury of a dive boat (more like a yacht) with onboard lunch, then a day trip to Gabr El Bint is for you. Your day will start early with the boat trip (about an hour) to the dive site, where you will anchor for the day. After your first dive, you can chill on the deck with your lunch or you can snorkel if the heat gets too much.
Wind and Kite Surfing.
Not into scuba diving … don’t despair. Dahab is quickly become famous for is excellent wind and kite surfing conditions. Most of the summer months there has very little wind. It’s the colder (compared to it’s summer) months that brings the wind.
The Lagoona area is where most of these surfers gather. The lagoon itself seems like the perfect place to learn since it’s only a few feet deep. For the experienced surfers there are of course the open ocean. Make sure you are experienced before you tackle the open ocean. I’ve heard stories of surfers being picked up by the Saudi Navy. Not the ideal situation during a holiday.
Free-diving and Yoga
In Dahab it seems like these two activities go hand in hand (maybe that’s usually the case). And thanks to the Blue Hole, Dahab is a free-diving mecca. Competitions are regularly held in the Blue Hole and Dahab is often home to the worlds best free-divers. In the Lighthouse area you can see free-divers practicing on a daily basis (don’t be mislead by the motionless body lying face down in the water). There are plenty of free-diving school for beginners to instructor, and they can easily point you to the regular yoga classes.
If the water gets a bit cold for you, or if you would like to stay dry for a day, there are a few other options. Desert = Camels. There are a few camel safaris to choose from. A short trip just for the riding experience along the coast line, or a few hours that will take you to the top of a nearby mountain to view the sunset over Dahab.
Over night trips can also be arrange where you spend the night in a Bedouin village with some traditional music and dinner. Quad Bike trips also seem to be very popular. Personally, I’m not keen to sit on an underpowered quad bike, trailing someone that’s a bit uncomfortable with speed. I opted to rent a 250cc bike for a day and made my own way through the sandstone canyons. Many of which lead to peaceful and green oasis.
Day trips to the White and Colour Canyon is very popular and well worth it. You’ll be taken to the canyon by jeep, where you walk one canyon, have lunch in a Bedouin village and then walk the second canyon before heading back to Dahab. Don’t forget to take your own water!
No trip to Dahab is complete without and excursion to Mount Sinai (Moses Mountain) and Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Two option are available. Sunrise or sunset excursion.
The sunrise trip is by far the most popular and are taken by many people from the surrounding area, not only Dahab. The trip is planed so you get to the foot of Mount Sinai and hike up to the top to view the sunrise. Be warned though. It’s way colder on the mountain than what you think. Take enough warm clothes or you’ll have to rent a smelly blanket to keep yourself from freezing. There are also a few tea house on top of the mountain for a warm cuppa to defrost you from the inside. After the sunrise you have the option to take a different route down that leads past a few lakes. Once at the bottom, you’ll have the opportunity to visit inside the monastery.
The sunset trip is my favourite (yes, I’ve done both). You get to visit the monastery before you head up the mountain and not only are there no crowds, but you don’t have to put up with the freezing weather. If your timing is right, you can head down the mountain with only the light from the full moon.
All these trip are easy to arrange. Either from your hotel or backpackers and any of the shops along the beach. Shop around, prices vary. You can even arrange a few days trip to Jordan … highly recommended.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, I’ve been to Dahab many times (even worked there as a divemaster for a few months). If you have any questions on this little peace of gold, feel free to ask. If I can’t give an answer, I’l be able to point you to someone who can.
One last tip. At the end of your day, take a walk to the lagoon and watch the magical colours appear as the sun sets.
For the Ultimate Guide to Dahab, check out this blog. True Nomads.
Keywords: Camel, Camel Safari, Colors, Colours, Dahab, Desert, Egypt, Fun, Guide, Oasis, Red Sea, Scuba, Scuba Diving, Sinai, Snorkel
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