Dahab

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. It is a place that many have fallen in love with over the years, and return to time and time again.

Understand

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, favourite presents from Dahab (for the inland Bedouin) are dried fish and 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 and Sinai desert make Dahab perfect for world class windsurfing, scuba diving, freediving, rock climbing and 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 and adventurous travellers, but also with some more upmarket resorts and 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 mismanagement.

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 and Mashraba), you will rarely find a visitor who comes only once to Dahab. To many people this has become a second home.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 21 22.4 25.3 28.7 32.2 34.7 35.5 35.8 33.5 30.5 26.5 22.2
Nightly lows (°C) 10.2 11 14 17.1 20.1 23.4 24.9 25 23.5 19.8 15.7 11.5
Precipitation (mm) 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2

Source: Climate-Data.org
See also: Egypt#Climate

The climate is sunny and very dry with almost no rainfall. Summers are very hot at days and warm at nights, but winters are warm with mild nights.

Dahab mean sea temperature
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
22 °C (72 °F) 21 °C (70 °F) 21 °C (70 °F) 23 °C (73 °F) 25 °C (77 °F) 26 °C (79 °F) 28 °C (82 °F) 28 °C (82 °F) 28 °C (82 °F) 27 °C (81 °F) 25 °C (77 °F) 23 °C (73 °F)

Get in

By bus or taxi

By bus from Cairo, 9 hours: Several times daily from Cairo's Turgoman station (central), Abbasseya station (30 mins from centre), Heliopolis (near airport). Not all buses go from/to all stations. Best to buy tickets in advance, especially for the night bus (departs Abbasseya midnight, arriving Dahab 9AM).

Return bus from Dahab to Cairo leaves at 9AM and 10PM.

By bus from Sharm El Sheikh airport: The hardest part is to get from the airport to the Sharm bus station. Taxis tend to charge a fancy 80 to 100 LE for this 10 km ride. Try heading towards the airport site exit and say you'll pick up a taxi (or microbus) outside. They'll tell you it's impossible and that there is no bus to Dahab anymore - just go on. The blue microbus costs only one pound per ride, but you'll have to change buses once to get to the bus station. Many taxis don't get an airport permission. If you can talk them down to 30 LE for the ride to the bus station you're good!

Bus schedule Sharm to Dahab is 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 14:30, 17:00, 20:30 Bus schedule Dahab to Sharm is 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 15:00, 16:00, 17:30, 19:30, 20:30, 21:30, 22:00, 22:20

Dahab Bus Office:+20-69-3641-808

By bus to St. Catherine: as of the end of October 2011, there is a regular, twice weekly, minibus service to and from St. Catherine. The Bedouin Bus runs on Tuesday and Friday and costs are 50LE each way. Check the website for details on pick-up and drop-off points in Dahab and St. Catherine.

By taxi from SSH: An experienced Dahab traveller would never pay more than 170 LE for the whole cab to Dahab (bargaining generally starts at 300-400 LE, sometimes higher). Decide for yourself, but don't exceed a 250 LE limit. Agree on a price "including all taxes, tips and tickets". Exchange money before you pass the airport customs. If you're stuck drivers will take euro or $, but you might end up paying a bit more.

A tip on bargaining: enter it in good nature. It's not normal for Europeans to have to bargain for everything, but it is normal here.

If you want to avoid the bargaining game, arrange an airport pick up through your hotel or camp. Check at least one week in advance via E-Mail, responding times may vary. 170 LE should be the limit for that service.

By ferry

Aqaba in Jordan is connected by ferry. Nuweiba ferry terminal is best by taxi. The 10:30AM bus to Nuweiba arrives there early enough to be able to get onto the 3PM fast boat to Aqaba. In busy times, you can be sure the fast boat will go. In slower times, it's best to be at the ferry terminal 11AM to book tickets. Sometimes the fast ferry runs, sometimes just the slow ferry. If you're on the slow ferry, board immediately and go; if you're on the fast ferry, head off to small duna or Terabin to relax for a couple of hours before boarding. Keep your driver with you until you know which ferry you're on - it's a long walk to the nice bits of Nuweiba away from the port.

Once in Dahab

By taxi, you'll be taken straight to your hotel.

Dahab Bus Station

By bus, you will arrive at Dahab bus station in the Medina. Arriving at the bus station you will be literally attacked by a mob of taxi drivers willing to push you into their car. You'll end up paying a ridiculous amount of money if you don't resist. A fair price is 5 LE inside the median/Laguna area, or 10 LE into Masbat/Mashraba. If you pay more you reinforce their hostile behaviour.

You can walk, too - be that only as a bargain move or to dissociate from the hostile situation - if a good 20 - 25 min. walk doesn't scare you off. Standing in front of the bus station (buses arrive in the back) facing the entrance, looking at the "East Delta Travel" sign: turn right, go a few metres, turn left into "Dr. Ahmed Zwel St.", walk about 200 metres. Turn right into "El Nasr Road". After about 300 m turn left at the pharao statue into "El Mashraba St.". Follow the road. After 400 metres you'll pass a two dolphin statue, go straight on, you're almost done. Soon the road makes a 90 degree left turn, you will see some construction sites and the beach. Turn left, following the road and walk into Mashraba.

Get around

Orientation

Dahab has 3 distinct parts.

1. At the centre is Masbat Bay, almost evenly divided by a floodway (the funny bridge over dry sand - except during a rare but impressive flash flood). The tourist area of Masbat effectively stretches north to Eel Garden (or Meleil as the Bedouin call it), and South through Mashraba. A corniche runs along this entire stretch of beach. This can be considered central Dahab, and you will find everything you need here.

2. A short taxi ride south is the Laguna (El Goze). This is where the Corniche ends in the South. Here you find Dahab's first resort hotels (Hilton etc.). You also find all municipal services: bus station, hospital, city council, etc.

3. Assalah: the residential area, mainly Bedouin but also with some foreign expats and Egyptians now also living amongst the Bedouin.

Plus outlying hotels: Stretching north towards the Blue Hole, and South to Wadi Gnai, there are around 15 outlying resort hotels - mainly booked as package holidays.

Plus Protected Areas: Dahab is bordered by 2 Proteted Areas: in the south, Nabq Protected Area starts at Wadi Gnai, as in the North Ras Abu Galoum Protected Area starts at the Blue Hole. In total 52% of the Gulf of Aqaba coastline is Protected Area, which is very important for managing growth and for preserving the reef and eco system. No building is allowed in Protected Areas, except traditional Bedouin structures.

By taxi

Shared taxis, in essence mini-buses, are a cheap way to travel locally. Shared taxis tend to conform to a timetable, so they become useful if you have missed the day's bus to the nearby spots like Sharm el-Sheikh, or if you need to get into Dahab when arriving from 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.

On foot

Getting around Dahab itself on foot is quite simple, the promenade runs right along the seafront and all the usual amenities are located along it. Bicycles would be an excellent way of getting around, but most rental bicycles are poorly maintained and as such are in terrible shape. Many businesses are distinctly unenthusiastic about the bicycle-rental aspect of their commercial operation, quoting inflated prices and creative time definitions ("1 day" = 6 hours). Even large and supposedly reputable operators are not immune from deficiencies in this area.

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:

Wind-surfing and kite-surfing

Wind surfing: Dahab has about 270 days a year of wind. Experts with their own equipment can also surf from Masbat Bay, but must take great care not to hit the snorkellers and freedivers on Lighthouse Reef. Kite surfing can be done around the lagoona area, at Eel Garden or at 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!

For wind forecast for Dahab see Wind Guru

There are several wind surfing schools around Laguna area offering all levels of courses:

Diving and Freediving

Diving and 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.

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 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.

You can dive the Blue Hole within safe recreational depths (that is without descending to the arch) - it is one of the top ten diving spots in the world. Bells / Blue Hole is extremely popular and beautiful. But be aware that it's crowded because lots of buses from Sharm come here. A normal dive in the Bells, a chimney which goes down to 30 metres perpendicular (very exciting experience!), needs you to possess advanced open water skills. Otherwise you are not allowed to go to 30 metres! Freediving 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 training here.

There are more than 60 diving and freediving centres in Dahab, but some are not properly licensed by the Ministry of Tourism (subject to annual inspections and fees). This is an open list - simple alphabetical order, described in their own words. Before you book, check the CDWS web site to make sure you avoid blacklisted centres:

Desert Excursions and Trekking

These need to be divided into 2 categories:

Popular sites:

Some of the safari shops also do day / overday trips to Jordan and Israel. for these, try Bedouina at Mirage Village or Dahab Safari day tours along the beach-front. They also organise one-day trips to Cairo and Luxor.:

Rock climbing

The Sinai Desert has excellent rock climbing in the granite mountains and wadis. October–April only (i.e. not the hot summer months). The main area near to Dahab is Wadi Gnai:

Desert Divers have led the way in developing rock climbing in the Sinai. They can arrange for permits to Wadi Gnai, equipment hire, drivers, guides and anything else you might need. They recently published the Sinai Rock Climbing Guide complete with topos and route descriptions. Their instructors are happy to share/offer advice to experienced climbers who can 'self-guide', or they can help you improve your climbing with beginner and Advanced technique courses.

St. Catherine also has incredible tradclimbing and bouldering. Base yourself in the village at Fox Camp or Sheikh Mousa Bedouin Camp with easy access (5 mns to 2 hours) to more than 60 routes. All long multipitch (7+ pitch), but wide range of grades. If you're a group, it is great fun to head deep into the desert by camel where you will find unclimbed lines almost everywhere you look! Absolutely no bolting allowed in St Catherine, and please respect the holy mountains of Mt Sinai and St Katherine by walking the traditional pilgrimage paths rather than climbing.

Sandboarding

Sandboarding is said to be originated in Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs where they slid down dunes on pieces of wood. Yet, it only began to capture the center stage as one of the most exciting outdoor adventure sports within the past couple years. Today the sport has evolved in many countries with idyllic settings like Namibia, Peru in Latin America, Australia, the Western USA and Dubai in the UAE with ever-increasing followers throughout the world.

Yoga, Reiki, Chi Gong and more

Whether ashtanga, hatha or kundalini, yoga is increasingly popular in Dahab. Yoga on nearby Mount Sinai is a regular draw, as are full-moon retreats into the nearby wadis (desert), taking advantage of the silence and space of the Sinai desert. More and more people are coming to Dahab on holiday and yoga for Christmas has become a top travel destination.

The El Salam Camp and Yoga Shala holds daily classes throughout the year, as well as running regular retreats in high season. Classes are currently available in both English and Russian.

Coral Coast and Blue Beach Hotel offer daily yoga drop- in classes with various teachers of different yoga styles. Both yoga rooms are purpose built, with stunning view, situated on the roof, not accessible to public view and provide yoga-mats and props.

Other

Buy

Great buys are the usual Egyptian suspects: water pipes, rugs, oriental lamps, shirts in different lengths with embroidery, backgammon games, silver jewelery, 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.

Look out for Bedouin Handicrafts, some beautiful pieces are available. Hand embroidered and made in Dahab, St Catherines and El Arish by Bedouin women. Sheikh Salem House has a good selection of items as does some of the other Bedouin establishments in Dahab.

If your stay extends with or without intention your shopping behaviour will focus on the Ghazala Market where you can find anything you need to uptate your on-the-road-equipment from functional to convenient. For local fare and much cheaper fruit and veg, go to Assalah shopping area (5 min taxi, or walk to Eel Garden then head into town).

It is almost impossible to get rolling tobacco in Dahab, be prepared if you are not keen on factory made ones.

Dahab Community Market

Dahab Community Market is a weekly event for everyone, that is held every Friday afternoon at Sheikh Salem House, Eel Garden Area, Dahab. The market currently starts at 3PM and finishes between 7 - 8PM.

There are different sellers every week and regular sellers including hand made Bedouin and Egyptian Crafts, Jewelry, Clothes, 2nd Hand bargains, foods from around the world including home made Egyptian Food, delicious cakes and deserts

See the Dahab Community Market on facebook.

Eat

The trick to eating cheaply in Dahab is to avoid seafront establishments and use restaurants inland, along and beyond the pedestrian zone, where identical meals are regularly on offer for half the seafront price.

Meet people, enjoy great food and drink, with great hospitality and atmosphere.

Drink

There are several bars on the beach. You can also buy beer, wine and liquor in special shops called Drinkies. One is located at Azzahla market square, another in Mashraba in the small road after Sea Bride fish restaurant.

Some Egyptian alcohol brands mimics the names and labelling of better known liquors elsewhere. Restaurants will often advertise Stella beer, which isn't Stella Artois, as well as Sakkara, Luxor and Heineken.

good place for drink &shisha

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

Room prices for a single camp room (no AC, no bath) should be no more than 30LE., less if you book ahead for a week or longer. The budget traveller heads for the ones run by Egyptians. Some Westerners have bought into camps and try to (nearly) double prices without any noticeable reason. If anyone asks more don't hestitate to go to the next camp, there are plenty.

Mid-range

Stay safe

Women travellers are safe in Dahab, but please be smart:

Snorkeling along/past the reef can be very dangerous when very windy: strong underwater currents develop, and it is very difficult to come back onto the shallow reef. Always ask a dive center nearby if it is safe to snorkel - they will be happy to help.

Drugs, particularly marijuana, are available in Dahab but that doesn't make them legal. 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.

Go next

This is the tough part. Many people arrive in Dahab to chill for a few days, some of them stay for weeks or months, and there are people who stay for years, become a dive instructor, run a restaurant etc. It is easy to get stuck in Dahab. For the rest of us:


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