12 Reasons to Travel to Dahab, Egypt

June 19, 2013 by

Middle East & Africa, Places to Go, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Egypt – the word evokes images of pyramids and camels, tombs and temples, caches of ancient civilizations lying beneath a vast desert. Lesser known is Egypt’s other side – cerulean waters on soft sand beaches against mountain backdrops, colorful canyons and lush oases holding secrets of the desert and open and approachable locals happy to share bits of their lives. While these aspects of Egypt are not as famous as its ancient history, they are a powerful part of the country’s character.  Where do you go to unlock this side of Egypt? One spot that holds the key is the south Sinai town of Dahab. Whether you’ve never heard of it or have been longing to go for years, here are a dozen reasons why you should travel to Dahab.

1. Easy Accessibility

Dahab is a mountainous seaside village located in the south Sinai, 400 miles from Cairo’s occasional chaos and across the Gulf of Suez from the Upper Egyptian cities of Luxor and Aswan. Dahab is an easy flight from all of these areas, so it’s a great place to go for a day trip. Dahab is also accessible via a comfortable, but long, bus journey.  If you’re coming from Israel, you can cross into the Sinai by land, then travel to Dahab by bus, taxi or private minivan.  If you’re in Jordan and want to travel to Dahab, a ferry ride followed by an hour’s drive will get you there. One hour south of small and sleepy Nuweiba and an hour north of glittering, touristy Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab is situated not only midway geographically from the other two Sinai towns popular with travelers,  but holds an ambiance that is neither docile nor flashy. Dahab is just right.

2. Relaxing, Peaceful Vibe

There is a relaxing vibe in Dahab.

There is a relaxing vibe in Dahab.

Peaceful. Relaxing. Paradise. These are the words most often used to describe Dahab. Known in past years as a hippie hangout, Dahab has evolved into a spot popular with travelers of all types. Small homes occupied by Egyptians, Bedouins and a small population of Western expats line its back roads, its main street on the sea filled with shops and open air restaurants with colorful cushions on which to relax. Shopkeepers, well known in Egypt for their aggressive sales tactics, take on a muted tone in Dahab and blend into its laid back atmosphere. Locals, expats and travelers all take part in setting and maintaining the tranquil vibe of Dahab.

3. Natural and Local Beauty

Sinai Mountains

Sinai Mountains

The soft, dark contours of the ubiquitous Sinai mountains of Dahab are an intriguing, romantic and powerful presence framing the rolling waves of the Red Sea. Look across its waters and you’ll see Saudi Arabia looming, vast and mysterious.  Dahab has a lighthearted presence, its main drag a winding brick walkway along the sea, lined with open-air restaurants serving local and Western dishes, tour companies and shops where Egyptian-style negotiating is necessary to secure a good price. Deeper in Dahab, small, low-slung buildings line lightly trafficked, paved roadways, most locals as well as the village’s few tourists traveling by foot. Occasionally, a young Bedouin man will ride a camel past. Follow him, and you may find yourself in Dahab’s Assalah district, its sandy roads holding tiny homes outfitted with large, cracked wooden doors, a small marketplace and herds of goats wandering about.

4. Easy on the Money

Egypt is the least expensive country in the Middle East and Dahab will help you stretch your money as far as it can go. In its dozens of seaside restaurants you’ll dine on entrees for $5 or $10. Or take a short walk to its Mashraba or Asalah districts and buy a delectable meal for only $1.50 to $2.00, dining alongside locals at casual restaurants with names like King Chicken and Yum Yum.  Hotels range all the way from 5-stars found on the outskirts of town to small, privately owned hotels, to camps right in town where you can get a private en suite room for $10 or less. Dahab is entirely walkable, but if you want to take a taxi, you’ll only be paying about 75 cents to ride from one end of town to the other. Shopping in Dahab is also a great place to find a bargain. It is really not easy to spend a lot of money in Dahab.

5. Culturally Enlightening

Camel Safari

Camel Safari

Dahab hosts two indigenous cultures as well as a community of expats comprised of primarily Europeans who years ago traveled to Dahab, fell in love with its exotic yet serene allure and decided to make it a permanent part of themselves. This population is heavily outweighed, though, by Dahab’s Egyptian and Bedouin presence.   Egyptians – lively, passionate, very outgoing and friendly, and Bedouins – calm, quiet, polite and dignified, give the village of Dahab a quite diverse cultural feel.  To spend time in Dahab is to get to know both of Egypt’s primary cultures and to end up with a better understanding of the country.

6. One of the Most Comfortable Places in the Middle East

Dahab is a Middle Eastern anomaly. Although advisable to dress modestly to respect its conservative Muslim culture, Dahab has been so influenced by tourism over so many decades that its local people are accustomed to seeing Westerners dress as we do at home. You won’t get stares by wearing shorts and tank tops as you would in the rest of the Mid East, and sunbathers routinely spend their days on lounge chairs in the sun along the waters.  Also unlike other Muslim countries, alcohol is readily available, sold at most of its seaside restaurants. After spending your day in the most comfortable Mid East you’ll ever find, you’ll get a good night’s sleep wherever you stay, with Western-style accoutrements courtesy of locals who want to give tourists the best accommodation experience they can have.

7. Local Life Through Festivals and Markets

Dahab Market

Dahab Market

Different perspectives of local life anywhere can be discovered through markets, events and festivals, and Dahab is good at revealing itself through these. Its annual springtime Dahab Bedouin Festival , which focuses on international community relations and Bedouin culture, and The Dahab Festival, which aims to showcase for the world the unique offerings of Dahab, help bring travelers into close contact with aspects of its village life they might otherwise miss.  Dahab is also home to twice-weekly community markets, the Thursday Market at Chillax Restaurant and the Friday Market at Sheikh Salem House. Held primarily by expats but with a bit of Egyptian and Bedouin participation mixed in, here you’ll find home-cooked meals, baked goods, clothing items and handmade jewelry.

8. Desert Life is in Full Force

Sinai Desert Mountains

Sinai Desert Mountains

Although Dahab lies on the Red Sea, it is the Middle East and that means deserts. A 360-degree view from Dahab reveals the mountains of the Sinai, and even a short walk into the Asalah district will bring you up close and personal with roaming goats and Bedouins riding upon camels. When nighttime arrives, the sky will be coated with stars that seem specially created just for the desert.

9. Desert Adventures Await

The deserts are beautiful in Dahab.

The deserts are beautiful in Dahab.

Desert life isn’t all peace and quiet, and Dahab knows this. This spot is the epicenter for desert-driven adventure for adults and children, at least one of which you should experience. If you travel to Egypt you must ride a camel, and you’ll see plenty of them walking through and lying around Dahab, their minders waiting for you to request a ride. Jeep excursions will take you into the thick of the desert, up and down sand dunes and around the mountains, while horseback riding will bring you close to desert nature. Mt. Sinai is located just an hour and half away, and a hike to the top will reward you with either a sunrise or sunset view of the magnetic Sinai mountains.  Hidden amongst these mountains are colorful canyons and the occasional surprise of a lush oasis, holding secrets that only those who hike through will discover.

10. On-Water Adventures for All Ages and Abilities

Red Sea cruises

Red Sea cruises

Sea life is as much a part of Dahab as desert life, and there is a lot more on offer than lying on the beach. Windsurfing and kite surfing are popular Dahab sports, and the lagoon at the south end of its main strip holds calm waters ideal for gliding through peacefully, with the powerful appearance of the towering Sinai mountains as your view. For a more sedate time on the sea, relaxation can be had on an all-day boat trip, with breaks for snorkeling, as well as a tour on a glass bottom boat where you can examine aquatic life up close.

11. Underwater Adventures Abound

Red Sea Snorkeling

Red Sea Snorkeling

Of course, the best of sea life is found underwater. Near Dahab lie some of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the world.  Ras Mohammed National Park is home to more than 1,000 species of fish in the midst of the arid desert. The famous Blue Hole is just a 15-minute drive north of Dahab and one of the most popular dive spots on earth. The name lives up to its reality, as looking down while floating on top of its waters, you will find yourself over a blue abyss. Known for its deep underwater arch, which sometimes proves deadly to inexperienced divers, snorkeling as well as diving without descending to the depth of the arch is perfectly safe and a must-do for lovers of the water. Just about five miles north of the Blue Hole is Ras Abu Galum, a protected area which involves an adventure to reach – either a trek along its rugged coastline via foot or camel, or a 4×4 excursion through its rocky mountains.

12. Dahab is a Gateway to the Middle East

Located just two hours from both Israel and Jordan, Dahab is a gateway to the Middle East. Drive two hours north and cross the border into southern Israel. Take a one-hour drive north from Dahab, jump on a ferry and another hour later you’ll be stepping off in Aqaba, Jordan. If you don’t have time or desire to embark on a journey through Israel or Jordan, Dahab is close enough for you to take overnight or two- to three-day trips to experience the sights of these countries and then return to Dahab to relax on the sea after your journey.

Everyone who spends even a small amount of time in Dahab falls in love with its charms. When you travel to Dahab, know before you arrive that however long you stay, it will not seem enough.

 -Sabina Lohr

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3 Responses to “12 Reasons to Travel to Dahab, Egypt”

  1. Anthony Says:

    Thanks for the such wonderful information about beautiful place Egypt…Nice collection of pics as well which attracts me more to visit Egypt…:)

  2. sally Daniel Says:

    I will be going back to Dahab even though I was there under sad cirrumstances it was the best experience of my life. I felt like that is where I should be.

  3. Salma Says:

    Next time you are in Dahab, be sure to visit the beaches on the coast between Nuweiba and Taba (its only 70KM from Dahab). It is extremely beautiful and even more relaxing (no city, just huts directly at the beach).

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