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The Coral Peninsula of Dahab, Sinai

The Coral Peninsula of Dahab, Sinai

The name Dahab means “gold” in Arabic, and where it came from is debatable. Some say it’s because of the golden color of the sand surrounding the area, some say it’s because gold washed down the mountains of Sinai during floods and has settled down where the town was built, and others say there’s a spot at Dahab where during a specific time during sundown, the sun reflects a golden color over the calm water surface. The coral peninsula of Dahab lies between Qura Bay to the south and the smaller Ghazala Bay to the north. Here you can find the most picturesque Bedouin Village in Sinai, Assalah, surrounded by very tall palm trees.


Dahab is about 100km north of Sharm el-Sheikh, on the South-East coast of a sleepy town on the Sinai peninsula, there's more to diving than breathing. Dahab is the perfect complement to the highs of diving. It clings for dear life to the Red Sea coast. The Sinai mountains loom in the background, with a great expanse of desolate, grey desert in front of it, looking ready to push this seaside oasis into the sea, like a menacing two-pence nudger. Perhaps more than any other location in the Middle East, Dahab has been a meeting point between the West and the Arab world. There is no other place where Israelis and Arabs forget their animosities and party together so heartily. Dahab is also a magnet for skin divers and backpacking bohemians, who are variously drawn to its famous coral reefs, gorgeous desert moonscapes and hashish-induced laid-back vibe.

Dahab consists of two villages: the Bedouin village of Assalah is the southern half, and the business and administrative center of Dahab to the north. It is a focus of tourism development, with swaying palms, fine sand and wonderful snorkeling opportunities. Dahab has excellent hotel accommodations, but also affords less expensive housing in the village, or camping. The local handicrafts are of some interest. The mountains rising immediately to the north of Dahab enable visitors to make interesting excursions (for example to Wadi Qnai and Wadi Connection in cross-country vehicles. Within just a few miles of Dahab are some great adventure spots. Excellent dive sites lie both to the north and south, including Blue Hole, one of Sinai's best. Just south are the wadis of Qnai el-Rayan and Qnai el-Atschan.

An hour's moderately smooth ride north from Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab is on the eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula, on the Gulf of Aqaba. Here lie the Sinai Mountains and desert: a relentless terrain of granite rocks and red-gold sand, in which only the traditional Bedouin successfully survive in. The town is located at a dramatic meeting of land and sea, the red and gold Sinai Mountains descending dramatically into the Red Sea, leaving barely any space for land or beast.

Dahab is one of the few places in Egypt where you can do all three, diving, windsurfing and a bit of nightlife. The Windsurfing spot is about 2 km South of Dahab-Village in the so-called Lagoon. Around the lagoon, there are a few of the bigger hotels, but otherwise there is wasteland, you may stay in Dahab-village (Dahab-Masbat/Mashraba)and take a cab out for surfing (will cost maximum 10 Egyptian pounds). Grin Smilies gifting spots are both directly in Dahab (Light house reef, for example) or a few kilometers around (like Blue Hole, Eel Garden).

If you visit this small Bedouin coastal resort in summer, you’ll face unbearable high temperatures. That’s why Dahab is perfect for a winter sun escape. Located less than 100 miles north of its more touristy neighbor, Sharm El-Sheikh, it has a chilled backpacker vibe and is renowned for its windsurfing – and diving of course! With about 270 days of wind a year, you don’t have to worry about not having wind in your sails.
The Coral Peninsula of Dahab, Sinai
The winter is also the perfect time to visit the stunning locations nearby – doable as day trips – such as the Coloured Canyon, with its dramatic rock formations, and St Katherine’s Monastery, situated at the foot of Mount Sinai. And the accommodation isn’t too shabby either. Dahab Paradise, on the Red Sea, is right among the action. EasyJet flies from London Gatwick, Luton and Manchester Sharm El-Sheikh, which offers easy access to Dahab.

Diving - From DAHAB through NUWEIBA to TABA

The small seaside resort of Dahab lies on the west coast of Sinai and hosts a tempting selection of impressive caves. The steep drops and unusual underwater terrains of these very varied sites are certain to seduce any diver. Only those who are extremely experienced can descend to the thrilling depths of the famous ‘Blue Hole’ with its 80m deep cavern. Others can ponder the profusion of alcyonarian coral that thrives on the underwater rock face known as The Canyon.

DIVING ABILITY
ALL LEVELS

MARINE LIFE
Napoleon fish, turtles, sharks, barracudas, coral reefs and fauna, stingray, sea lions, red snappers.

UNMISSABLE DIVES

  • Dahab: The Canyon, The Blue Hole (depth 120 m)
  • Taba: Ras Amira
  • Nuweiba: 6 Abu Lou Lou
  • Wadi Connection – Rest Valley Mountain
  • The Waterfront of Assalah
    Dahab has two distinct parts. To the north is the former Bedouin village of Assalah on a kilometer-long beach, full of backpackers and cheap accommodation this area is similar to many other diving resorts that cater for backpackers. It is a quiet residential area with many homes owned by foreigners. Walk through the garden takes you to the beach where The Red Sea coral-reef starts directly from there. After a ten minute walk along the beach you will get to the promenade with restaurants, shops, sun loungers and diving centers. The major parts are Masbat and Mashraba, where you will find everything you need. Here is also the Bay. The Waterfront of Assalah, from the beginning till the end & along the stretch you will see places to eat, drink & chill out. Assalah Beach at the end of the beach footpath just north of the Eel Garden Dive Site. Serves a great mix of Bedouin/Middle Eastern/European food including home made beef burgers, Bedouin wrap sandwiches and daily chefs specials. Free wireless internet for customers and one of the nicest views in Dahab. Assalah Lodge Holiday Apartments in Dahab offer all you need for a self-catering holiday. With loud western or Arabic music blasting away the night ! There's also a cove in The Waterfront of Assalah where you can have private quiet moment in Dahab. There are boats, children playing around & some locals trying to do their fishing at night as well !
    Waterfront of Assalah, Dahab
  • Laguna
    To the south lies Laguna or Dahab City/Medina, where the resort hotels reside. Here is also the Bus Terminal. Since about a decade Dahab suffers from attempts to modernize it and to turn it into a "real" resort place. The "Laguna" is situated at the south-end of a natural curving bay, a bit past the "Islands". The site can be entered from several different entry points. From one entry the "Laguna" shows you patches of coral, scattered along a sandy bottom. There is a place we call the coral valley, because this looks like a real underwater landscape. The "Laguna" differs from most other sites. There's no reef table and the coral is different then at other sites because the Laguna is a more sheltered place. If you enter elsewhere, you will pass some the site the name "7 Pinnacles".
    Beach at Laguna or Dahab City/Medina, dahab
    This is ok, as long as the distinction between Assalah (backpackers) and Laguna (resort) is kept in mind. The problem is the mix up. Prices in Assalah are artificially increased which makes it less and less interesting for backpackers, though some egyptian-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 as well as among the "hippies". So they will be way better off in Laguna / Dahab City or even more in Sharm el Sheik. Note the grotesque, forever unfinished concrete structures all over Assalah as a sign of this mismanagement. There are a few wind surfing schools around Laguna area offering all levels of courses. There are one or two options at the beach, and although the conditions are not so favourable, it is cheaper than at the Laguna.

Nightlife, well, yes..... there is a young crowd in Dahab, but nightlife is more about relaxing, smoking Sheesha, having a good meal and a beer. Dahab has loads of bars/restaurants at the beach, it is just great sitting there bedouin-style on cushions, listening to Manu Chao music, enjoying the atmosphere.

There are a few party spots, the Rush (nice little outdoor-club in Masbat, with a Mini-Pool & housemusic), the Tota Dance Bar (also in Masbat, entrance looks like a big ship), Adams Bar (cheapest beer in town). The Sphinx Hotel and the Nesima-Bar do weekly parties. So as long as you don't expect something like Ibiza, you will have time of your life. Great places to stay: bishbishi Camp (located in Mashraba, the southern part of Dahab, South Sinai), the Penguin , Christina , Jasmine, Bedouine Lodge, Nesima, Blue Beach Club. See List of Hotels and Resorts In Dahab

The Modern Hippie Trail in Dahab

Dahab is world-renowned for scuba diving. Some of the best dive sites in the world are in the Red Sea in or around Dahab. St. Catherine's Monastery is an easy day trip. Excursions are available into the desert by camel or jeep. The local bedouin will take you in and show you their traditional style of life as you venture into the colored canyons. Also, do not miss a chance to pick up some souvenirs in the local shops. They have some of the best prices in Egypt.

Rush
Rush seems like a contradiction in terms when everything about Dahab lends itself towards being relaxed, chilled out and peaceful (man..). Rushis one of Dahab's newest bars that is attracting a regular crowd around its pool bar. Well liked for its Friday Night parties.

Tota
Tota is one of the oldest bars in Dahab and located right in the middle of the main beach promenade. Tota is disguised as an old boat which provides shelter from the elements in windy weather and plenty of seating on the beach in calmer climes. By day it offers a full menu of snacks and meals and you can challenge friends on their full size pool tables. By night it is a lively place to hangout for a party atmosphere. See List of Restaurants, Cuisine and Bar In Dahab, Sinai

The Furry Cup
The Furry Cup is located at the Blue Beach Club along the northern end of the Promenade and is well frequented amongst locals and visitors alike. Inside its cozy sofas are great for small groups and the outside conservatory has a little less smoky atmosphere and is a little less boisterous (or you can always sit by the pool). You could also take your Radox as quite mysteriously there is a bath tub in the loose.

Eric's Creperie
Like most restaurants in Dahab, Eric's Creperie has a location right on the water where your order food that arrives from a mysterious kitchen located 'somewhere else'. This new cafe features crepes, a Dahab standard, that are actually made from a French crepe recipe. We met the owner, Eric, and he explained that he got the recipe from his mother who lives in Paris. See List of Restaurants, Cuisine and Bar In Dahab, Sinai

Quick Tips/Suggestions:
Bring mosquito coils, nets, or spray. These bugs are very prevalent year-round. The comfort level of the accomodations has increased dramatically in the past few years, with a Hilton having been built. However, Dahab is still very much geared towards the budget traveler. The most common way to sleep is in a 'camp' on a mattress with use of shared toilet and shower. Restaurants offer backpacker fare: fresh fish, omelettes, crepes, and pizzas.

Best Way to Get Around:
A car is a liability in Dahab. There is no need for one in Dahab itself, as everything is within walking distance. Driving in the Sinai can be quite an experience. Buses run from Dahab to Taba (the border with Israel) and Cairo daily. Also, service taxis make the run as often as will meet demand. Taking a bus from Cairo directly to South Sinai's Dahab and back would have been definitely cheaper but would have slashed 18 hours off the four-day vacation. At Sharm airport, a limo may take you on a 75-minute drive to Dahab. The road is an entertainment in and of itself, especially for those who take pleasure in viewing various mountain and rock formations, and there are plenty, plenty in this area.

Further Read:

Last Updated on Saturday 15th January 2011