Dahab’s Amazing Vibe
Back in the days of the 1960’s Dahab use to be a hippy haven. People from all of the world travel to Dahab for its relaxed, laid back atmosphere. The tourists and the Mzeina Bedouin tribe reside together in harmony which is very unique as the Egypt have a reputation for their strict, closed cultural values.
For me, Dahab is the best city in Egypt. Normally the presence of tourists is rather off-putting as they often ruin the charm of a place, but the divers, hippies, retirees and backpackers who flock to Dahab add an alluring characteristic. It is the only place in Egypt where I saw a fusion of cultures living as one – without judgement, critique or limitations. That being said, I wasn’t surprised to learn that most people I met extended their stay long term in Dahab or would frequently come back.
Walking the streets of Dahab is calm – unlike most cities in Egypt, it is rare that you are bothered or hassled by the Egyptian merchants. Dahab is so compact and snug it has only a few streets;
Mashraba is very quiet and relaxing with a long beach, nice hotels and some restaurants.
Masbat promenade is the sea front where you will see most tourists enjoying the colourful bazars and restaurants. It is the most picturesque part of Dahab
Eel Garden promenade is starts where Masbat ends. It is sort of the forgotten version of Masbat. It is quieter than the other streets in the centre and has traditional hotels and restaurants. There is also a natural beach after the end of the promenade
Laguna, South of Dahab is the most expensive side of the city. The sandy blue Laguna is absolutely breath-taking. You will find most sea-based activities here.
Assala is the old Bedoiun village of Dahab. Everyone knows each other – it is as though there are only 5 families. Most of the locals live here.
North Dahab (Canyon and Blue Hole) is even more quiet then the rest. It has few shops and few hotels. It is home to the famous Blue Hole and Canyon diving site. This is where I stayed – in one of the few hotels, Canyon Estate.
Dahab means gold in Arabic and points to the golden sand in and around Dahab.
I arrived in Dahab late at night expecting great things. It did, it was a lovely little city, clean and perfect in a cupped hand of Canyon Mountains at the southern end of the 438,000 km² Rea Sea.
Dahab is only a small place, but it boasts 40 diving centres, hundreds of hotels, and over 200 activity opportunities. I stayed at the Canyon Estate 5km from the centre where I stayed in my best room yet, overlooking the Red Sea. It was perfect! For the first time in Egypt, I felt zen.
In the morning I decided to take a swim in the Red Sea to see the coral and fish so I borrowed snorkelling gear from the reception at Canyon Estate. You only need to take one step into the water to see the beauties of the Red Sea. I jumped in and was amazed. But I then it all went wrong.
Pee’ing on myself..
The waves weren’t calm that morning and I found it difficult to retain control of my movement. I decided to swim back to shore but I’d gone too far from my entry point which meant I would have to cut through coral to get back.
During the commotion I forgot how to swim.
My mind wasn’t thinking rationally and I lost all sense of calm. I tried to use the coral to mount myself steady when suddenly felt a sting on my left butt cheek, then another on the inside of my left leg. The painful burning sensation wouldn’t stop and I felt scared of drowning in the Red Sea. Eventually I made it awkwardly onto the rocks and rushed back to the Canyon Estate. After some time, I saw the hideous burn marks on the leg. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Never in my life had I received such a horrible injury. The burns were enough to make a baby cry. They were raised from my skin, thick, ugly and scary.
In truth, I’d never snorkelled alone before. Furthermore, I have never learned how to properly snorkel, only unofficially through friends so I wasn’t prepared for an emergency situation. What was I thinking? I jumped in the water at an unofficial entry point where I was the only person in sight. And at the Red Sea? Sometimes I question my bravery and the foolish risks I take. I could have drowned or even have been eaten by a shark, strangled by an octopus… The lesson was drilled home when I pee’d on myself to make the burns go down faster.. The whole hotel was giggling about it for a little while.
The blue hole, Dahab
Later that day I met up with my German friend Benedict who was in Dahab taking his Dive Master Course. We, and his fellow divers went to the Blue Hole. Undeterred from what happened earlier (see above), I brought my snorkel gear and made my second attempt snorkelling in the Red Sea, this time from the famous blue hole entry point.
I would like to make a quick comment here; as I entered the blue hole a veiled up Muslim woman said something in Arabic to me, which I can imagine was ‘dirty fucking slut prostitute… Getting into the water half naked for men to see and want’ – well… fuck you too, I’d had enough of that shit already. I wasn’t about to waste a once in a lifetime opportunity again, like in Hurghada.
Snorkelling the blue hole and beyond is fantastic. I stayed underwater a few hours and snorkelled well beyond the basic, or even intermediate zone. Unlike everyone else, I ventured through the Red Sea and away from shore. I am the best swimmer or even the most confident in the water, I was just in constant awe about seeing beautiful sea life. I was in a trance, I even followed them. There were huge fish, small fish, colourful fish and very ugly fish. I even saw an octopus house! It was a splendid time in the water, almost as though the morning affairs never even happened.
Back on shore all the divers were waiting for me. We hopped in the back of the track where I hitched a ride with them to downtown Dahab, stopped for me to quickly grab my guitar.
Hanging out in Dahab
Hanging out with Benedict was good fun. He is a tall, laid back, upcoming house music producer with long wavy hair. We ate falafel, moussaka, baba and foul sandwiches at a local restaurant and strolled along Masbat and Eel Garden.
Music in Dahab
Among many other things, music is a common interest of mine and Benedicts. He plays 10 instruments fluently, is a sound producer and live performer. Wow. His group is rapidly up and coming and I find their most popular song very uplifting. We settled on the sea rocks under the stars and started to play the guitar. I had many questions for him as my guitar playing is not technical. I am a rhythmic player and I want to transition into jazz, so we spoke about intervals, concepts and practice exercises. He is a great teacher, ensuring that I understood everything and questioned me about what I’d learned. After I sang and played the song I made for him in Sharm and I was flattered that he said that he’d want to produce it. Haha. Mixtape coming soon…