For most people, a holiday to Egypt either involves exploring the ancient historical sites or busy, bustling Cairo, or some beach time in the famous Sharm El Sheikh resorts. All these places have much to offer any visitor but they also come with the inevitable crowds. For those wanting something a little more off the beaten track there is Dahab – a place that makes you feel after a week like you’ve been away for a month. Dahab, meaning ‘Gold’, is a small coastal town on the Red Sea, traditionally a Bedouin fishing village that is now one of the premier dive and water sports places in the world. Its laid back atmosphere is incredibly relaxing and the shore is lined with cushion filed cafes and restaurants where you can while away your days drinking traditional Bedouin tea and smoking apple shisha pipes.
The food is superb, offering everything from tiny falafel shacks to global cuisine and the wonderful Egyptian fare of fresh fish and seafood, koftas and soft pitta breads with tahini and baba ganoush. El Fanar is one of my particular favourite haunts where the staff make you feel like an old friend. Indeed that may well be the case – loyal travellers return to Dahab again and again. I have travelled widely across a number of continents and the warm hospitality in Dahab is second to none. Never have I been anywhere that has made me feel so instantly welcome, with such friendly, helpful faces at every turn.
Accommodation ranges from small guesthouses and budget backpacker haunts to top class hotel resorts like the stunning Le Meridian a short jeep ride up the coast. Designed by an award winning architect the hotel is a real treat, offering beautifully designed rooms and pool areas and a long private beach with ‘bungalows’ to shade from the sun. As with most of Dahab, sympathy with the surroundings is paramount and to that end nothing is more than one storey high. This is not your usual beach resort. Surrounded by the incredible Sinai Mountains and sand dunes, those who want to while away their days in the sun have a perfect backdrop in which to do so.
For those who look for a little more excitement however there is an array of opportunities available. The area is world famous for windsurfing, scuba diving and snorkelling with coastal reefs teeming with fish and underwater flora and fauna. World famous diving sites are to be found here, including the Blue Hole, Canyon and Lighthouse Reefs and people travel from all over the world to experience these dramatic dives.
If land based activities are more your style, how about a desert safari? Guided trekking, dramatic canyon walks, jeep excursions and camel trekking are all available and I can personally recommend the Bedouin dinner safari where you spend an enchanting evening in the desert eating traditional Bedouin fare around a camp fire while you relax on the multitude of cushions, listening to local stories and enjoying the spectacular scenery that surrounds you. Should you be interested in exploring further afield, Dahab makes an excellent base for climbing Mount Sinai, visiting St Catherine’s Monastery and exploring the ancient Lost City of Petra in neighbouring Jordan. These excursions make for a long day but it’s certainly worth it!
Dahab is a short road transfer immediately out of Sharm El Sheikh airport and the climate means you can visit all year round with temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees. The summer is especially hot but because of the desert landscape and the strong winds it never gets too humid which makes it much more pleasant. Dahab may well be my favourite little town in the world and I defy anyone who experiences its many charms not to want to return again and again.