The small Red Sea town of Dahab is perfect for whatever type of holiday experience you are looking for (with the obvious exception of winter sports). You can opt for a quiet beach holiday or an adventure sports holiday, or for the explorers you can trek into the desert and sleep under the stars. Dahab caters for everyone at all price ranges: families, gap-year students or those who just want to get away from the rat race of the city.
How to get there
The easiest, and least painful, method of travel is to fly to Sharm El-Sheikh and organise a transfer from there. Taking a taxi directly from the airport will cost a fixed rate of EGP 250, but it is possible to negotiate a price with some of the microbuses depending on the size of your group. It is also possible to organise a transfer through your hotel (if you have booked beforehand). It takes approximately one hour and a half to get to Dahab from Sharm El-Sheikh.
The East Delta bus company run a number of buses directly to Dahab and some with a transfer in Sharm El-Sheikh. The cost of the bus is approximately EGP 90, perfect if you are on a budget. However, the journey there can take between nine and eleven hours. It also possible to hire a private microbus, which can take you door-to-door, and will cost approximately EGP 1,000. This can be organised through your hotel, and can work out as the cheapest option depending on how many people you can fit on a microbus.
Different sides of town
In my experience Dahab has two sides; the fancy side and the laid-back side. The fancy side is located a little outside the main centre of the town and is populated by top-quality hotels with access to a calm and clear lagoon complete with a sandy beach. You pay more to stay there, but if you want to lounge on the beach and dabble in some fun watersports then that’s the side of town for you. Most activities can be organised through the hotels or if not, they will be able to provide you with the information.
On the other side of town there is much more variety in terms of accommodation but you will lose a few stars from the ratings. However, in my opinion if you want to spend time in your room you should stay at home- there is too much to see in Dahab to waste time worrying if your room has a good enough view. There is a variety of accommodation available in Mashraba, and further up the strip of shops and restaurants at the Lighthouse area. This side of town has a lot more going on and the activities are easily accessible. Walking up the strip you will find a number of different restaurants, all with comfortable cushions to lie about on. There are also some specialised restaurants like the Blue House for Thai, Chillax for burgers, and Carm Inn for a varied menu cooked with fresh ingredients.
The beach is at the far end of the strip and is not huge, but almost all of the restaurants have sunbathing areas and access to the water. You have to walk further up for deeper water but that is not much of a hindrance.
It must be noted that there is no division between the sides and if you want to access the fancy side’s beach then you can pay a small amount to rent a sunbed and use the water sports facilities, and vice versa.
There is no shortage of activities in Dahab. There are a number of shops around offering different activities. Scuba diving and windsurfing are the main attractions in Dahab and are available for all levels. There are many different centres offering these activities, so shop around for the best price.
Outside of these activities, there are a plethora of other water sports and activities including kitesurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and banana boating. Or you can take a ride on the glass bottom boat.
If it’s speed you’re after, then you can go on a quad bike safari for EGP 150 for 2 hours. You’ll be taken into the desert and the surrounding mountains for some great views of the coastline.
If you want more freedom to go where you want then you can rent a motorbike or a scooter. The prices for these vary, so again, shop around.
Horse riding finds you. If you see a guy riding a horse flag him down and organise a trip. The price is negotiable so make sure that you have a price in mind before going into the negotiations.
My personal recommendation would be to head to Safari One in Mashraba, found next to the New Sphinx Hotel. You will find Mo or Ahmed there who can help you out with renting motorbikes, scooters or bicycles. It costs EGP 350 to rent a motorbike for a day, EGP 180 for a scooter, and EGP 50 for a bicycle.
The Safari One team can also provide you with a number of desert tours and can tailor these tours to exactly what you want to do. Mo prides himself on providing a unique experience for every customer he has. Trips to explore the dry canyons, the moving sand dune, the observation point and the ancient rock of inscription will cost EGP 300 per person. This price includes transport and food for the day. I would personally recommend this trip; climbing through the narrow canyon is tough work but a fantastic experience.
Safari One is also home to a wide collection of books for sale so if you just want a book to read while you lie in the sun this is the place to go.
Mo is a helpful guy so if you need help with anything in Dahab he is more than happy to help you out.
Activities outside of Dahab
Dahab is close to a number of interesting places to visit. The most obvious is Mount Sinai and this can be organised through any hotel that you stay at. You leave in the early hours of the morning and climb up in the dark to watch the sunrise at the peak. Take some warm clothes, though, because it’s cold at the top.
North of Dahab is the Blue Hole, which is a famous diving site 200 metres deep. It’s also great for snorkelling and if you walk a little further on you will stumble upon a deserted restaurant named El Bells. Here you can enter the water and swim out to the coral wall, which is some of the best snorkelling I have ever experienced.
From the Blue Hole it is possible to make it to the isolated Bedouin village of Ras Abu Galloum. You can embark upon a two-hour walk along the coast until you reach the village, or you can ride a camel. The walk in itself is very enjoyable and once you reach the village you can lie back in a hut and enjoy the silence. There is not much to do in Abu Galloum but the peaceful atmosphere will help melt all your troubles away. Take snorkels, because there are some great reefs to see and on occasion the sea turtles will make an appearance. You can stay for the day or you can stay the night under the stars. Take some food and drinks with you to see you through. The Bedouins will cook you a meal if you ask but you will be charged for it. I highly recommend visiting Ras Abu Galloum; it’s a unique and unspoilt part of the world with a charm rarely found elsewhere in Egypt.
An hour’s drive from Dahab is the nature reserve of Nabq. The mangrove forest growing out of the shallow water provides a perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife. This is a great day trip for the whole family and especially birdwatchers. Another highlight of Nabq is the wreck of the Maria Schroder, a beached cargo ship. It is possible to snorkel and dive around the wreck, so ask about this before you go.
The nightlife in Dahab pales in comparison to that of Sharm El-Sheikh or El Gouna. You don’t go to Dahab for the clubbing, but that’s not to say that it is void of nightlife. There are a number of bars along the main strip, including Mojito, which offers a variety of cocktails (including mojitos). They also host a karaoke night once a week, which is always good fun. Tree House is also a great place to pull out your dance moves and you can shoot some pool too. Further up in the Lighthouse area is Yalla Bar, which shows football for those who can’t bear to miss a match.
Over the last few years the nightlife has become less vibrant due to the decline in tourism in general, but if you are with a good group of friends and looking for a good night out in a place where you can dance the night away, you won’t be disappointed.
The restaurants along the seafront transform at night and become a great place to relax, drink tea and smoke some shisha while listening to the waves rolling back and forth.
Where to Stay
As mentioned earlier it is possible to find a hotel for any price range.
The Hilton, on the fancy side, has different prices depending on the season and will set you back between EGP 550 – 780 in the high season or EGP 480 – 650. The high season is either side of the hot summer months and the hotels in this area often get booked up quickly, so book in advance.
In the more laid-back part of town there are many camps and hotels that offer you cheaper accommodation. One hotel I can recommend is the New Sphinx Hotel, which costs between EGP 120 – 180. If you are looking for something cheaper then Bishbishi Village in Mashraba is a comfortable and welcoming place where you can find a room starting from EGP 30. If you want to stay in the Lighthouse area then try out Seven Heaven where prices start from EGP 20. Each camp has its own charm and it’s a matter of preference so do have a look around.
How to get around
Dahab is a small place and almost everything is within walking distance. However, if you want to get places a bit faster then renting a bicycle is great way to get around.
If you want to get to the Blue Hole for a day of sun bathing and snorkelling then you can wave down a taxi (usually pick-up trucks), negotiate a price and organise a pick up time. This should cost no more than EGP 40 each way but this depends on your negotiating skills. The taxis will take you just about anywhere you want to go and are not difficult to find.
One thing you must ensure is that you enjoy yourself. Seems like a blindingly obvious thing to say but when you go in a group you often feel like you have to do everything together. If some people want to do one thing and others want to do something else, then just do it. Dahab is a relaxed place where life flows smoothly, so just go ahead with what you want to do and don’t waste time arguing or being too particular about planning.