Dahab is one of my favorite dive destinations, and for good reason. This small resort town on the Sinai Peninsula is named for the Egyptian Arabic word for gold. A former Bedouin fishing village, Dahab is about 1 to 1½ hours northeast of the international airport at Sharm el-Sheikh, depending on your driver, the time of day and the state of the road. After a drive through the sandstone hills, you’ll arrive at the Dahab checkpoint and proceed into town. For those who are used to well maintained and manicured resorts, the first view of Dahab might be a bit of a shock; it’s a proper Egyptian small town, not an airbrushed tourist destination.
The town is split into four areas. Dahab City is in the south and houses the bigger, fancier hotels and the Laguna where the kitesurfers find the best wind. Mashraba features good, standard hotels and a number of shops and places to eat, like my personal favorite, King Chicken. However, I much prefer the Masbat area along the seafront, which has the most dive centers, bars and people I know. Lots of locals live in Asalah and those driving to dive sites like Canyons or Blue Hole will pass through this area.
Dahab has lots of dining and drinking establishments spread throughout town. A walk along the promenade can mean touts for each restaurant or souvenir shop will accost you, but a firm “no” usually suffices. Some of my regular haunts include Yalla Bar, Churchill’s Bar, Blue Beach Club, Nirvana and, for a cheap and filling lunch, The Koshary. Ralph’s German Bakery, with a few branches, serves a good pastries, though is a little more expensive than local options.
When it comes to cash machines, there aren’t as many around as in the past and they often run out of money on the weekend. Generally I would advise you to withdraw enough cash to cover a few days at a time.
Diving in Dahab
The diving in Dahab is as relaxed as the town itself — no rising at dawn to transfer to a boat, followed by a 2-hour boat trip; many dives here start a few steps from the dive center. Dahab offers easy shore diving, with plentiful coral and fish life within a few breaths of your descent, but also provides sufficient depths for all levels. The main entry points along the beachfront are generally around the lighthouse area; Eel Garden is also a great site. A bit further out of town are some of the best dive spots in Dahab and two of my very favorite dives, Blue Hole and Canyon, which offer a bit more challenge for those with the proper training (but also fun dives for others).
The Canyon is a great dive site, and is essentially a canyon that drops down from about 98 feet (30 m) to become a covered tunnel with one or two exits outside onto a wall. I prefer descending down along the wall to around 130 feet (40 m) and then going up through the canyon, but the other way is just as good. Then there’s the Blue Hole, Dahab’s most famous dive site, which was discovered by the legendary Jacques Cousteau. It’s about 262 feet (80 m) in diameter and opens to the Red Sea. Part of this site’s magic is the arch at 184 feet (56 m), an 85-foot-long tunnel (26 m) with a roof. It’s an amazing dive for those with the proper training, which is essential — this can be a very dangerous dive site, so stay within your training limits.
All scuba-training agencies are well represented, and there are plenty of great dive centers to choose from in Dahab catering to your every need, from beginner training all the way to some excellent tec training. Dahab is also popular with freedivers (especially the Blue Hole) and kitesurfers. For those traveling with family or looking to take a break from diving, there are plenty of activities like trips into the desert or a visit to the 6th-century monastery of St. Catherine’s.
Finally, contrary to what you may read in the press or see on TV or the Internet, Egypt is still a safe and friendly place for tourists; in fact, local stores, restaurants and all the dive centers need your support now more than ever.