Arriving in the Sinai after an overnight trip from fertile, cloudy, autumn-like Alexandria is like arriving on a moon where the sun always shines. Funnily enough I slept like a baby on the bus – I normally don’t tend to sleep well on overnight journeys- and woke up a few minutes before we were due to arrive at Sharm (el Sheikh)’s bus station. I opened my eyes to a bright blue sky- we hadn’t seen those in Alex for quite some time- and bone dry mountainous surroundings. The bus station in Sharm is far removed from anything resembling a settlement, let alone a decent city, so there was no need to shock my gentle traveller’s soul with the concrete-holiday-hell-at-the-beach which is supposedly the El-Dorado of Sharm el-Sheikh.
I am travelling with nine others who are, all except one, fellow and sister students from uni in Alex and what a cool, chilled, lovely bunch these people are. One of these students, Ramon, had arranged all transport and accommodation so in Sharm there was a minibus waiting for us to take us to our final destination: Dahab. At arrival in Dahab we were received with a warm welcome and had breakfast at the upper floor of the open-air restaurant at the place we were staying, which is a hotel nor a hostel but more like a camp.
Dahab is made of legends so part of your luggage to this place is having expectations. Dahab is a very chilled place and it has also as an air of lost glory about it. I imagine Dahab of the 80’s and 90’s of the last century, when it was considered Backpackers Central of the Middle East, to be completely different. The place was probably more intimate, rougher, more vibrant in its laid-backness and even more chilled in its attitude. Now, there is a fair amount of resorts scattered around the coast and quite a lot of travellers are not of the-I am-on-my-gap year type but people in their 30’s and 40’s. There are plenty of eateries and chilleries right at the sea that look very atmospherically and inviting due to Bedouin-style furnishing and decorating – although further along the boardwalk towards Assalah the tackiness kicks in- and some do serve a mean shake or a darn good hot chocolate but the food in general is very average. There are so many places where people can eat, drink, smoke and chill out and not enough people to fill them all so all of these places are fairly to very quiet. I expected Dahab to be a place where one doesn’t speak of low or high season because there are tourists all year round like in Amsterdam, London, Tenerife or Goa but perhaps the atrocities of 2006 and the threat and fear of further attacks might have changed this. Also Dahab’s shopping street, which looks rather naff and there is not a great deal of good shopping and bargaining to be done, is quiet.
Dahab’s surroundings on land and on and under water are absolutely stunning. The water is very clear and the desert is desolate, beautiful and inspiring. Dahab is about chill and action at the same time and I believe I have done a good mix of both; I have been snorkelling and have seen many different and colourful fish, although the breathing-through-your-mouth thing kind of freaks me out. I have done some cycling on hilly, windy roads to deserted beaches where we were the only ones there. I have been trekking through canyons, over sand dunes and past an oasis and had lunch in a Bedouin village and I have been chilling for whole days with laptop, food and my favourite mean of intoxication at one of those chilled and inviting looking places.
Whatever happened and is happening to Dahab the place definitely has its charm and despite average food and lame shopping streets I’d tell you to go check out all the action in the Big Golden Chill.