Monday, November 23, 2009

Under the Sea, the Red Sea - Dahab, Egypt

Destination: Dahab, Egypt
Number of Days Spent:  7 days
Where we stayed:   We stayed at Seventh Heaven for one night (40 Egyptian pounds - $8) but moved because the fan in our non-AC room was way too weak to compete with the Egyptian heat.  We spent the next six nights at Penguin Village which had excellent AC but very salty water (60 Egyptian pounds - $13).  We weren't really impressed with the staff either, they were pretty lazy and non-responsive.  There was a good Thai restaurant right next to Seven Heaven though, don't miss it if you are missing spicy Thai food & in the area (good curry, medium pad thai). 
Who we dove with:  Big Blue Diving - We would dive with them again.  The equipment was in good condition & the dive master was professional.  We paid around $30 per dive with all equipment including a trip to Ros Mohammed & Thistlegorm (with transport to Sharm).   While we enjoyed our dives here, in particularly the Canyon, there is a lot of damage to the reefs near town so check around before deciding which sites to go to.   
Best restaurant:   El Asseel (just behind the New Sphinx Hotel) had the BEST falafel we have had yet.  The sandwiches included fresh bread, tasty falafel, Arabic salad and spicy tahini for 3 pounds ($.65).  One was a great snack and two a filling meal.  The Sea Bride Restaurant had excellent fresh calamari & shrimp for bargain prices.  Recommended by a local it wasn't on the beach but what it lacked in atmosphere it made up for with excellent food.  The prices were excellent with a 1/4 kilo of grilled or fried calamari for 30 Egyptian pounds ($6) or a 1/4 kilo of shrimp for 55 Egyptian pounds ($11).  All dinners included fish soup, a huge plate of Arabic salad, tahini, baba ghanoush (sp?), a spicy sauce for the seafood, rice & pita bread. Other honorable mentions go to Penguin or Funny Mummy for a great seaside atmosphere complete with pillows, terrific milkshakes (for Tracy it was banana and for Jason chocolate - a whopping 15 pounds each - $3) & sheesha (5 Egyptian - $1), Nirvana Indian restaurant for channa masala, King Chicken for their 1/2 chicken meal big enough for two (23 pounds including 1/2 a roasted chicken, Arabic salad, tahini & bread) & the Thai place with no name (look for the signs and go up the steps) near Seventh Heaven for curries (sadly the pad thai was missing cilantro & bean sprouts but would have been excellent if that was included).  Yeah, we ate a lot in Dahab.  We could practically feel our waistlines expanding once again :-)
Best of:  Big fluffy pillows, endless hookah, cool ocean breezes, good diving and snorkeling at the infamous Blue Hole & Canyon.  The atmosphere here is so relaxed and a stroll along the boardwalk is relatively stress free compared to other tourist hot spots in Egypt.
Worst of:  The tap water in Dahab is really salty.  All of the hotels have the same problem but I think that ours was definitely one of the worst...soap refused to lather and after stepping out of the shower it felt like a film covered your body).  As much as we hated to leave we really started to look forward to a proper shower with fresh water.
Most Memorable:   Night diving in the Canyon watching the phosphoresce all aglow like twinkling little stars, only at 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) down. 

Useful Tip:   All the restaurants along the water are overpriced and quite similar in offerings and price.  With so many restaurants and so few tourists, negotiating your meal is possible.  For example, what if I bring a couple of people along, can we get free appetizers?  How about dessert?  Free apple Hookah?  Nearly all will offer some sort of "hook" to keep you coming back or give them a try in the first place.  Of course, walking one block away from the ocean will bring the prices down drastically and the afore mentioned couple of restaurants served up much better fare than what we had on the strip.
Take a deep breath.  1, 2, 3.  Ok now exhale.  That's it...let it all out.  One more time.  And again.  Now imagine some ocean waves lapping gently up against the rocks.  Can you hear it?  Good.  Are you in a comfy place?  A couple of soft, fluffy pillows perhaps?  Perfectly relaxed?  Good.  Now let's begin.
We arrived from Luxor after 22 grueling hours on a bus.  Not what we had in mind when we boarded (it was advertised as a 14 hour ride).  Four passport checks at government checkpoints and inexplicably five ticket checks (One would think that checking the ticket once you boarded would be good enough) prevented us from having a decent nights sleep.  Deep breath. 1, 2, 3.
Good thing we stepped off the bus in Dahab and not Cairo.  This somewhat sleepy town has been a backpacker refuge for several decades is now attracting independent travelers to its relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.  While Sharm el-Sheikh has become a package tourist destination complete with hundreds of high rises vying for every square inch of waterfront property, Dahab has somehow managed to avoid most of the commercialization (sparing a few hotels just outside of town).  We were hoping for exactly this type of atmosphere when we decided to save Dahab for last on our tour of Egypt.     
The Nile may have its Pyramids and Temples, but the Sinai Peninsula attracts its fair share of tourists as well.  But it's not what is on land that draws most of the attention, but what lies in the water just off shore.  The area has long been considered one of the top dive and snorkeling centers in the world.  With an abundance of natural corals, unique underwater formations and scores of ship wrecks, the area has a little something for everyone.    Without further ado here are some of our photos from our week of diving (sans Ros Mohammed & Thistlegorm which are on another post):
IMG_0202 [640x480] IMG_0196 [640x480] IMG_0199 [640x480] IMG_0201 [640x480] IMG_0215 [640x480] IMG_0314 [640x480] IMG_0325 [640x480] IMG_0349 [640x480]
 IMG_0341 [640x480] IMG_0369 [640x480]
IMG_0359 [640x480] IMG_0354 [640x480]
In addition to diving, we spent our evenings hanging out with friends, eating tons of falafel & seafood, enjoying the fluffy pillows at the seaside restaurants and partaking in our fair share of apple sheesha.  Relaxing...yes...healthy...certainly not.  Good thing it only lasted a week! 
IMG_0189 [640x480] IMG_0188 [640x480]IMG_0387 [640x480]  
To see more photos of Dahab click here!


Cindy said...

Fantastic underwater pictures! It reminds me of my first time diving ever - in the Red Sea - that went along with my first passport stamp. Sounds like an amazing 7 days!

Anonymous said...

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