I am writing this quick post from the wonderful little beach town of Dahab, Egypt on the Red Sea, following my 2011 travel plan so far. The question I got most often before my little jaunt over here to the Middle East from everyone back home was twofold, “why go the Middle East at all… and more particularly… why now?

upstairs terrace bar red sea relax resort dahab egypt

fast forward to sundown... I am sitting at the upper left right writing this right now

The second question is probably the more important one to answer these days. Basically, it is perfectly safe in the Middle East right now, save for visiting Syria or Libya. Even during the revolution in Egypt back in February of this year, the Red Sea tourist towns, like Dahab, were completely safe places to visit. In fact, you could have gotten some amazing deals here in February and March, because tourism ground to a halt. And there are so many things to do in Dahab which make it worth your while to go.

In any case, it is completely safe now (as is Jordan and Lebanon, which I’ll be doing more writing about soon). So why Dahab?

There are so many things to do in Dahab worth your while… and so many reasons to hit this little town on the Red Sea.

Small, manageable and chill:

The two most popular places for tourists on the Red Sea are Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada. I am going to commit one of the travel writing sins now and trash both of them, though I’ve never been to either. From talking to a number of people that have done both, they are both large tourist resort towns with high-rise hotels on the beach, thousands upon thousands of tourists on package deals from Europe and Russia, with all that goes along with that type of tourism. On the other hand, Dahab is still a small little town where the highest building is two stories, everything is close enough to walk to and it has that laid-back and relaxed vibe that leads many conversations along this line:

Me to a dive instructor: “So how long have you been living in Dahab?”

Him: “Well, I came here about seven years ago, intending to stay about 6 or so months. Just never wanted to leave.”

Cheap, cheap, cheap:

pool at dahab egypt red sea relax resort

the pool (and rooms) at Red Sea Relax Resort

I like a good deal as much as the next long-term traveler, and Dahab is one big deal. I am staying at Red Sea Relax Resort and you can’t do any cheaper than this… free dorm room there if you are diving. I am. I’ll be here a month. And I won’t pay a penny for lodging. There are also a variety of private rooms there also and I’ve taken a look at them and can say they are great.

It gets better, unlike the majority of Dahab Hotels, Red Sea Relax offers a free gym, yoga classes, as well as free wifi and an extensive free breakfast. I’ve been quite happy with this as my current base of operations.

walk in shore diving dahab egypt

the ability to do walk-in diving is handy

Excellent diving:

I am not the most experienced diver in the world, but the Red Sea is one of the best locations I have been able to dive in. The coral is still in good shape, the fish life is excellent, the famous “Blue Hole” is nearby — there are plenty of good diving reasons to base yourself here.

And not to go back to the previous point, but let’s talk price again. Most places I have dived cost about $100 (U.S.) for two dives and sometimes doesn’t include your equipment rental. At the Red Sea Resort Dive Shop, you can get 10 dives for about $330 in current exchange rates, so $33 per dive, all equipment included. I was also able to negotiate a little reduction on top of that, because of the current downturn in tourism.

dahab bay sunset egypt

Dahab Bay at Sunset

Bargaining for Dinner:

Bet you didn’t see that one coming. One of the things that I adore here is the negotiation over your dinner, if you go to any of the dozens of restaurants that are perched right at the edge of the water. Every night when you walk by their are guys out front asking you to eat there (in a friendly way that somehow doesn’t put you off like it does in some places). They all have menus and set prices… but it is all negotiable.

So you walk up and tell them what you want. “How much for a kilo of calamari, some bread and hummus, and perhaps that fish (you point to the fish displayed on ice right out front in a case)?” Then you go back and forth. I’ve never negotiated for dinner before, but it is sort of addictive. And so I need to repeat this again… cheap.

There is a lot more to say about Dahab and Egypt — and the Middle East in general. Lucky for me that I’ve got notes enough for another couple dozen posts on this part of the world, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Postscript: Photos from Chris, the great owner of Red Sea Relax Resort. And if you want to book a room here (not just a dorm room, but any variety), please click through the button displayed below. I get a small percentage of any bookings via Hostelworld, which helps offset some of the costs of this blog and helps keep be traveling and writing… which I hope you are enjoying.

49 Responses

  1. Great post on Dahab. I know countries like Egypt and Jordan are really pushing tourism right now. Seems like a great time to visit too. It’s too bad the Middle East as a bad reputation and isn’t as stable as other areas as there are some great places to visit. The more I read about travelers who go there, the costs, and the great places to see, the more I want to visit there as well. Living here in California, I’ve met quite a few people from there which makes me even more interested.

    • like many “dangers,” Americans overrate and generalize a bit too much. Jordan has been fine though all the stuff this year. As has Lebanon. The issues in Egypt were mainly just in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria (none of it hit out here) and have been over for months. Too bad… people are missing out on some deals here now.

  2. Great post! I’ve never been to Dahab, but I’ve heard lots of good things about it. If you like these smaller scuba/tourist towns and want to check out some other diving locations, you should check out Safaga (I did a whole series about our latest trip there, just in case you’re interested: http://countryskipper.com/category/location/africa/egypt/safaga/). It’s about an hour south of Hurghada, but is nothing like it – I am with you by the way: Hurghada is huge, super touristy, and I am really not a big fan. Enjoy your time in Egypt and have some falafel for me 🙂 And a Stella while you’re at it 🙂 I’ve been going almost every year for a long time now, but will have to skip it this year 🙁

    • thanks for the diving tips! I RT’d them and am going to sit down and check them all out.

    • I will pass the complement on to Chris. He’ll be happy to hear it, I’m sure. I’m still waiting on MY great sunset shot!

  3. Nice post, Michael. I so want to go there. I’m sad you’re not doing your dive master, but kudos to you for making writing a priority!

    BTW: booked the samesun in Vancouver for TBEX. Can’t wait.

  4. Even though I’m not a diver, I loved Dahab! I was there in 2008 and it was so laidback and non-touristy. And yes, cheap too!

    Are you familiar with the canyons outside of Dahab? I did a day trip to go hiking in the Colored Canyon and White Canyon while I was there and had a great time – highly recommend it!

    • I am going to try to hit those spots this time and also Mt. Sinai. AND get my rescue diver and deep diver course done. And chill… of course 😉

    • well, you should just do it here. Free place to stay while you do it. Good instructors. Great visibility. Good spot for it (and cheap).

  5. Love this post! Sounds like a relaxing, inexpensive beach destination. I was in Cairo for several days about a week ago, and it felt perfectly safe. Walking across Tahrir Square, I strained to see signs of revolution. It seems like the resort areas continued to attract tourists during the revolution by offering great deals. I’d love to return to Egypt and check out Dahab!

    • Yea, personally I have felt the safest in the world in Muslim countries. I understand the “unsafety” of places like Syria right now, but in general, these are some of the safest places in the world.

    • it is pretty, but for me that isn’t even the biggest draw. It is just so chill and relaxed here. “Dahab time” is a phrase you hear often here.

    • I have found it mostly to be a fairly inexpensive country. Not the cheapest, but certainly not expensive in my book. If you are willing to eat street food and local fare and stay in hostels… it can be done on a reasonable budget.

  6. Great post including amazing pictures! It is hard to know what the truth is about traveling to Egypt right now which is why I appreciate reading posts like this. I am not a diver but have heard nothing but good things about diving in the Red Sea.

    • Egypt is totally and completely fine right now. If you can find a deal to come over right now, I’d jump on it.

  7. Dahab is on my RTW itinerary, I so can’t wait to get there!!! I have heard nothing but good things about it.

  8. Dahab is certainly is a marvelous place to visit, but mainly for adventurous travelers who like to explore new places, your post is so nice and descriptive.

    • excellent snorkeling here also, since the reef is just off shore. I mean JUST offshore. Very close.

  9. Thanks for writing such a great piece about our beloved hometown =) There’s a fair few of us here who meant to only stay for a few weeks… but are still here 6 years later!

  10. Glad to hear that you are headed for Jordan and the lebanon next. I visited a few months ago, in fact I stayed in Beirut for over a month. Both countries felt safe and I would return any time.

  11. Having been there I’m happy to endorse your trashing of Hurghada. Dahab is the place to be. We holed up there during the revolution: things got very quiet but the place was completley safe even then. I hope people are returning and business is picking up there now.

  12. Well, you sold me. Next time I go to Egypt, I”m going to Dahab and staying at Red Sea Relax Resort. It sounds like heaven. If I ever get back into diving, this sounds like the best place to do it too. Thanks for the information and enjoy your time.

  13. I left another comment but it didn’t go through and thought I would try again with a different email. Thanks for the information on Dahab and the Red Sea Relax Resort. When we get ourselves back to Egypt, we are heading there. I may even take up diving again. With those prices how can I resist. Have a great time. Cheers.

  14. Nice post Michael,

    I’m wondering if the flies and cats bothered you when you were there. Perhaps it is a seasonal phenomenon, but we chose the restaurants that had enough incense (for the flies) and squirt bottles (for the cats).

    Jason

  15. Myself and 10 mates just got back from Egypt and Dahab a week ago. No queues and no dramas – absolute bliss. Egypt has a great vibe about it right now!

  16. Good post on travel in general in Middle East and great photos! About bargaining for dinner prices – do you ever have that moral dilemma that I get when traveling to poorer places where I feel guilty about their circumstances and can’t bring myself to bargain? Some times I do and sometimes I don’t and it’s hard to know why, but it’s just a feeling I get about certain people or areas that guide my compass.

    Have a fantastic rest of your trip!

    Cheers,
    Priscilla

  17. Wow Michael, glad to hear this great review of Dahab! I was in Egypt just prior to the uprising and I was able to visit quite a few places in Egypt but had to cut out Dahab due to time constraints. I’m hoping to return to Egypt and spend some time just hanging out in Dahab!

  18. I lived in Egypt for a few year but sadly only visited Dahab twice (and only snorkelled). It’s a cool chilled out little town and I enjoyed my time with the locals. One day i’ll return.

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