Dahab is a small town 85km north of Sharm. It’s set on a coast of rugged mountains and sandy shores and looks out to the mountains of Arabia. Travellers discovered it a few decades ago and it has since grown into one of Egypt’s most vibrant independent travel hubs since. There’s a good social mix here: a big expat community, plenty of Western students from Cairo and a continuous stream of young Egyptians. The Bedouin are more visible than in Sharm and the whole place has a laid back, down-to-earth feel. You can get by on a low budget and all the snorkelling is free. Added attractions are excellent diving and the Ras Abu Galum Protectorate. Dahab is a gateway to the desert and mountains and just a good place to relax.
ORIENTATION Dahab is a strip of coastal development that can be divided into three main areas. The southernmost area is MASHRABA. Further up, this runs into MASBAT, a district that bends around the town’s main bay. ASSALAH is further north and is where most Bedouin, local Egyptians and expats live; it’s not really a tourist area. After Assalah, Dahab ends and an open coast begins. Quite disconnected from here is DAHAB CITY, a modern town area and local service centre. Close by to Dahab City is an area known as the LAGUNA: here, there’s a sheltered lagoon behind a big coastal spit, plus most of Dahab’s luxury 5* hotels. North of Dahab is the BLUE HOLE, famous dive site; after that, is the RAS ABU GALUM PROTECTORATE.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY The bus station in Dahab City, about a 20 minute walk from Mashraba (or LE15 for a taxi). Buses run several times daily between Cairo and Dahab (LE70-90, 9-10hrs, either way). There’s one daily bus to Luxor (LE120, 16-18hrs), plus others to Nuweiba and Taba. The BEDOUIN BUS is a minibus that connects Dahab and St Katherine on Fridays and Tuesdays (LE50). It leaves St Katherine at 11am (outside the main mosque); and it leaves Dahab at 5pm, from outside the Jowhara hotel in Mashraba. You can use it to get to DESERT TRAILHEADS like the Nawamis village, Wadi Arada and Ein Hudera. Taxis to Sharm cost about LE150-200: to St Katherine, LE200-250; to Nuweiba, LE150-200; to Taba, LE250-350.
GETTING AROUND Dahab is compact and pedestrian friendly. An seafront promenade runs all the way between Mashraba and Assalah (you can even follow it towards Dahab City). Otherwise, bicycles cab ne hired from rental places in Mashraba (around LE50/ day, with a deposit too). You can even hire scooters, mopeds and cars: but this overkill unless you’re going to be travelling a long way. Sometimes, taxis can be useful for short runs around town – e.g. Mashraba to the bus station in Dahab City – and especially when you have heavy bags or are in a rush. You can go most places within Dahab for LE15-25.
STAYING IN DAHAB Dahab has everything from 5* luxury hotels to cheap backpacker’s hostels. If you’re on a budget the best place is Mashraba: everyting cheap is on the doorstep here, from cafes to internet cafes, shops, laundries and bike hire places. A good budget hostel in Mashraba the PENGUIN: singles go from LE60, with dorm beds from LE40. Also check out the GHAZALA HOTEL at the southern end of Mashraba. For mid-range options the ACACIA and NESIMA RESORT – both in Mashraba – are pretty good value. Further up in Masbat, tucked away in the backstreets, there’s the DAHAB COACH HOUSE, a small, friendly hotel run by a Danish couple. For expensive hotels, the SWISS INN and LE MERIDIEN are best.
THINGS TO DO Dahab is probably the Sinai’s best place for snorkelling, with almost all the reefs open access to the public. Reefs run along Mashraba, Masbat and Assalah, but the best is THE ISLANDS, a reef at the southern end of town, near the Laguna. The BLUE HOLE is a deep sink hole to the north of Dahab: one of the Sinai’s most famous dive sites that you can snorkel too. Taxis cost about LE60-80 one way: LE70-100 if the driver waits, then takes you back. From the Blue Hole you can walk up the coast to RAS ABU GALUM, one of the Sinai’s natural protectorates. There are beautiful, rugged coastal mountains to explore here and Dahab has good bars and cafes for the end of the day.