*Take lots of English cash as the exchange rate is hugely better in Egypt - eg 9.2LE = £1 when we arrived compared with 7.5LE = £1 in the UK.
*Take any desired liqueurs or uk spirits as only Egyptian equivalent of common spirits available eg gin, whisky, vodka. We also were unable to find any good wine, despite a couple of attempts at more than £7 per bottle – maybe someone else can recommend some?
*Quickly learn how to say no thanks in Arabic! (“La shukran”)
*Take shower gel and liquid soap as ordinary soap doesn't lather well in salt water showers.
*If you're bothered about such things make a mental or actual note of how much your restaurant order should come to when you order it - we found several restaurants weren't good at adding up accurately.....
Not sure where to start and how much to include – there’s so much I could say! But hopefully this will give a flavour and you could ask if you want any more specific detail.
We really enjoyed our time in Dahab. We were mainly diving but we did other things such as snorkelling, Mt Sinai trip, Quad Biking. We would have done Coloured Canyon too but it was closed all the time we were away due to flooding would you believe (if you are going there in the next week or so check that the Coloured Canyon they’re taking you to is the actual one, not some other Canyon which is coloured!).
I’ve never been to Egypt or even Africa before and didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t know how typical Dahab is of other places, but we were pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was, and how safe it felt. Every time we went diving we just left our bags out in the open with the dive crates and it was always assumed they would be safe – and they were.
On one dive trip to the south our driver realised he had someone else’s keys with him so he just flagged down the next random driver going in the opposite direction and asked him to take the keys back to Dahab for him! Imagine trying that in the UK!
Everyone seems to enjoy having a laugh and shopkeepers, restaurant owners and hotel receptionists will all tease you – this really surprised me, they have quite a cheeky sense of humour. In one shop the assistant was even pinging me with elastic bands when I had my back turned!
I suppose it’s all relative to what you may have seen elsewhere, but given the travel time to Egypt from the UK compared with say the Caribbean or Thailand the coral and fish life is really good. Easily accessible from the shore in Dahab and on the many available trips. We went to Ras Abu Gallum by camel and Gabr el Bint by boat and would recommend them both. People said camel rides were awful but we really enjoyed the experience – and the landscape is magnificent. If you really can’t bear being on a camel and fancy a good snorkel trip and some dramatic scenery, get to the Blue Hole and just walk northwards along the coast (you will be passed by camels) and you will end up at Ras Abu Gallum after an hour – 1.5hrs. It is pretty flat and if you do it early in the morning and/or in the afternoon the heat shouldn’t be too punishing (it’s nearly always accompanied by a breeze). But do do it somehow – it’s a beautiful trip. We dived but the snorkelling would be good in both spots too.
And of course no dive trip to Dahab would be complete without visiting the Thistlegorm. The dive boat was pretty awful (too many people, horrid loos and no liferafts) but the crew and the catering were great and the wreck itself just fantastic. There is so much to see we would definitely do it again if we went back.
We dived (and did our Advanced Open Water qualification) with Sphinx Divers – I can’t rate them highly enough, especially our instructor Hamada – they were professional, thorough, safety-conscious yet good fun and flexible.
Our favourite snorkelling spot was Eel Gardens to Lighthouse – thanks to whoever it was on TripAdvisor who suggested this! (MUCH better than the Blue Hole, quieter and much cheaper too).
Mt Sinai – the dawn is beautiful, though it is hard work getting up there! And it was cold on top waiting for the sunrise (as everybody had warned it would be) – they reckoned about 5 degrees. The walk down the harder way (steps) is picturesque and worth doing too – though I ended up with stiff legs for the next day or two! I was grateful for my torch on the way up and my hiking stick on the way down. If I were to recommend this trip to anyone else I would say to try to do it on a day when the monastery is closed (Thursday night and Saturday night) as there will be far fewer people – and in my opinion (even though I am a practising Christian) the monastery was just not worth visiting. If you are a diver the sunrise Mt Sinai trip will take 2 days out of your diving schedule – the day before because of the altitude and the day after as you’ll be worn out!
Quad Biking – I hadn’t really thought I’d do this but hubby persuaded me and it was good fun. We visited a nearby oasis (Wadi Qnai) which we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, which was interesting. The promised 2 hour trip was more like 1.5 hours from the time you actually got on the quad bikes but as it costs about a quarter of the price of quad biking in the UK (without the deserts!) you can’t really complain.
Milkshakes! Yes they deserve a heading of their own in Dahab! Each place seems to vie with the next to do the best milkshakes – which are usually almost undrinkable due to the amount of ice cream served in them – yummy! The best ones we found were at Funny Mummy (drinkable from the start but still ice creamy), Same Same and the Fixed Price place. DON’T waste your time on milkshakes at El Dorado, Blue House or Sakkara – the latter claimed to have an expert milk shake maker but hubby said the chocolate one was just like Nesquik! Prices from 14LE to 18LE.
And of course the weather – how nice to get up every morning and not doubt that it’s going to be a sunny day! There is nearly always a wind of varying strength but this was welcome to make things bearable – we very rarely felt too hot or too cold (the trip to Mt Sinai being the possible exception on both counts).
Food – sadly, although we are both “foodies” we struggled to get excited by the food. If you are a carnivore my advice would be to stick to chicken and seafood in Dahab – in our experience the red meat was really tough. We only worked this out after quite a few disappointing meals! We tried mixed grills, shish kebabs, lamb ribs, beef bourgignon – all tough, greasy and/ or gristly. The only real success stories were:
Tota bar – did a surprisingly good deep fried calamari (served in a basket) and if you go on Sunday night when you get two main courses for the price of one this is quite a bargain. (about 45LE)
Blue House Thai – Penang curry with chicken or shrimps (prawns) was lovely. Red curry not so exciting. Be prepared for a long wait as they are currently short-staffed. (main courses 40LE for chicken or 65LE for seafood including rice)
Same Same – lovely chicken curry with coconut, and the shrimp (prawn) curry with coconut was even nicer! (about 50LE and 75LE respectively)
El Dorado did very nice pizzas – I had shrimp (really was shrimp not prawn) with blue cheese, and hubby had spicy pepperoni. Their tiramisu ice cream is also a lovely end to the meal and is enough to share between two. Can’t remember the prices.
Funny Mummy did really nice, big, cheap chicken burgers with lots of mayo. (only 24LE each)
Chicken kebabs were nice at most places.
We did try to eat local dishes, honest!
The starter salads were usually nice, and the fixed price place does an exceptionally good Seafood soup.
Be aware that during nearly all meals you will be joined by multiple cats – I think it was only on the boat trips that we weren’t! Many restaurants have anti-cat water sprays available.
Although they worked hard to keep the sea front promenade and the main shopping drag clean, if you deviated from it you soon became aware of rubbish – piles and piles of the stuff and lots of bin bags torn open with contents spilling out in the road and on the pavements. The wandering goats and cats don’t help of course but it was really quite shocking the filth just lying in the streets. No wonder there are so many flies. I’m amazed that people can live with it all just lying around – and labour doesn’t seem to be a short commodity. This was also the one down side to our trip to Ras Abu Gallum – all the plastic bottles along the shoreline. Come on Dahab, clean up your act!
All in all
We had a great holiday, very relaxed with plenty of sunshine, and if we were looking to recommend somewhere particularly to divers Dahab would definitely be on that list. We’ll probably go back there at some point. If you’re off there soon I hope you enjoy it too!