Some friends of mine did the middle east (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon) in 14 days earlier this year. I remember thinking before they left that they might be a bit rushed to see all the major sights. I was shocked when they came back and they said they had spent seven of their fourteen precious days in a place called Dahab. After spending 19 days here myself I sort of understand – it’s a great place to ‘do nothing’.
Dahab is a ‘backpackers resort’ on the red sea. The sea is clear and warm. The beach is lined with cafes which all have plenty of cushions to relax on. The average day here goes something like this:
11.00 wake, shower etc
12.00 arrive in beachfront cafe and order breakfast
12.30 breakfasts arrives. Reorder any items left off original order.
12.30 – 19.00 repeat the following activities as required.
- Swim. When I can be manage the 5 meter walk to the ocean. Or when I need a pee (see point 5)
- Tell local girls that I don’t need any more bracelets. This is usually done with a small flick of a hand to conserve energy. I tried just ignoring them a couple of times but they though that I was trying to start a game of “where you from?” which I have grown bored of late.
- Drink coffee
- Play cards
- Play chess (undefeated)
- 19.30 shower to wash salt from brown as body. Showers here are all salt water though so this is a little pointless but it kills a few minutes.
- 20.00 order dinner 20.30-21.00 dinners arrives. Reorder any items left off original order.
- 21.00 chat to other travellers and maybe have a beer, maybe not.
- 00.00 sleep again
- It’s a hard life.
One particularly motivated night I got up the energy to climb mount Sinai (2285m), the mountain where Moses supposedly found the ten commandments. The taxi left my hostel at 11pm and thanks to some speedy driving was at the base of the mountain by 12.30. About 30 backpackers from Dahab made the cruisey 2-hour trek up the mountain. Around 20 shops selling all manner of mountain climbing goodies such as water, coffee, chocolate and coke punctuate the walk. Like the mountain itself the prices of the goodies get higher and climb steeper as you approach the summit. At the top the 30 of us sat on the edge of a cliff waiting for the sun to rise. About two hours before dawn I looked over the edge and noticed that the entire path up the side of the mountain was filled with the light from hundreds of torches. It looked like a long line of glowing ants zing sagging their way up the path we had just completed. Sure enough, an hour or so later the resort tourists from Sharmel Shek etc arrived and the mountaintop was packed to the limit with people seeking that elusive photo of the sun rising over the mountain ‘next to’ mount Sinai. The walk down is along a different route and takes you down a series of 3000 steps called the steps of repentance. The steps were hand carved by a kooky monk a few hundred years back. I’m not sure what he did to deserve that sort of repentance but it must have been pretty bad. Or maybe the repentance is for the people who walk the steps i.e. me? In that case do you think 3000 is enough? My legs were only a little wobbly at the bottom so I suspect not.
The three Kiwis from the South Island that I hung out with occasionally liked to play chess. They have also collected all of their empty water bottles since they arrived in Dahab. By the time they left they had over 100 in their hotel room. I tried getting them to bet some of their collection on chess but they weren’t keen (cowards). Which is lucky for them, as I would have cleaned them out in a couple of days. On a slightly brighter note I wagered Australia (my mum always said “Never gamble with anything that you aren’t prepared to lose”) against Dahab with one of the local waiters, so I now own Dahab. I think I might turn it into a nudist colony.
Miraculously I have found a copy of Tolkein’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ one my first day here in Dahab. I spent considerable time searching for it in the cities of Casablanca, Rabat and Tunis to name a few. But was stoked it was here as I have many long hours in the sun in which to read. The three Kiwis also have the second book in the series, ‘the two towers’ so we traded for a while. Now all I need is the third bloody book…
Have gained some valuable insights which may improve my results in the ‘Where are the local women at?’ game. Large number of badly dressed, grubby local girls spends their days selling brightly coloured cotton bracelets to the tourists. If you ask them why they are not in school they either get angry or they say that they are on school holidays. This may very well be true but I suspect that no matter what time of year you come here you get that answer. This thought was reinforced by an Egyptian I know called ‘Smiley’ who said “What do they need school for? When they get married stay at home for their husbands”.
For a considerable period of time here in Dahab I thought I would be unable to dive as I never posted my forms back to PADI after completing my open water diving certificate in Thailand in 1997 (and I couldn’t be stuffed doing all that expensive classroom rubbish all over again). I was reasonably gutted about this for a while, as coming to Dahab and not diving is the equivalent of going to Cairo and not seeing the pyramids. Fortunately PADI were able to track down my old student records and I have now completed my advanced diving certificate in what is widely recognised as one of the world’s best dive spots. The advanced course at the Poseidon dive resort consist of the following:
- A refresher dive – lots of diving, not much refreshing
- A naturalist dive – not what you might think
- And a yard glass of beer (four minutes) at the Dahab Hilton to ensure that your body is appropriately conditioned for the next day’s deep dive at 08.30.
- A deep water dive – there is something about being 32 meters under the surface of the ocean that puts a smile on your face. It’s called nitrogen narcosis :)
- A night dive – pretty spooky. Especially considering that I started my course the day after they spotted a four-meter shark cruising just off the reef here. Try getting that thought out of your head when your 15 meters under sitting there in the dark with your torch off
- A multi level dive
- A navigation dive
The diving here is absolutely spectacular and the bright and freaky fish are really cool.
Leaving Dahab is quite hard and I’m actually quite sad. But in the end I had finished my diving and most of my friends there had left already so it was time to hit the road again.
Dahab is way cool
Diving dozing and drinking
Loads of fit chicks here ;)