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Dahab: A Thriving Golden Coastal Town with Untapped Tourism Potential

July 24, 2020
Dahab from atop a nearby cliff. Image by Mary Aravanis.

Situated between the turquoise blue waters of the wondrous Red Sea and the rocky red cliffs of South Sinai, lies the charming little town of Dahab. 

Although Dahab is a rather well-known tourist destination, most especially with locals and divers from all over the world, it still has so much untapped potential to become one of Egypt’s top tourist destinations. 

Dahab has all the ingredients to make it a top choice for anyone wanting a vacation, offering both tranquility as well as exciting experiences – from beauty and relaxingly calm waters to adventures both on land and in the sea. 

Land & Sea: Dahab’s Various Offerings

A rather small town, Dahab was once a simple bedouin fishing village. Bedouins still largely inhabit the area, however there is also quite a large expat community (mostly made up of divers), in addition to having acquired inhabitants from all over Egypt over the years. 

Dahab is most especially known for its diving, being home to some of the best and most well-known diving spots in the world, such as the infamous Blue Hole. 

In addition to taking scuba diving and free diving courses, there are plenty of activities to be done in and around Dahab. The town itself is divided into three main areas: the Mashraba, Masbat and Assalah. 

The Mashraba is where the Mamsha (boardwalk) is located and it is by far the most tourist-packed area of Dahab. Dahab’s boardwalk is akin to that of Sharm El Skeikh’s, lined with a number of seafront cafes, restaurants and shops. 

Sticky Mango Rize Dessert from Box Meal restaurant in Dahab. Image courtesy of Box Meal Facebook page.

It’s an enjoyable walk, and has a few must-visit spots such as Everyday Cafe – which boasts the best cheesecake in town – and Italian gems Ramez & Paula and Dai Pescatori – both of which are found on opposite sides of the boardwalk. 

In addition to this, the Lighthouse area of the boardwalk is also a great diving, snorkeling and swimming spot. Although the boardwalk is generally a nice experience, it does have a few downsides to it. It can get to be a bit too much during high-seasons when crowds make it difficult to manoeuvre around the somewhat tight space. The boardwalk itself could also be better maintained, as there are various random potholes every few steps and the odd out of place brick or tile here and there.

The Masbat area is where one will find the peaceful residential area of Eel Garden. It is a beautiful and quiet spot that is closed off from the touristy hustle and bustle of the boardwalk. There are many places to rent that can be found in the area, which boats a wonderful central location, close to various nearby markets, many beach areas, as well as quite a short walk away from the boardwalk. 

Assalah is another wonderful residential area and is also home to a few boutique hotels such as Dar Dahab and Villa Kan Kiko. The beach at Assalah is where most of the locals go for a swim, as well as the local bedouin children. 

When it comes to swimming, snorkeling and diving areas – the possibilities are endless. Almost any area of the beach alongside Dahab us swimmable, although some areas are rockier than others. If one wants to enjoy a relaxing and soothing day on sandy beach, as well as maybe do a bit of snorkeling or even windsurfing, then the Lagoona would be the way to go. 

Dahab’s Lagoona Beach. Image by Mary Aravanis.

Dahab’s Lagoona is a large lagoon area with crystal clear waters and sandy beaches. It is a gorgeous place for relaxing with friends and enjoying the warm sun whilst feeling the refreshingly cool water against one’s skin. The beach however has no shaded areas, so it would be best to keep that in mind when going. It is also a divine place to experience the sunsetting behind Sinai’s magical mountainscape. 

Another must-visit beach _and diving spot) is the Blue Lagoon. This mesmerizing spot is unlike anything one could ever experience, being a wonderful awe-inspiring place for those who joy snorkeling and diving alike. 

If one is up for a little more adventure, then grabbing a boat to go to nearby Abu Galloum and The Blue Lagoon would be an undeniably marvelous option. 

Other than the treasures of the Red Sea however, one could also Sinai’s desert charm through hikes on nearby cliffs, as well as off-roading to experience authentic bedouin nights in the depths of the mountains, underneath a blanket of twinkling stars. 

Would Dahab Fair Well as a Commercialized Tourist Spot?

Although admittedly having a ton of untapped potential as a top tourist destination, perhaps part of Dahab’s charm is the fact that it has yet to be commercialized into a ‘top tourist destination’. 

Recently, Dahab has been open for tourism – along with other coastal areas such as Hurghada and Marsa Matrouh – despite the ongoing pandemic. Some hotels have opened, admitting a 5o percent capacity; these hotels however must undergo inspection and receive a ‘Health Safety Certificate’.

In addition to this, zero new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the South Sinai and Red Sea governorates as of Tuesday.

The simplicity and rawness of the place, its authenticity, its atmosphere and its ‘what you see is what you get’ matter of factness all make up the peacefulness and magic that Dahab holds. 

View of Al Assalah atop the roof of Villa Kan Kiko. Image by Mary Aravanis.

Oftentimes, when beautiful places are commercialized, they lose their soul in a way. It would be a truly majestic balance to perhaps slightly elevate Dahab as a tourist spot, while still maintaining its essence and what people who visit and live there love so much about it. 

It wouldn’t feel right to visit Dahab and find a high-end five star internationally acclaimed hotel right smack in the middle of everything, with shopping promenades and beach bars that offer over-priced drinks and snacks. It wouldn’t feel right to visit Dahab and not find bedouin children laughing and playing all around you on the beach. It wouldn’t feel right to visit Dahab and get lost in another everyday consumerist reality, rather than take the time to unplug and get lost in the surrounding nature. 

That being said, perhaps Dahab is perfectly fine as is – south Sinai’s golden little haven. 

*Featured image by Mary Aravanis

*The opinions and ideas expressed in this article do not reflect the views of Egyptian Streets’ editorial team. To submit an opinion article, please email [email protected].

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