While Egypt is most known for its sandy deserts, pyramids, and temples, few think of a beach-side paradise along the Red Sea. If you love nature excursions, boho coffeeshops, diving, and Egyptian cuisine, Dahab cannot be missed.
I made my first trip to Dahab this past January, and couldn't believe how quickly I fell in love with the laid-back vibe. While working remotely from little cafes along the promenade presented challenges with internet speeds at times, I loved getting up every day, doing yoga in front of the water, then cracking open my laptop with a breeze and a view. More on that in this post:
What I loved even more about Dahab was the wide variety of weekend excursions it offered. I improved on my diving skills, exploring some of the most vibrant reefs and interesting wrecks I've ever seen. I rode a camel (only for minutes before my panic set in!), and tried ecstatic dance for the first time in front of the lagoon. Dahab certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone at times, but that's where the magic happens! After a month in Dahab, these were my favorite excursions I can recommend to you.
1. Go Scuba Diving!
If you've ever researched the best places to dive in the world, I'm sure you've seen some of Dahab's best-known sites on those lists. With vibrant, flourishing corral, underwater national parks, and The Blue Hole, it's no wonder people flock here to dive. Along the promenade, it feels as if there are more dive shops than people.
Don't have your certification yet? No problem. Dahab is a great place to learn. Many of the dive shops are a part of a hotel or hostel, and will offer you a discount if you are staying there. With a little research, you can easily find knowledgeable instructors. I did all my dives through Shams Dive Center, and can absolutely recommend them. Their staff was kind and very professional, and they offered fair prices.
Haggling is part of the culture, and I've heard that some dive shops will try to negotiate prices for certifications and dives with you. If you go in expecting this and have prices of other local dive shops as a frame of reference, you should be able to negotiate an inexpensive price, as compared to diving in some other parts of the world.
The Blue Hole
The world-renowned Blue Hole is one of the first dive sites that brought recognition to Dahab. The dive begins by descending 32 meters through a narrow chimney, and then working your way up through the canyon. Note that you must have your advanced certification to do this dive. While it's beautiful, many fatalities have occurred here over the years, due to divers pushing their limits, so remember to prepare well and go with a guide. A memorable part of this dive was the fish that come up and clean your teeth if you smile underwater! I was too nervous to take my reg out and let them in for a snack, but our divemaster did and it was fun to watch.
The SS Thistlegorm
The Thistlegorm is a large WWII shipwreck in the Red Sea. From Dahab, you must get an early morning (3am) ride to Sharm el Shiek, and then take a sunrise boat several more hours while you sleepily eat breakfast and get prepped on the dive. Trips to the Thistlegorm typically consist of two dives, one around the exterior, and one through the interior floors. Finally, you can do a shallower dive around the national park before returning to shore. Inside the wreck, you can see tanks, motorcycles, trucks, and jeeps, dusted over with silt. Eels and fish weave in and out of car windows and soldiers' boots remain scattered among the wreckage. The experience is chilling, both in temperature and nature. Though Dahab had many beautiful dive sites, this one was by far my favorite.
If you're not down to give diving a try, there's still plenty for you to see. From any of the dive shops along the promenade, you can rent a mask, fins, and snorkle, and head out to the water. There's lots of shallow corral and tropical fish just off the beach. Within minutes you can swim out to the reef. You can also head to popular dive spots such as the Lighthouse or even the Blue Hole to swim with sea turtles and tropical marine life.
Be aware that in winter the water can be quite cold! Short and long wetsuits are also available for rent should you feel you need one.
3. Sunrise Hike at Mt. Sinai
If you're interested in an excursion of biblical proportions, give the Mt. Sinai hike a try! Tour companies pick up hikers around 11 pm from town. The hike takes all night, so make sure you're prepared with warm clothes, a torch, and good shoes! There is an option to use a camel to get to the top or hike the whole way. You'll reach the top just before morning light, and watch the sunrise where legend is that Moses received the Ten Commandments.
The hike is quite strenuous but the view is worthwhile! I did not personally do this activity as I was in Dahab in January, and I hadn't packed appropriate hiking clothes for below-freezing weather. I knew two separate groups who did the sunrise hike, one who had an epic view, and the other who got snowed on and only saw a sheet of white rather than a sunrise. Take the season you go into consideration!
4. Camel Excursions- Camping in Ras Abou Gallum
Take an hour-long camel ride into the desert, to find small huts along the beach fit for camping. You can even pack scuba gear and dive from just off the shore! Scattered along the coast you can find some restaurants and stores run by the local bedouin families. Be careful with this excursion as well as any animal tourism to check up on the ethical treatment of the animals, as we were a bit concerned with this one. However, the scenery was breathtaking and the stars were (quite literally) out of this world.
5. Day Trip to Jordan
While this isn't in Dahab per se, Jordan is only a ferry ride away! Many of the tour agencies along the promenade will offer a one-day Jordan tour, which are all operated by the same organization and costs about $200 USD. Although more time in Jordan would have been nice, this tour is great for travelers on a tight schedule who don't anticipate being back in the region soon. Another benefit of going through a tour operator is that they handle all visa and covid-related paperwork for you, as well as sea and ground transportation, making it the easiest way to see Petra.
This tour lasted almost 24h. Although it was exhausting, I'm so glad that I did it! We were picked up from our hotel around 3 am and driven by minibus to where we would meet the rest of the folks on our tour. In total there were maybe 200 people on our trip, most of which came up from Sharm el Shiekh. Just before sunrise, we were stamped out of Egypt and shuffled onto a ferry boat. The boat offered some coffee and juices as we started to wake up. By around 7 am we had reached the port in Jordan, and were each given a PCR test. Be warned, they go deep! Once we were stamped into Jordan, we were divided into smaller tour groups by language and boarded into vans.
We drove for several hours while a tour guide covered some background about the country and what we would be seeing. We stopped at a viewpoint and had an opportunity for snacks, bathroom, and coffee. By mid-day we reached Petra. I was in awe of how much more there was to see than just the Treasury (most often pictured). We walked through narrow, winding canyons as we pictured the thriving metropolis Petra was in ancient times. Our tour lasted an hour, then we were given free time to explore the park. There's so much to see in Petra, and we only had time to see a fraction of it on this tour. However, I was happy to see even a part of it!
After lunch, we began our drive back, stopping at a lookout point to see Wadi Rum. We journeyed back, returning to the Egyptian border around 10:30 and finally to our hotel just past midnight. While there's no argument that it was a whirlwind tour, I was grateful to have seen the fraction of Jordan we were able to, and feel inspired to come back one day to do a more in-depth trip!
6. ATV/ Dirt Bike
From town, you can go on guided quad bike excursions to explore views of the bay, the mountain, and Sinai Wadis. There were options for two or three hour excursions, depending on how many sites you were interested in seeing. Once agreeing on a price, our faces were swaddled in a protective bandana and we were ready to hit the open road.
Our tour began with a touristic-feeling stop at a Bedouin tent for tea and a short hike around an obstacle course. We encouraged our guide to take us out somewhere less touristic and more adventurous, which led us to some small-scale bouldering out in canyons in the open desert. Though the rock climbing scared me a bit, I thought the drive through the canyons was so beautiful and worthwhile. Overall, this was a great way to see the desert with an added dose of adrenaline.
7. Explore the Promenade
There are so many restaurants, cafes, and hangouts along the water, you could go to a new one for each meal and never run out of fresh options. Grab some friends and a floor pillow, and enjoy watching the waves. If you need somewhere to pull out your laptop, give this article a look-over: Dahab: Seaside Nomad Paradise You've Never Heard Of
It's rare to find a restaurant here with an alcohol license, but most don't mind if you BYOB should you like a glass of wine with dinner. However, the lack of bars does not discourage nightlife along the promenade. Spots like Everyday Cafe and Kung Fu Pasta offer live music most nights. You can order a juice or cup of tea and listen to lively performances by local groups. Smiley's has an indoor fire pit to get cozy around on chilly nights. Lighthouse Cafe is a hot spot for divers, who surface to have a snack and cup of tea before going back to the reef.
If you're looking for souvenirs, the promenade has ample shopping. You can get everything from elephant pants and graphic tees to camel leather notebooks and Dahab-themed tchotchkes. I found good quality argan oil and a Dead Sea mud mask that I took home with me. Remember that you're going to have to haggle, and the shopkeepers won't go easy on you. I really struggled with this and started looking for shops with fixed prices! I know I paid a lot more than I should have for some of my purchases but felt alright about supporting the local economy.
8. Slow-cooked Meal in a Castle
Looking for scenic Instagram backdrops and mouth-watering slow-cooked meals? Look no further than Castle Zaman. It's located about 100 kilometers from Dahab. Though we were a bit disappointed to learn that the castle was not historic, it was built using ancient techniques and local materials. The property itself is stunning. Book in advance and spend the day on the hilltop, enjoying the pool, sauna, and views.
For your meal, pre-select your protein and Castle Zaman will spend the day slow cooking it for you with a mix of vegetable dishes served in an Egyptian style on beautiful serving platters. This meal was one of my favorites in Egypt!
9. Cowork on the Red Sea
As a digital nomad, I'm always looking for new cafes and environments to inspire me while working. Dahab has no lack of choices, although the internet can be really hit or miss! The following are a few of my favorite work spots:
The Everyday Cafe- There are actually several Everyday Cafes scattered around Dahab. The Old Everyday and Everyday are several doors down from each other. While the Old Everyday has decent wifi (I've seen 20 mbps), the Everyday does not have customer access. Instead, enjoy the charm while sitting on a swing over the ocean, journaling or getting some offline work accomplished.
Cafe Paris- Protected from the elements, Cafe Paris has AC for warm days and is protected from the chilly wind on cool days. With a large selection of gourmet desserts with high quality ingredients, and the best croissant I think I've ever had, it's hard to leave this spot. Even better, every table has outlets to plug in your laptop. While not a formal cowork, the internet connection is generally stable and the music is soft.
My Hostel Cowork- For a couple of dollars a day, gain access to this cozy coworking space with mountain views and ergonomic chairs.
Mojo Cafe and Cowork- A digital nomad favorite, Mojo is positioned kitty-corner to the beach and other commercial streets. There is a quiet upper floor and a bustling cafe downstairs to work from. They have AC in the summer months and stay open late for those East Coast hours calls. The coffee is good, and the internet is reliable!
10. Lagoona Beach
The lagoon is walkable from the main parts of Dahab, or reachable by an inexpensive taxi. Several hotels and resorts line the lagoon, offering views and day beds. However, anyone can set up a towel and take a swim. Vendors come by selling cakes and coffees from push cards, and local families play music.
Along the lagoon, you can find a venue called Wind Farm, which occasionally hosts ecstatic dance meetups and events. If you're unfamiliar with ecstatic dance, it is a form of dance, free of judgement, where dancers simply feel the music and move freely to it. It's generally practiced without the use of drugs or alcohol. The event I attended at Wind Farm began with a Cacao ceremony, where we all drank a chocolaty beverage, accompanied by live music. Swaying eventually turned into dancing, and the event transitioned into full swing when the DJ began. You can dance with others with their consent, or in your own little world. To be honest, I was a bit uncomfortable at first as dancing in an environment like this is unfamiliar! However, we all slowly warmed up to the concept and ended up having a great time. As they say, growth starts at the end of your comfort zone!
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