Goodbye to Dahab

I’m writing this in my final few hours in Dahab, once more struggling with the idea of leaving this amazing town. The wind is softening the heat of the sun today, and I’m just sitting by the pool, hearing my last call-to-prayer (I think) and mentally preparing for the trip back to Sharm El Sheikh airport.

Whenever I say I’m coming here people say to me, “ooh isn’t it dangerous?” No. No, it really isn’t. I’m pretty sure it’s more dangerous living in London, where only recently someone got shot on a road near to mine, and various members of ISIS in Syria have been recruited from a local school.

To get to Dahab you have to get a taxi from Sharm airport and drive for about an hour through the mountains on quiet roads. There are two police checkpoints on the way, and depending if your driver is friends with them or not (or well known) then you simply pass through after the usual Arabic pleasantries. Given that the queue for passport control is about a tenth as busy as at a London airport, I’m fine with this. At one point, you had to join a convoy of cars to drive through the checkpoints, now this is not the case.

Southern Sinai is perhaps the most security conscious of all the Egyptian governorates because it houses the all-important tourist industry. Hence the police presence. ISIS are active in one tiny corner of this 1 million-square-km country, in the northernmost part of Sinai, bordering Israel. Whenever I mention this to a local friend, they express surprise that it’s even a consideration to tourists given that it is so far away.

I fly with Easyjet to get here and at 4hrs 45mins outbound, it feels quicker and quicker every time I do it. Almost always, I’m the only passenger going to Dahab – thankfully – but I always think, “Oh you have no idea what you’re missing out on…”

I’ve written a lot already about how scared I was of everything here, and how those fears have eroded over time. I now know that I am incredibly safe here, from walking alone in the dark, to leaving valuables lying around in a cafe or by the beach. People respect my person and my belongings and I know that they would drop everything to help if I found myself in a ‘situation’.

It’s all too easy to translate the shopfront ‘hassle’ as something more insidious, as I did previously when I had a panic attack inside one, but it’s just the way things work here. However, even the locals are learning that the less they hassle, the more likely it is they’ll get tourists to come in to their businesses.

Now I’ve just got to adjust to the culture of nothing quite being what you think it’s going to be. This applies to the timing of things, the cost of things, and what you expect things (like day trips) to be. At first you think you’re being taken for a ride, but you soon realise that this is just the way things are here. Nothing is quite what it seems at first, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a bad thing. In fact, it’s often an improvement, if you let yourself go with it. You can save yourself a whole lot of bother if you just adopt the local, ‘what can you do?’ shrug and get on with it.

So once again I’m leaving here knowing full well that I’ll be back. The only fear is that something will prevent me, but I somehow know I’ll find a way to return to this magical place.

I’m stopping now because a cat wants to climb on my keyboard… See you on the other side.

————–

I’m writing this on the other side, filled with horror and sadness at the news about the Russian Metrojet plane crash. Not only for the deaths of innocent people and the grief of their families, but also for my friends in Dahab who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. As they say, I hope all will be ok, inshallah.

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39 thoughts on “Goodbye to Dahab

  1. A friend just shared your post on FB and I had to check it out. Your posts bring back so many great memories! I lived in Dahab for a good few months in 2010 and have been waiting for the day I can return ever since. I moved there on a whim after a 2 week solo holiday and really knowing no one.

    I always feel strangely at home as soon as I land in Egypt (never quite worked out why but I do and I still dream about it) and I miss it so much. Thank you for sharing your experiences of a wonderful place and I join you in hoping that tourism in Dahab will take this awful set back and grow again to the thriving, friendly and busy town that it can be. Inshallah. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s amazing the pull that Dahab has – everyone I speak to there has been back to the place over and over again or moved there. I contemplated it earlier this year when things were up in the air job wise. It does feel like home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a brilliant post. I’ve been to Dahab about 9 times in the past 6 years and identify with everything you say. I am die to be going back later this week, despite the fact my flight is likely to be cancelled I am determined to get there whatever it takes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. this is a brilliant piece of writing, my sentiments exactly. I am from London too, and I am here in Dahab right now, watching the impact. Your blog makes it clear what a warm safe place this is, compared to my home town where everything exists in a perpetual state of fear that we have sadly become adjusted to. I pray for this place, my on off home that i have been returning to for 26 years. It has exactly that kind of magic that gets into your soul, and never really goes away. Thank you xxx

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  4. Hello, I’ve been planning scheming dreaming of a trip to Dahab for the past month. It was weird to hear about the Metrojet incident while in the midsts of research. I have some questions for you as I would be a solo female American traveler. I plan to go for diving and hopefully other water sports and sightseeing. What will the reaction be to a woman wearing a bikini?? And how conservatively must a Western woman dress? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi – happy to oblige. Absolutely fine to wear a bikini whilst on the beach and doing water sports. Just take a cover up for when you’re going into cafes or Duce centres in town. I do see women striding around town in a bikini but I think it’s in keeping with the local culture to cover up. I have a range of maxi dresses and scarves for that very purpose! In the evenings I go for leggings (keeps the mosquitoes off) and a long tshirt or tunic. Rule of thumb is knees and shoulders covered but I see lots of tourists wearing shorts. No one blinks an eye – they’d only object if an Egyptian woman wore them. And even then… It’s fairly relaxed. I went too far the first time and practically wore a shroud. I now have it down to a fine art!

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      • Thank you! I think I’ll have more questions for you btw … such as, I see that you feel safe there as a solo female traveler. Is this the case no matter what time of day/night? Is it odd for a solo female traveler to go to a bar alone? Will there be allowances made for me as I’m clearly Western? Thanks!

        🙂

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      • This time I felt safe day or night. The only thing you’ll have to deal with is Egyptian guys hitting on you because you’re on your own (I’m always out with friends at night). It’s not really a ‘bars’ place – but I see people dining alone in one of the many cafes and restaurants. No one judges a western woman for drinking/dining alone but they might assume that you’re ‘looking for company’. Usually they’ll just test the water by being friendly – they’ll back off if you’re clear you’re not interested. I recommend Sea House restaurant because it’s cool and my friend Vigo works there. He’s respectful and nice. Most of the guys are.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hope you don’t mind me jumping in but I’ve also travelled as a solo female in Egypt and learnt a few tricks along the way! Learn a few Arabic words – Aiwa for Yes, La for No, Mesh for OK, La Shokran for No Thank You and you’ll be rewarded with huge smiles and usually a cheery wave as you wander along the street. Dahab especially is used to Western habits but they do appreciate it if you respect the culture by covering up a little when away from the beach – you wont have any problems if you don’t but you will make friends with the wonderful locals a bit quicker if you do! The diving around Dahab is superb and there are loads of brilliant dive centres and instructors/guides in town. If you’re heading out of town for some sight seeing be sure you have a guide and a Bedouin driver with an off road vehicle as they can get you to the most awesome spots in the desert and you’ll probably end up driving up and down the sand dunes squealing with joy! Have a fantastic trip and give our love to Dahab, our second home.

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      • Ahhh thanks to both of you. I’ll take any information I can get. Normally, I don’t scare easily but I admit I’m a wee bit concerned about whether this is such a great idea or not given/pending what the outcome of the investigation is or will be. Of course, because I’m stubborn (you could probably gather that because what other type of woman would do a solo trip except a strong-minded woman who knows her own mind and will???) the warnings might make me want to go even more and make it more likely that I’ll go… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Redwoods1 – hope you don’t mind me chipping in as well!

      msk – It’s not at all odd for a sole female traveller to drink or dine alone. I just used to get lost in whatever book I was reading at the time. The dive community is very friendly and tends to hang out in a few places in town though. There is a good sized expat community with members from all over the world (majority being from the UK, Europe, the US and Egypt) who will be easily found – usually in Churchills or the Furry Cup (Blue Beach Hotel) Bars in the evening, if you want some company. Depending on what centre you choose to dive with, there will always be things going on as well.

      I’m not a diver but I was always welcome – the quiz nights are a good icebreaker!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m going there from Cairo tomorrow, planning to stay for a week, and maybe get PADI certified, can’t wait, been there 5 times already, there is just something magical about this place, you’d be too sad when packing & getting ready to leave and in the back of your head thinking about coming back once more.

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