The Sinai Peninsula and Red Sea Coast: Places to Explore

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Dahab

The drive from Sharm to Dahab snakes through the mountains of south Sinai offering you a peek at the precipitous peaks of the interior. Dahab itself is another world, still half stuck in the 1960s, with New Age believers carrying on the original laid-back hippie philosophy that put this place on the international map. It's also a legendary location in the world of scuba. A new generation of dive students from Northern and Eastern Europe mix with seasoned veterans who return here year after year for the excellent conditions and unpretentious dive community. Many Bedouins have taken up the government's offer of permanent homes in the town, and they've brought along their goats and camels, which roam the streets blissfully uncaring of the 21st-century trucks and buses zipping by. All this adds to the slightly surreal but relaxed atmosphere. There's little more to do here than hang out and snorkel and dive.

Dahab stretches around a headland and now encompasses two flanking bays. Its four main areas are the Assala, where you find camps and independent dive resorts; the Masbat, a stretch of restaurants, shops, and Bedouin-style cafés that all look the same but blast different music, resulting in a strange cacophony; Mashrab, a combination of both the Assala and the Masbat; and Dahab City, the modern municipal district with a handful of larger hotels.

If the promise of resort holidays brought you to the Sinai, then Dahab probably isn't for you. Stray cats and dogs might snuggle up to you as you eat dinner. The resort seems to have eschewed large-scale tourist development, though, and it's working well in its own eclectic way.

Diving is the lifeblood of tourism in Dahab, and the waters here provide a top-flight training location. Water entry in Dahab is all done from the shore rather than from dive boats offshore, so entry does require balance and good footing but is much more convenient than it might otherwise be. The town is also known for windsurfing. And Dahab has easy access to some superb inland sights, including the Colored Canyon. As with any off-the-beaten-path desert excursion, it is a good idea to go with a guide. Marijuana is easily available in Dahab (as it has been since the 1960s), but it is illegal to possess under Egyptian law, which imposes stiff penalties for those found guilty of possession or use of any illicit drugs, including marijuana. The Egyptian police are not routinely rigorous in checking for drugs, but there are occasional clampdowns, which can result in visitors being charged and jailed.

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