Monday, June 17, 2013

Onward to Dahab and the Red Sea Coast

It was bittersweet leaving the town of St. Catherine's.  We had a very relaxing time at the Desert Fox Camp, but we were ready to check out a new area of the country, and we had been looking forward to going to Dahab for quite a while now.  We had read various accounts of the city.  Some articles said it is a laid back hippy enclave that is akin to Ko Samui in Thailand, Playa del Carmen in Mexico (both of which we have visited), or Goa in India (which we will be visiting in the future).  Although we found Ko Samui to be somewhat overrated, we thought that Dahab would be a fun place to visit.  Seaside "riviera-style" towns are often fun places to visit and at least spend a while.  Therefore, we figured we would have to spend a little while in Dahab.

The Sinai Wilderness
Our host at Desert Fox prepared a bus for us, the Bedouin bus, which arrived at our hotel to pick us up and take us straight to our next lodging in Dahab, known as the Sindbad Camp.  The ride cost us each 50 EGP and it was an incredible ride.  We made our way through the desert and mountain valleys of Sinai, through the deep wilderness areas, and across a massive valley of dunes and sand that spilled over the sides of huge hills.  The rocks and ground areas went from deep brownish reds to pitch black in areas.  Some of the areas looked charred and desolate.  Overall, there was much to see and film on the way, and we hope to get it up on Youtube soon.  It was much more interesting than I thought it would be, and I really see why so many people who come to Sinai come back year after year.

When we arrived in Dahab, we checked into the Sindbad Camp.  We had read about this place beforehand and it got some really good reviews.  While I will review it later, I will say that I like it.  Our room costs 60 EGP a night.

Dahab is a little more expensive than the other areas of Egypt.  Things are a bit more fancy here as far as food goes.  There are many international food options, such as Indian, Thai, and the like.  In fact, I was craving Indian when we arrived and we were excited to see an Indian restaurant right on the water (Nirvana).  It was somewhat expensive (108 EGP for two curries and a shared Chai tea), but it really hit the spot.  Also, the meals were quite large and overall worth the price.

Dahab is said to be laid back, but it's not Siwa nor is it St. Catherine's.  In other words, we have found that there is still a lot of hassling that goes on here.  For example, along the walkway that goes along the water and the shops, many salesmen will come out and try to bring you into their stores.  This is similar to Ko Samui (which was one reason I was not as fond of it as much as Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, or Chiang Mai).  However, there are a lot of really nice people here and it is quite pretty.  From the shore we can see the mountains of Saudi Arabia which is actually quite close.

Also, I should mention that there are many tourists here, especially compared to Cairo, Siwa, and Alexandria.  While it may not be as full as always, this is a huge difference and we no longer feel alone.  Costs of tours to places like the Blue Hole, a popular and dangerous diving and snorkeling site, Petra, and Jerusalem/Dead Sea are much cheaper now than advertised, and that might be due to the downturn in tourism.  Or it may be due to the fact that the brochures have artificially inflated prices.

We were told that most of the tourists here are from Russia and eastern Europe which we found to be interesting.  Indeed, much of the stores here feature Russian writing and many tours are geared towards Russians.  One person said it is as much as 90% of the tourists, but that is hard to say.  Either way, most of the tourists in this area are from Europe and Asia or are other Egyptians and it is somewhat rare to see an American here at this time.  As our host at Desert Fox stated: "most people are scared to travel now."  He is right, and the reality is that there should be no reason to be afraid to visit this place or any of the other areas of Egypt that we have traveled to.  Such things confirm my belief that the media often distorts reality to the detriment of those who buy into it.

On another note, we were told by our host at Desert Fox that Dahab was hot, and while it is hot, it is still nowhere near as hot as Siwa, Alexandria or Cairo.  In fact, where we are staying, at the Sindbad Camp, there seems to always be a light breeze which keeps things pleasant.

Sunset over the sea, with Saudi Arabia in the distance (right).
We have yet to swim here, but we are considering buying a tour to the world-famous Blue Hole (described above) which costs 25 EGP.  It is said to be an amazing place to snorkel and we would like to do some of that while we are here.  We had a great time snorkeling in Puerto Rico a few months back and are ready to see some more sea life. 

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