Dahab has a long history of luring travellers – and trapping them for days or weeks on end – with its cheap ocean-side camps, golden beaches and rugged mountain backdrop. In recent years Dahab has expanded beyond its humble origins, and now boasts a smooth fusion of hippie mellowness and resort chic. The banana pancakes, moonlight spliffs and hardcore backpackers still remain, though they now coexist with upscale restaurants, boutique hotels and holidaying European families. However, while the vast majority of Sinai is being packaged and sold for mainstream consumption, Dahab is a place where individual travellers are still the rule rather than the exception.
Meaning gold in Arabic, a reference to the area’s sandy coastline, Dahab also boasts some of Egypt’s most spectacular diving and trekking. A short walk, jeep ride or even camel trek will bring you to some of the Red Sea’s most memorable dive sites, and a boat can bring you within easy striking distance of the world-class reefs in nearby Ras Mohammad National Park. Predominantly a Bedouin enclave at its heart, Dahab is also the preferred base for organising guided excursions into the interior deserts, as well as to the lofty heights of nearby Mt Sinai.
Dahab remains one of the more authentic tourist towns in Egypt. True, a paved boardwalk now lines the beachfront area of Assalah, and the hard sell for pricey dinners by pushy restaurateurs can test your nerves. However, Dahab remains a tranquil ocean-side refuge from the unrelenting heat of the desert. Be forewarned – after a few days of crystal-clear diving, desert trekking, ocean-side dinners and countless sheesha sessions, you’re probably going to want to cancel the rest of your itinerary.