After too many days in smoggy Cairo we hopped on a 1-hour Egypt Air flight to Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. We chose to fly rather than travel overland because much of inner and northern Sinai is still unsafe to travel through.
We didn't stay in Sharm though. Our reason for visiting this region is Dahab, a laid-back Bedouin beach town with a hippy vibe and amazing SCUBA diving. And even though we didn't want to travel by bus or car in Sinai, we had to in order to reach Dahab.
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The 1-hour drive north from Sharm to Dahab rewarded us with views of Sinai's rugged, mountainous, empty desert. Spotting the occasional Bedouin huts along the way I began to wonder what traversing this region must've been like thousands of years ago.
We passed through 3 serious military checkpoints on our drive. They had machine guns at the ready, laying on tables pointed at the queue of vehicles. At each checkpoint, they riffled through our passports checking every stamp on every page.
"Amerikki," the driver would tell them.
I assume they're searching for our Egypt visa, to see where else we've been in the world, and to make sure there's not a stamp from Israel, but I'm not totally certain about that last one.
The checkpoints probably sound scary, but they weren't. The officers were kind and welcoming to us. And it actually made our time in Dahab feel safer knowing some idiot suicide bomber would have to pass through the same checkpoints.
Of course, none of us are ever truly safe anywhere on this planet, and the desert here is vast, so the checkpoints are likely futile. But Dahab hasn't had any issues since 2006, so it must be working.
Dahab is known for its laid back vibe. There are lots of coffee shops, waterfront restaurants with loungers, and little shops selling bohemian clothes.
There are also signs of Egypt's tourism decline everywhere you look. Massive hotels are abandoned, entire buildings are boarded up, restaurants are open but empty. The places that are thriving are busy though. It's feast or famine since the 2011 revolutions, and those that are starving love to talk about it.
We stayed 6 nights at Inmo Divers, an excellent beachside resort on the south end of town. A German woman Ingrid started this little place 30 years ago and has grown it from the bottom up and is very busy. We loved it. Our room was bright and airy, a two-story domed building with a loft and two beds. Very cute.
The property is beautiful, with white, Arabian-style domes, wooden walkways, elevated lounge decks, a sparkling pool flanked by flowing palm trees and talking parrots, ridiculously friendly staff, onsite Scuba shop with the cheapest dives in town, and a daily buffet breakfast, all for only 26 Euros per night.
This was definitely a travel splurge for us. And I am so grateful we splurged here because after our first day of diving, I spent 3 of our 5 days in Dahab sick, lazing around the comfortable resort while Nick went diving.
I got hit with a trifecta of issues. Somehow my back went out on the way here, leaving me in nearly crippling pain our first evening. That's when the coughing began. I figured it was my body expelling the Cairo pollution now that we had some (relatively) fresher air. Then, on our second night I got food poisoning at one of the more reputable eateries in town, King Chicken. I spent that memorable evening vomiting and enduring a lovely case of the Sharm el-Shits.
Thankfully the Dahab dumps were gone by the next day. While I rested and allowed my body to recover from the intestinal trauma, the sinus issues set in. I spent the next two days coughing, sneezing, and blowing my nose every 30 seconds. It wasn't until the third evening, when my right ear completely clogged causing pain and pressure behind my eye, that I went to see the doctor across the street.
I let him talk me into injecting a fast acting medicine into my ass check. A medicine that I've never heard of, nor had the ability to research.
I was extremely hesitant. What if the needle isn't sterile? What if he does it wrong and I lose feeling in my legs? What if it makes me nauseous?
But what if it works?
Nick thought I should go for it, so I did.
That little shot hurt like a son of a bitch! The doctor laughed, called me a big baby, collected my 30 Euros, and I was on my way. My right butt cheek throbbed for over an hour.
Three of the days that I was down and out, Nick went SCUBA diving without me. Sinai has some incredible shore dives all around the peninsula, and Dahab happens to have some of the more beautiful ones. It's located in the Gulf of Aqaba, across the water from Saudi Arabia. You can even see the coral-rich reef all along the coast while you're flying in.
On our very first day, before I got sick, we dove together at a site called Moray Garden.
Our dive shop set up camp at a little restaurant by the entry point where we had lunch between dives.
The best part of this dive site is that there were camels all over the place. One of my favorite moments was being in the water a few meters offshore waiting to descend and watching a line of camels walk right across the beach in front of me. In that moment it truly felt like I was diving in Egypt.
On those two dives, we didn't come across any particularly unique marine life. I saw a few small, fluorescent fish I'd never seen before, and an octopus. The coral is very healthy here though. Lots of bright yellows and blues.
Our guide Ibrahim was hyper concerned about Nick and treated him in a very hands-on manner. It got to be a bit annoying. He was trying to hard to help, but Nick only needs minimal help and for only very specific tasks.
I'm sure it's very intimidating as a dive master to meet Nick for the first time and have no idea what to expect, so we understand.
Halfway through the day on our last day in Dahab, I decided I was feeling well enough to join Nick at the Blue Hole dive site.
An easy 30-minute drive north along the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, a little tourist hot spot has emerged next to the Blue Hole. There's not much room between the mountains and the sea here, but they managed to cram in about a dozen restaurants and shops.
The Blue Hole is nothing more than a gaping sinkhole just offshore. It's believed to be as deep as 130 meters, making it a favorite place for freedivers to test their skills
Apparently, there's an archway that connects the sinkhole to the open ocean some 65 meters down. This site has taken a lot of lives through the years as SCUBA and free divers foolishly push their limits trying to find it.
I watched Nick get into the water for his dive and then I wandered away to explore a little. There are at least two dozen memorial plaques at the north end of the cove to remember the divers who have passed away here.
Here’s a map drawing of the various dive sites near Dahab. Nick and I both absolutely loved the easy and beautiful shore dives off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula.