Dahab is a small Egyptian town on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, approximately 80 km (50 mi) northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, Dahab is considered one of Egypt’s most treasured diving destinations.
Location of Dahab Town
Following the Six-Day War, Sinai was occupied by Israel. Under the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in 1982, Egypt restored the Sinai peninsula. Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, helped the arrival of many local and international tourism companies and hotel chains. Dahab became known as Di-Zahav, after a place mentioned in the Bible as one of the stations for the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt. Many other ancillary facilities have since made the town resorts a popular destination with tourists. Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport serves Dahab. Masbat (within Dahab) is a popular diving destination, and there are many (50+) dive centres located within Dahab. Most of Dahab’s diving spots are shore dives.
Dahab comprises three major parts. Masbat, which includes the Bedouin village Asalah, is in the north. South of Masbat is Mashraba, more touristic and has considerably more hotels. In the southwest is Medina, which includes the Laguna area, famous for its excellent shallow-water kite- and windsurfing.
The town of Dahab counts around 15,000 inhabitants. The region of Asalah is quite civil and has many campsites and hostels. Most people who visited Dahab became backpackers interested in diving and snorkelling in the Red Sea.
Dahab attracts large numbers of tourists. At present, it is world-renowned for its windsurfing. Indeed, the reliable winds provide superb flat-water conditions inside Dahab’s sand spit. Further away from shore, wavy conditions couple with strong winds to provide challenging conditions for keen windsurfers. However, the kitesurfers have occupied the lagoon inside the sand spit in recent years, with two Russian-owned schools opening right on the beach. SCUBA diving, free-diving and snorkelling are also popular activities, with many reefs immediately adjacent to waterfront hotels. The nearby Blue Hole, nicknamed “The World’s Most Dangerous Diving Site”, and Canyon are internationally famous dive spots. The increasing destruction of coral from reckless divers and diving centres is a pressing issue. It is causing some worry, sparking the need to regulate dive centres thoroughly.
Land-based activities include rock climbing, camel riding, horse riding, cycling, mountain biking, and jeep and quad bike trips. Mount Sinai is a two-hour drive, with Saint Catherine’s Monastery being a popular tourist destination.
Historically, most visitors to Dahab have been backpackers travelling independently and staying in hostels, motels or guesthouses in the Masbat area. In recent years, the development of hotels in the Medina area has facilitated the arrival of a broader range of tourists. Many of them visit Dahab specifically to partake in surfing, windsurfing, diving, kite surfing, sailing, and other activities.
Much of the reef coral just offshore is slowly disappearing, for inexperienced divers to take it out in large numbers. Another considerable problem is that in Masbat local restaurants are dumping sand and rock into the sea to extend the shoreline, again disrupting local coral reefs.
Name of Dahab
The word Dahab is Arabic for gold and possibly references the geographic locality; gold washed down from the desert mountains may have accumulated on the alluvial flood plain where the town stood. Some locals attribute the title to the colour of the sky just after sunset. The name may also reference the colour of the sands to the south of the city itself.
One local story concerning the town’s name stems from the floods that wash through the city every five or six years. More significant than average seasonal storms in the mountains cause a great rush of water to surge down to the sea, dragging tremendous amounts of sand. During this time, the town is cut in two by the flood, the bay is stirred up, and the sands turn it a golden yellow. It typically lasts a few days and has caused damage and loss of life in the past as people were unaware of the sudden onset and the force the water moves. Today, locals are ready when they see the clouds over the mountains. Anyone lucky enough to witness it will remember it for a long time.
According to the Bedouins of the area, however, the name “Dahab” has a different origin. When the Bedouin people came there, they called it “Waqaat Thahaab” (وقت ذهب), which translates literally as “Time Goes”. This name originates from the fact that one could quickly lose track of time as the days would begin to run together. The name was then shortened to “Thahaab” (ذهب) but was misunderstood by travellers who thought they were saying Dahab.
Local Bedouin children, sometimes encouraged by their families, come to beach cafes and restaurants to sell items such as woven bracelets to tourists.
Natural and tourist attractions
The city has many of the most prominent attractions in Ras Abu Gallum, including a nature reserve and a diving area. It is one of the world’s most famous dive spots. In addition, the Kanoun region is one of the best diving areas in Al-Asala, where about 75% of the city’s population lives. It is divided into three areas (Mubarak City, Zarnouk, Al-Asala), Coral Island, and the remains of a historical fortress built by the Crusaders.
Al-Mellil, a road parallel to the coast road, includes some small hotels, cafeterias, and houses, the city’s central neighbourhood starts with Al Fanar Street and then Masbat Bay. It consists of shops, diving clubs, cafes, camps and hotels. Also, it includes a large number of cafeterias and diving centres. It also contains the only impact there is Tel Mashraba, located in the old city of Dahab.
Wadi Qani is a site representing the city’s future urban expansion. It includes a wide range of hotels, service and residential complexes, and the areas of Lighthouse and the Garden Garden and Oasis. Dahab comprises two gulfs, the Laguna or Ghazala, characterized by the city’s only sandy beach and its cistern and resorts along its shores that integrate with the surrounding nature with log-and-palm kiosks for tourists.