Monday, 13 March 2017

Postcard from Dahab

It is hard to believe that almost a week has gone by, since I arrived in Dahab. It is a place of contrasts with an easy relaxed feel, that is hard to describe. I was not sure what to expect before I came out, so tried to leave my preconceptions behind in the UK; I am glad that I did. I arrived in the dark so on my taxi transfer from Sharm I really could not see much, my first impressions came the following morning.

Dahab is a small community with the main tourist area concentrated along the sea front. Crammed with restaurants, hotels, dive shops and shops. To get to the sea there are places of public access; or if you prefer a little more comfort, you set yourself up on a sun bed in one of the cafes/restaurants. This way you can be waited on between dips in the ocean, very civilised, in addition you get to observe the dive classes and Freediving sessions taking place.

Forget long sandy beaches, the sand is under the water after a short rocky beach. The restaurants and cafes are so close to the sea that twice this week in a big tide they were closed whilst the sea washes in. Owners and staff move the seats and cushions out on to the walk way, whilst the children play in the waves coming over. Everyone smiles - it does not happen that often and in the words of one owner "it only for an hour, it is the sea. What can you do?"

The view along the sea front
It is early in the season. Walking the front most the restaurants are quiet and uncrowded. I have been advised that in a couple of months time that area will be heaving. The shop owners try to get you in to look at their wares but are not over pushy - it is a game and I never feel uncomfortable. My second long walk this morning and having failed previously to get me to enter and have tea, I received two proposals of marriage and a friendship bracelet. Only managed to get a quarter of way along the front! I pointed out I could already be married to one shop owner who replied "just come back when he is gone".

In the other areas of the town there is a often a stark contrast between developed and developing. At certain times of the day goats roam the roads and eat anything in their path. I have not seen a camel in Dahab, they have been replaced by the pickup trucks that act as taxis, and quad bikes for exploring the mountains. If you want a camel experience most of the tours offer you a choice of journey by taxi or camel. That means they must be here somewhere.  What I have seen is divers - Recreational. Technical and Free.

Dog Boy the camel meets Tech Diver
The Blue Hole is a short taxi ride up the road. We have had two days training there so far. The first was quiet and the second was very crowded. In a similar fashion to Dahab the Blue Hole is lined with a run of beach front restaurants. You set up in one for the day and then the water is just a short walk across the road. Outside most have tiled ledges for equipment and I saw them covered with rebreathers and Freediving buoys. The water is 21 degrees, blue and inviting. Snorkel tours are popular with people exploring the reef around the Hole so entry and exit points - on a busy day,  are an exercise in navigating around snorkellers removing fins, the hanging stage tanks, divers surfacing and Freedivers with long fins and buoys. Here I have seen camels, young boys ride them up and down and introduce you to them in the hope you might want a ride on their camel.

The diving at Lighthouse in Dahab is great. A shallow ledge drops away so you can, depending on tide, get up to 50 Metres. The sandy section along the beach attracts shoals of fish and the swim out to set up your line is accompanied with views of the fish feeding on the bottom. A great alternative to a swimming pool - the water is warm and blue and rather than swim over tiles you can swim over a fish. Whilst I am here I will snorkel the reef and let you know what I find when I go exploring properly.

My first impressions of Dahab, a warm inviting place filled with friendly people. It offers some amazing diving opportunities for all levels and type of diver. If I have found one drawback so far - it is very dusty; but then again no one minds if you have dirty feet.