Dahab is a nice little town right on the water's edge. We drove in through a dusty back lane, unmarked of course, to the small car park. Our trucks took up just about all of the space. The other entrance to this backpackers' hotel though, leads straight out onto what might be called, in flasher holiday spots, the corniche. Nearly all the waterfront is lined with restaurants where you gaze out to the Gulf while you eat sitting back on cushions Bedouin style. Shops, cafes and the occasional pub line the other side. Very laid back, very holiday feel to the whole place.
So we ate fish and calamri, Egyptian style, for lunch and dinner.- very tasty!
Dahab's biggest "industry" is diving. Here you can do a Padi course for a fraction of the price of elsewhere in the world. And snorkeling Is big too.
We hired a driver to take us to the Blue Hole about 8kms north of Dahab. This is a famous - and quite dangerous - diving spot. The reef is right on shore and in the middle of it is, quite literally, an 80m deep hole with vertical sides. Not for the inexperienced and several people die each year diving it. However, we stuck to snorkeling, and swam around the rim of the Hole as well as along the reef edge. The coral and fish life is spectacular - with good reason does diving in the Red Sea have its reputation. We swam amongst zebra striped fish that stayed all around us, saw magnificent butterfly cod, pencil urchins, clams, schools of every kind of reef fish large and small. After about 2 hours and with the less than attractive acquisition of wrinkled skin, we relaxed in a waterfront restaurant, sipping mint tea and warming up, then going back for more. With clear blue skies and balmy temperatures, it was a magic day.
Next day, we booked a trip out to St Catherine's Monastery and Mt Sinai - St Catherine of catherine wheel fame and Mt Sinai where Moses appently heard voices from a burning bush and climbed the mountain to get 10 or so reasonably well-known laws. The monastery was interesting - with a reputed descendant of the original burning bush and hoards of people reaching up and picking off leaves. It looked like it had been grazed from underneath. The sacristry was excellent with amazing icons, manuscripts and books, some of which dated to the 3rd century when the monastery was built.
Then we commenced the climb. We were to see the sunset there and then come down. At over 2300 feet, it's a bloody high mountain, and was really at the limit of our fitness. But we did make it to the top! At the very end of the 2 and a half hour climb, there were 750 rock steps to negotiate. Not easy!! A small chapel, a small mosque (both locked) and some stone walls to sit on were all the amenity at the very peak, and so we waited for the sunset. After oohing and ahhing at the sunset colours we headed back down, trying to ensure we had at least negotiated the stone steps before it was completely dark. Apart from the disapearance of our group's guide and our subsequent taking of a wrong track down until we realised the awful truth, it was naturally a much easier walk down. That isn't to say it wasn't a difficult walk in the dark with only a partial moon to help. Thank goodness Russ has a thing about torches - we had plenty of light when others had none.
So that ended our Dahab sojourn. Tomorrow it's off on our first really long drive, across the Sinai, up the Gulf of Suez coast, through the Suez tunnel and as far down the western Gulf coast as we can get in the day...