Diving, chilling and desert adventures in Dahab, Egypt

In this article, our guest author, Mina Mahrous describes Dahab, one of his favourite places to relax, go diving and above all chill out in his home country of Egypt.

Thinking of Dahab, you would normally imagine diving and some great coral reefs, but while this is true, Dahab has much more to it than just diving. My first visit to Dahab was as a child with my family, as a 2 days trip from Sharm el Sheikh. We spent the night in the Blue Hole, camping under the stars and using the cool sea water as a fridge for our watermelon. Dahab held a special “hippie” place in my heart since then.

Mina relaxes at the Yalla Bar in Dahab, Egypt Photo: Mina Mahrous

Mina relaxes at the Yalla Bar in Dahab, Egypt

I returned many years later, this time with my friends, and even though the city has developed a lot, it still holds its hippie and simplistic charm. Diving is still one of the top activities to be enjoyed in Dahab, but I was never a diver, and I still enjoy Dahab more than any other beach city in Sinai.

Water adventures in Dahab

Whether it is diving or snorkeling, Dahab promises amazing views, colorful corals and hundreds of fish species. There is a reason it is called the divers’ Mecca. Inside the city you can sit in one of the many restaurants and start your dive/snorkel from there, or you can book a diving adventure with one of the countless diving centers that dot the promenade.

Divers at Dahab in Egypt Photo: Mina Mahrous (Dainute)

Divers at Dahab in Egypt

If you decide to get out of the city, you won’t run out of places. Very near to the north of Dahab there is the Blue Hole (literally) which is one of the most famous diving spots in Sinai. Other very famous diving spots include The Canyon, The Caves, The Eel Garden, Gabr El Bint and many others that are close to Dahab. To the south, about 100km away there is the famous Ras Mohammed national park, where more than a 1000 water species are kept for divers to watch!

Other water adventures are also available in Dahab, from snorkeling to boat trips that will take you to amazing scuba diving spots to glass bottom yachts (I’d recommend these if you are afraid of swimming around fish) and even to water sports like kite boarding and wind surfing. There are several ways to get interactive with the waters and witness the colorful underwater world in Dahab.

Just chilling in Dahab, Egypt Photo: Mina Mahrous (Dainute)

Just chilling in Dahab, Egypt

Relax in Dahab

My favorite ‘activity’ in Dahab is just sitting and relaxing. Dotting the shore inside Dahab are numerous restaurants and bars, each with its own atmosphere, colors and music. Sit and order some drinks or fresh sea food, work on your tan, go for a swim or sit in the shade. It is just so relaxing in the warm mornings of Dahab to sit there, watch the sea and watch the divers come and go. A day in Dahab is almost always very relaxing. Personally I loved sitting at Yalla Bar, prices are more or less the same as most other bars, but portions are HUGE and the staff are really friendly, plus they always have amazing deals – usually for breakfast and evening happy hours.

On the beach in Dahab, Egypt Photo: Mina Mahrous (Dainute)

On the beach in Dahab, Egypt

Day trips from Dahab

Dahab is located on the Eastern shores of Sinai, centrally located between Sharm el Sheikh to the south, Nuweiba and Taba to the north and St. Catherine to the west. This makes it a perfect base to explore all of Sinai, taking day trips over land to the other cities, and also day trips on boats for some water adventures or some safari trips in the desert.

A day/night trip to St. Catherine to climb Mount Sinai for a breathtaking sunrise is my top recommendation. I did this climb before with a friend and hands down this is the best sunrise I have seen so far, although the climb is a bit tiring, especially the last part when the climb turns into a steep staircase carved in the rocks!

Also, a day trip to Ras Mohammed for diving or just snorkeling is a must. I’ve never been to Ras Mohammed on just a day trip, I usually go there to camp with my friends for a few days and I love it there, but a day trip would do if you’re short of time.

Climbing Mt Sinai in Egypt Photo: Mina Mahrous

Climbing Mt Sinai in Egypt

Getting to and from Dahab

Even though Dahab is known for being a relaxed town that feels like it’s left out from the rest of chaotic Egypt, it doesn’t mean that it is completely remote. On the contrary, it is very easy to get to Dahab; there are several daily busses from Sharm el Sheikh, and direct buses from Cairo, as well as a network of daily buses connecting it to the other cities and towns of Sinai. Just make sure you actually take the bus as touts will always try to sell you private car rides once you get in the bus station – Insiders tip: Those rides are worth it if you are 3 or more people. If you are two or a single traveler, the bus is definitely cheaper.

Also, from Dahab it is easy to get to Taba and cross over to Israel, or get to Nuweiba and take the ferry to Aqaba, Jordan. It is also one hour away from the international airport in Sharm el Sheikh

Into the desert from Dahab Photo: Mina Mahrous

Into the desert from Dahab

Desert adventures from Dahab

There is no comparison between the desert in Sinai and the western desert of Egypt like in Siwa Oasis. Yet, it is undeniable that the mountainous terrain of Sinai and Dahab has its own charm. Taking camel treks in the desert or visiting a Bedouin camp for dinner is always an entrancing experience. Take a jeep excursion to get in touch with the rough nature of the desert, climbing up and down sand dunes and rock mountains.

I didn’t meet one person who disliked their stay in Dahab; it always seems to meet one’s taste in adventure or relaxation. There is something for everyone in there!

Yalla Bar bioMina Mahrous is the first Egyptian travel blogger! Rather than accepting the conventional dictated future for people his age in Egypt, he decided to try and follow his dreams of traveling. He blogs about his travels and hardships of traveling with an Egyptian passport, all from an Egyptian point of view. You can follow his blog Someday I’ll Be There, or follow him on facebook, twitter and google+.

For more travels in Egypt:

What makes the perfect holiday in Marsa Matrouh?
6 misconceptions I had about Alexandria
The Siwa sunset at Fatnas Island

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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5 of the top historical sites in Egypt

Egypt was the country in which one of the greatest civilisations in recorded history sprung up. It has also been affected by the ravages of war and various developments in trade. Travellers can gain their own insight into the history of this fascinating place by visiting the sites highlighted in this article.

Abu Simbel

The magnificent temples of Abu Simbel were constructed way back in the 13th century BC, as a symbol of the power of Rammses II.  They feature awe inspiring statues and amazing wall paintings, which tell tales of times past.

Abu Simbel in Egypt Photo: WaterpoloSam on Flickr

Abu Simbel in Egypt

Egyptian Museum Of Antiquities

It is well worth taking a tour of this intriguing museum under the guidance of one of the knowledgeable local guides. They can recount stories about the artefacts and let you in on the meanings of the hieroglyphic engravings. Exhibits worthy of particular mention include the funery mask of Tutankhamen and fabulously adorned statues in the Giza room.

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo Photo: DJMcCrady on Flickr

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo

Pyramids Of Giza

As one of the wonders of the world, this historic site is visited by many thousands of tourists each day. Some are impressed by the grand Sphinx that guards the entrance to the pyramids. Others are intrigued by stories of how the immense structures were created.

The Sphinx and Great Pyramd of Giza Photo by Sam and Ian on Flickr

The Sphinx and Great Pyramd of Giza in Egypt

Abydos

It would take an entire day to explore the temples and learn about the colourful carvings found on the walls of this impressive site. Fortunately there are a number of companies operating in the nearby city of Luxor who can arrange informative tours of the grounds.

Great Osiris Temple at Abydos Photo by Argenberg on Flickr

Great Osiris Temple at Abydos

El Alamein Battlefield

One of the biggest and perhaps most important battles between the Allied and Axis forces took place at this site during the second world war. It was the allies who eventually won and managed to retain control of the Alexandria and Suez canals. Today it is visited by tourists from across the world, many of whom are impressed by the vast range of war exhibits.

Museum at El Alamein Photo by Heatheronhertravels.com

Museum at El Alamein

More things to see in Egypt

Travelling in Egypt – Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh, Siwa – Podcast 
6 Misconceptions I had about Alexandria in Egypt
More than the Pyramids – a Grand Tour of Egypt’s Museums

Photo Credits: Abu Simbel by WaterpoloSam, Egyptian Museum of Antiquities by DJMcCrady , Great Osiris Temple at Abydos by Argenberg, Museum at El Alamein by Heatheronhertravels, The Sphinx and Great Pyramid at Giza by Sam and Ian

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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19 – Travelling in Egypt – Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh and Siwa – Podcast

December 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Egypt, Leisure, Podcasts, Sightseeing, World

In Travel Podcast Episode 19 I visit Egypt where I spent a week travelling with a friend who lives in Alexandria. I took a walking tour of the city where many of the houses are crumbling away and where we bumped into a wedding procession hooting horns and letting off fireworks. We drove west to the popular holiday resort of Marsa Matrouh and turned south-west to the desert oasis of Siwa near the Libyan border. I found Siwa to be a truly magical place and we explored the old mud brick fortress of the Shali, visited the ancient tombs at Gebel al-Mawta or the Mountain of the dead and watched the sun set over the lake at Fatnas island.

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Alexandria in Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Alexandria in Egypt

On my first day in Alexandria, I drove along the corniche that stretches along the coastline, past the Alexandria library which surprised me for being a modern building, not ancient as I had imagined. My new friend Gordon, an Englishman who lives in Alexandria took me on a walking tour of the old Italian, French and Greek neighbourhoods. The impression is of buildings that are peeling and run down, as the rents are fixed and the tenancy can be handed down the generations so the landlords have no incentive to renovate their properties.

We wandered through the souks where we found a street for every different thing you might want to buy, such as the stationary street and the party decoration street . Gordon told me that the Alexandrians celebrate all the festivals for each different religion, but they can only start decorating 2 weeks before. We walked through the fruit market where strawberries were in season & the fresh figs would soon be available in June and finished in the jewellery quarter where although most shops were shut I still managed to treat myself to a necklace.

Beau Rivage Hotel at Marsa Martrouh Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beau Rivage Hotel at Marsa Martrouh

Beau Rivage Hotel at Marsa Martrouh Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beau Rivage Hotel at Marsa Martrouh

Check for the best hotel prices in Egypt and book here.

The next day, we drove westwards out of Alexandria along the coast road past a succession of holiday developments, each closely built in a different architectural style with only the occasional break through which you could glimpse the sea. These are popular with Egyptian families although they are only used in the summer months although I preferred it when the developments petered out and we were just driving through the desert. We passed El Alamein, the site of the famous World War 2 tank battles, passing the Italian, German & British war cemeteries. We arrived after a few hours at Marsa Matrouh where everyone in Alexandria comes for their summer holidays with a lot of apartments and hotels. We noticed a few military checkpoints, partly because of the recent revolution and partly because Libya has claims on this part of Egypt so it is treated as a military zone.

We stayed at the Beau Rivage hotel on the edge of town, with views over the beautifully landscaped gardens and over the pool and towards the sea. We enjoyed relaxing on the sun loungers on the beach and took a dip in the intensely turquoise sea – but after a while we felt everything was a bit too perfect so we took a walk beyond the hotel walls and found a bit of normal Egyptian life outside the hotel compound. We came across a man fishing and another with his children making a small fire of brushwood on the beach where he was brewing up some tea and showed us a small fish that he was keeping alive in a rock pool and was planning to cook later.

That evening we decided to drive into town for dinner to look for a good fish restaurant as the Alexandrians take great pride in their fresh fish. Our Egyptian friend, Said, inspected all the fish that were on display on ice and we chose what we wanted and then it was weighed and we paid for the weight. We were asked how we liked it cooked – grilled, fried or with a sauce and of course we over-ordered a huge spread of giant prawns, octopus and fish served with meze and salads. After dinner I was getting internet withdrawal symptoms and we found an internet cafe which was filled with men watching football and smoking the shisha pipes. I puzzled over the problem of logging on to the Wifi since the password was in Arabic script, but luckily a Libyan medical student came to our rescue and managed to copy the password from his phone onto my laptop to log in. Meanwhile we drank hibiscus tea and a creamy desert topped with fruit and coconut.

Internet Cafe at Marsa Martrouh Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Internet Cafe at Marsa Martrouh

The next day we drove on to Siwa about 3 hours south west of Marsa Matrouh, through the gritty desert landscape with the odd military base and a cafe half way in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly the rocky outcrops that surround Siwa rose out of the desert and we saw the lake ahead of us (and it’s not a mirage!). The oasis is based on underground springs that keep the oasis green and enable date palms and olive trees to grow. We stayed at the lovely Siwa Safari Gardens Hotel – an oasis within the oasis with a spring-fed pool in the middle of the garden and our rooms in the 2 story buildings around the garden.

The traditional buildings in Siwa are made out of rock salt and mud clay and the Siwa people are keen to preserve their culture and the tranquil atmosphere with sustainable tourism. Since it was not long after the revolution and the Libyan crisis was still going on, there were not many tourists although we felt very safe in Siwa.

The Shali in Siwa in Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Shali in Siwa in Egypt

We visited the Temple of the Oracle, with mud wall construction and the remains of the stone built temple at the top with amazing views towards the lake and over the city. Then we stopped at Cleopatra’s spring which is a large round pool with clear green water with the bubbles coming to the surface, reminding me of the Roman springs at Bath near where I live. We sat and had some lemon grass tea in a cafe next to the Cleopatra’s spring and we were offered a small fruit the size of a cherry but with the flavour of  an apple. The date palms and olives are the main cash crops in Siwa- vegetables can also grow here but they are sold locally as they would cost too much to transport.

We visited the Siwa House, a museum of Siwa culture, where the curator told us the story behind the wedding dresses worn by the Siwa women. The dress worn for the wedding night is made of embroidered green silk, although many of the women now wear western style wedding dresses. The creamy white silk dress with embroidery like the rays of a sun is worn on the third day after the wedding when the bride’s relatives come to visit her, although her mother does not visit her until the seventh day when she wears a black silk dress with embroidery and mother of pearl buttons for decoration. The mother of pearl buttons were brought on the caravans by traders who would exchange wool, carpets and wheat in exchange for dates and olive oil. The dyes used to colour the silk fabric and the embroidery thread are made from dates – the traditional colours of Siwa are only green, yellow, orange, red and black – each colour is produced from the dates at different stages in their ripening. The trousers and shawls are also made from natural silk embroidered with the coloured threads.

The House of Siwa in Siwa, Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The House of Siwa in Siwa, Egypt

When the female relatives of the bride visit her after the wedding they are offered part of the heart of the palm as a special treat, but the mother of the bride receives a whole palm heart decorated with fruit and sweets. This is considered a great sign of hospitality as the palm is considered a valuable plant due to the dates it produces. From the age of 10 to 13 when they get engaged the young girls start to embroider their wedding dresses helped by their mothers and their aunts. The parents will arrange the marriage for their children, choosing the husband based on the knowledge of the families rather than financial considerations.  The hair of the women in Siwa is braided in different styles depending on whether the woman is single or married. The unmarried girls will have many braids on each side of their heads while the married women have 9 braids which cross over the forehead.

Gebel al-Mawta, Mountain of the Dead in Siwa in Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gebel al-Mawta, Mountain of the Dead in Siwa in Egypt

We also visited Gebel al Mawta or the Mountain of the Dead, the ancient burial place of Siwa. We climbed to the top of the mound and looked down on all the rock hewn tombs below, some of which can be viewed with a guide and are painted inside. You can hear the wind blowing at the top and from there I got a great panorama over the oasis, looking across to the ancient fortress town of the Shali.

Mint tea at Fatnas island in Siwa in Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mint tea at Fatnas island in Siwa in Egypt

Sunset at Fatnas island in Siwa in Egypt Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sunset at Fatnas island in Siwa in Egypt

That evening we drove to Fatnas island to see the sunset setting over the lake although in recent years the lake level has dropped so it is more like a salt marsh. Sitting in rattan chairs we sipped sweet mint tea and looked across the lake to the eco-lodge where Prince Charles and Camilla stayed when they were in Siwa. We chatted to the man who owned this land and had set up the tea kiosk as a business – he is a storyteller who had travelled all over the Middle East including a performance for the Queen of Jordan. In the darkness we drank our tea under the date palms as we watched the sun go down.

Other podcasts you may enjoy

 Papua New Guinea podcast – interview with Beth Whitman
The Mongol Rally with Sherry Ott
Visiting the Christmas Markets in Munich

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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