89 Low-rise and laid-back Da­hab in Egypt

Low-rise and low-key, Da­hab, on the south­ern tip of the Si­nai Penin­sula, is the per­fect base for div­ing or a moun­tain trek

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - Ler­ato Mo­goatlhe in Da­hab

Flanked by sparkling turquoise wa­ter on one side, and rocky moun­tains and desert on the other, is Da­hab, a small coastal town along the Red Sea coast in the Si­nai re­gion. As far as des­ti­na­tions in Egypt go, Da­hab is low-key. It doesn’t have the wow fac­tor of Cairo’s grand pyra­mids, or Luxor’s views of the Nile; ar­chae­ol­o­gists don’t flock to Da­hab in search of an­cient Egyp­tian won­ders and it can’t com­pete with the ro­mance of Alexan­dria. But what Da­hab lacks in his­toric grandeur it more than makes up for with a re­laxed bo­hemian vibe and its lo­ca­tion as a base for day trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea in Is­rael, Pe­tra in Jor­dan, or a hike up Mount Si­nai to catch the sunrise. The town makes a great first im­pres­sion. The prom­e­nade is filled with seafood restau­rants, cu­rio shops sell­ing per­fumes, teas and spices, rugs and Be­douin crafts and jew­ellery, and a mas­sage par­lour. It’s also great for peo­ple-watch­ing: men in swim­ming shorts with rock-hard tor­sos take their poo­dles or huskies for walks by the sea. For wa­ter ba­bies Da­hab is par­adise with an abun­dance of swim­ming, div­ing and snorkelling op­tions. One is Blue Hole, a 120-me­tre sink­hole known by the macabre nick­name of ‘diver’s ceme­tery’. If noth­ing else, Blue Hole of­fers comedic value with count­less peo­ple con­tem­plat­ing the dive. Other less in­tim­i­dat­ing spots for a dip in­clude the Blue La­goon and Ras Abu Galum. There are sev­eral lo­cally owned tour com­pa­nies in town, which makes a huge dif­fer­ence on the bud­get. Or­gan­ised trav­ellers will want to book all ac­tiv­i­ties on­line, but don’t : the dif­fer­ence in the price tag lo­cally makes it worth wait­ing un­til you are there. For those not too fond of the wa­ter, a 4x4 track to the desert and day trips to Pe­tra, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem are all good al­ter­na­tives, and at Happy Life Vil­lage, a col­lec­tion ofo fam­ily-friendly beach­front ca af és about 15 min­utes away from m Da­hab cen­tral, you are more like­ly­likl to see mums and aunts wad­ing in the wa­ter with tod­dlers than you are deep­wa­ter divers. A lo­cally or­gan­ised trip to the beach be­tween Da­hab town and Happy Life Vil­lage comes with a meal cooked Be­douin-style on a open fire. Though it is not quite in the moun­tains – as it is of­ten sold by tour op­er­a­tors – a tra­di­tional din­ner un­der a dark sky with thou­sands of stars and a moon peek­ing from be­hind the clouds is just as ro­man­tic. It’s not just the cul­tural and reli­gious ref­er­ences that make a visit to Mount Si­nai a must. The trip is a two-hour camel jour­ney up the moun­tain and then a fur­ther one-hour stretch on foot. Hik­ing groups re­turn­ing with in­jured toes and scratched legs are proof of how gru­elling the climb can be on foot. Moses may not have stood in this ex­act spot, but a view of a cloud­less sky and sharp, rocky moun­tain­tops that stretch to the hori­zon feels like the right way to end your stay on the high­est note.

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