|Egypt||Dahab||2001.05.05 - 05.11|
Red Sea Snorkel
Dahab is the backpackers place to relax on the Istanbul to Cairo route. Adjacent to a coral reef in the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, it's a diver's and snorkeler's paradise.
Boats leave Aqaba, Jordan twice a day for Nuweiba, Egypt at 12:00 and 15:00. The 50km trip takes 4 hours at a snails pace and costs US$22 payable in US$ or Jordanian Dinar equivalent.
Egyptian single-entry 1-month visas can be purchased at the Nuweiba port. All nationalities are charged US$15 payable in US$ with exact bills only. Next to the visa sales office is a money changer. All tourists, with or without advance visa, are held at the ferry port by tourist police until all foreigners have completed immigration. We understood the reason upon exiting customs. The foreigners are intentionally detained until the last public bus leaves so they're forced to take service taxis that charge double the bus fare. Already having been cheated and manipulated in Jordan, we and the lot of other 13 tourists collectively told the tourist police and taxi drivers to go to hell and proceeded to walk into the town of Nuweiba to look for another bus. Before we got 100 steps away, the leader of the taxi scam agreed to transport all of us to Dahab in a minibus for the same price as bus fare (E£ 10 per person).
In Dahab, we mostly slept and read for 6 days. The beach is pebbled and littered but the water is clear and has hundreds of types of colorful fish a short walk offshore. Snorkel gear can be rented almost anywhere in town for E£ 5 per day. There's an ATM on the Cirrus and Plus networks a 5 minute taxi ride away near the Dahab City post office. Of the half dozen Internet Cafes in the Mashraba section of Dahab, only Sunshine Internet has POP3 for FTP. Charges are E£ 3 for 15 minutes, E£ 5 for 30 minutes, and E£ 10 for one hour.
Ryan and another couple we met, Maren and Kirk, researched all the dive shops in town. They recommend Sea Dancer for open water, advanced open water, rescue diver, and dive master courses. They all completed their advanced open water PADI certification during our time in Dahab. Ryan thought the diving in Dahab was the best of any place he's tried in the world including the Great Barrier Reef.
Another activity from Dahab is hiking up Mt. Sinai for sunrise. Because of its religious significance (God supposedly delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses at the summit), the mountain swarms with tourists and camel ride selling locals. Hotels and travel agents in Dahab sell roundtrip transport to Mt. Sinai for between E£ 25-30 per person. We searched for alternate methods like shared taxis and rental cars but they were more expensive.
The drive from Dahab to Mt. Sinai takes 1½-2 hours depending on the number of police roadblocks. The walk up also takes between 1½-2 hours. The wide path packed with tourists and camels is impossible to lose. Before sunrise, the summit is cold and windy. It's best to be prepared with fleece, winter jacket, gloves, and a warm hat, especially since most people have already acclimatized to 30°~40° C temperatures in the Middle East. If transport from Dahab arrives at the base of the mountain before 04:00, it's best to relax at the warmer parking lot instead of the freezing summit. Philanthropic hikers may consider carrying extra clothing for those who absentmindedly ascend in nothing more than shorts and t-shirt and risk hypothermia at the top.
|Ryan, Masami, Maren, and Kirk lounge at Venus Camp in Dahab. The sitting area is an ideal place to snooze, read, and meet people.|
|All bundled up, we pose with our fellow travelers atop Mt. Sinai at sunrise. From left to right: Ryan, Eric, Kirk, Maren, Masami, Wes.|
|At the base of Mt. Sinai is St. Katherine's Monastery still inhabited by 22 Greek Orthodox monks. Not having slept all night, we sprawl out on the rock in the foreground to sleep at 08:00 after descending Mt. Sinai.|
Copyright © 2000-2002 Wes and Masami Heiser. All rights reserved.