After an overnight bus ride through the Sinai Peninsula, we made it to Dahab just in time for breakfast. In case you’ve never heard of Dahab, or are rusty on your Middle-Eastern geography skills, or are just as fond of maps as I am, I made a little illustration for you : )
Dahab is a tiny tourist town on the Red Sea, famous for being one of the best snorkeling/scuba diving sites in the world. The name means “gold,” and its definitely one of the most memorable places I’ve ever visited. Becca and I first visited Dahab in 2009, and since then I’ve always wanted to return. I’m so glad my trip to Egypt included a stop in Dahab!
Our first day in Dahab was spent relaxing on the beach, and not doing much of anything. It was a beautiful 75 degree day, which felt so unbelievably warm after the Ukrainian winter I just lived through. I felt like I was thawing out, laying there in my shorts, as the sun slowly worked its magic on my incredibly pale skin. Becca and I were both thoroughly engrossed in the books we’d brought, so between the weather, the companionship, and the stunning view of the sea in front of us, I don’t think I could dream up a more perfect day. At one point the wind kicked up, and a man from our hotel ran out and put up a beach umbrella to block it. I fell asleep in its shade, completely content with life : )
The next day, while walking the boardwalk, we ended up talking to a man offering desert excursions. After hearing the words “desert safari” and “Colored Canyons,” we were hooked. He explained the logistics of the trip, which would take a whole day and include lunch with our Bedouin guide, sand-boarding (what you do with a snowboard when you find yourself surrounded by sand dunes), and the opportunity to hike through the Colored Canyons!
Early the next morning the Jeep arrived, with a tour guide who introduced himself as Antonio. I’ve never met an Arab named Antonio, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. There were 5 other people on the excursion with us, and soon we left civilization behind as we drove out into the desert. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Our day in the desert was fantastic, and we returned to Dahab exhausted and dirty but very pleased with ourselves. That night the fun continued when my friend Stephanie called and asked to meet us for dinner. Stephanie’s actually a friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, and she and two other PCVs from Ukraine had traveled to Dahab for Spring Break as well! I ran into her last month at a meeting in Ukraine, where we discovered we had the same Spring Break destination in mind, with overlapping dates no less! So we decided to meet at a quaint little restaurant called “The Kitchen,” which had an impressive menu full of Chinese, Indian, and Thai dishes. Ethnic food isn’t very common in Ukraine, so I had to get my fill in Egypt!
It was wonderful hanging out with other Peace Corps Volunteers and hearing about their adventures in Dahab. I also enjoyed hearing the random Ukrainian or Russian word thrown into conversation, because everyone at the table (except Becca) was finding it strange to be speaking so much English. Who would’ve thought we’d experience withdrawal from speaking Ukrainian/Russian after less than a week? We also talked about how strange it was that Egypt is portrayed as such a dangerous place on the news lately, while we all felt quite safe in our travels there. So if these pictures fill you with wanderlust and tempt you into thinking about a trip to Egypt, I would say go for it. Be a smart traveler, of course, but know that its still an amazing (and safe, in my experience) place to visit despite all the negative press coverage.
We met up again the next night for dinner, this time at a restaurant on the beach called “The Shark.” The restaurant owner had tried to talk us into eating there every night he saw us, and I promised him we would before we left. It turned out to be some of the best food we had in Dahab, and our waiter Mohammed brought us a new sheesha (hooka) to smoke every 20 minutes. We spent the whole evening there, enjoying each other’s company and trying to think positive thoughts about our imminent return to Ukraine.
The next morning, Becca and I packed our bags and checked out of our hotel. We were catching a bus back to Cairo after lunch, so I spent the morning trying to catch as much sun as possible. Dahab wasn’t very busy (Egypt isn’t exactly a hot tourist destination at the moment), so I had a whole cafe to myself. Here’s a picture, isn’t it idyllic?
The waiter asked if I spoke any Arabic, and after a week of answering incorrectly, most often responding in Ukrainian when the question was put to me in Arabic (saying things like “tak” for yes [which should be "aywa" in Arabic] or ”ni” for no [which should be "la'a" if I could make the Arabic part of my brain work]), I was finally able to answer a few questions in the correct language! He was overly impressed, but I’ve found in all my travels that if you make an attempt to speak the native language, even if you speak terribly your attempt will still be appreciated and applauded. So my ability to say “yes I speak a little Arabic” and “I’m American but I live in Ukraine now teaching English” was rewarded with a free breakfast, because my baby Arabic tickled the waiter pink. It was a lovely note to end my stay in Dahab on! It also made me want to refresh my Arabic… maybe that’ll be a project for life after Peace Corps : )
When it finally came time to leave, Becca and I gathered our bags and walked towards the road leading to the bus station. In Dahab, its really easy (especially if you’re a white foreigner) to flag down any car and ask for a ride somewhere. The taxis are expensive, but the locals are more than willing to take you where you need to go for a decent price. So Becca did the flagging down, and not one but two cars pulled over to offer us assistance. The men got out of their cars and started bickering about who should get to drive us, while Becca and I just stood there and waited for them to cut it out. Becca stepped in, and using her impressive Arabic skills, informed them that we needed a ride to the bus station and also wanted to stop at a koshary shop for lunch (I wanted some koshary to-go for the bus ride!). One of the guys took our bags and gestured to the back of his truck (I kid you not), so Becca and I rode in the pickup bed for the ride! We attracted lots of attention, but it was seriously one of the funniest travel moments I’ve ever had. When we pulled over at the koshary restaurant, our taxi driver hopped out and yelled that he needed an order of koshary to-go pronto, and the koshary guy even brought it out for curbside delivery so I didn’t have to get out of the pickup. It was priceless : )
The rest of the day was spent on the bus to Cairo. To hear about my last day in Egypt, read onto the next blog post!