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ISSUE 14 ARCHIVE - DAHAB

Tess Absalom-Gough

The group going out to Dahab covered both ends of the diving spectrum, and somewhere in between. To pluck some at random, an English girl who was a complete novice, a Welsh bloke who hadn’t dived in ten years, through to the Basque woman who lives to dive and was already on her umpteenth dive holiday this year. We did introductions at the airport, and as ever it didn’t take long to break the ice. One of the great things about diving is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether a group of divers have anything else in common. Everyone was instantly chattering away excitedly waiting for the plane, and stuffing down enormous breakfasts so no one had to face the horrors of airplane food.

As is traditional, anyone taking a course had put off studying until the last possible moment, so when we got on the plane the serious work began. Kate was taking her Open Water course whilst she was away, and so she began by nervously contemplating the exam booklet. (Of course, moments later she passed with flying colours!) Across the aisle, old hand Tish was whisking through the Deep Diver speciality book, completing her knowledge reviews. Behind me, my husband Phil was poring over his Divemaster manual. On this holiday he d be stepping up to professional level and providing me with some hugely appreciated support when I’m teaching.

We landed safely and charged through immigration. If you re only visiting the Sinai you don t need a visa, which means you don t need to pay or queue. While most people were milling around we just sprinted up to passport control and got a free stamp. It was only a couple of hours later that we were sitting on the sand, drinking Bedouin tea, gazing out at the calm waters of the Red Sea and the outline of Saudi Arabian hills across the gulf. Everyone looked chilled out as Dahab started to work its magic. We were only seven or eight hours later than our Gatwick breakfast, but already a world away.

The travel weary showered, changed and, refreshed, we headed out for food and beers. Phil and I settled everyone in our favourite bar, then stole off back to the hotel to tick off those knowledge reviews, and have a late night conference with our dive guide, making sure all the arrangements for our first day s diving were sorted out.

For the first couple of days of diving, Phil and I formed one group to teach Kate, and the others explored up and down the coast. Dahab is a great location for this. We can site ourselves on the Southern Oasis, where the sandy shoreline means we can walk straight in from the shade into the water to do open water skills, and the qualified divers can explore a little further afield, always heading back to the same shade so we spend our surface intervals together.

Kate took to diving like, well, a duck to water, and on the third day we moved on to dive other sites. Almost all the dive sites in Dahab can be reached easily from the shore, so we could either site ourselves at one location for the day, relaxing in a shady restaurant between dives, or we could zoom about
in the truck, popping from one dive site to another, and heading back to the dive centre in between. That gave us a great mix of diving days, with some surface intervals spent lounging in the sun sampling every deep-fried snack that Egyptian cuisine can offer, and others spent jumping straight into the back of the truck, feeling very intrepid and Indiana- Jones-in-neoprene as we whipped back to the dive centre.

There are some iconic dive sites in Dahab. You can’t go to Dahab without diving the Blue Hole, although most people who have dived it actually prefer the entry through the Bells, descending through an open chimney in the rock, straight down to an archway swim- through at about 27 metres. This time though the Blue Hole served up something special for us. We were heading out through the Blue Hole itself for the second dive as freedivers were practising, and we finned past whilst they were hanging motionless, looking almost alien on the ropes. (I had a teeny starstruck moment when I realised I was sat next to Sara Campbell putting my fins on!)

We totally failed to agree on which is the
best Dahab dive site. One person loved the Canyons, for the light streaming down through a cleft in the rock above. Others preferred
the Islands, an amazing shallow-water dive around pinnacles which is just so full of life and huge bowls of coral formations. I might opt for the Eel Garden, not just for its carpet of eels weaving and bobbing in the current, but also for the brilliant white sand that reflects the sun, and seems to make the whole dive shimmer and glow. We managed to get quite a few of these beautiful sites to ourselves, thanks to the excellent local knowledge of our host dive centre. Enormous thanks must go to our hosts at Sub Sinai, especially Khaled for making us so welcome, and Ahmed for such fantastic support.

Dahab is much less developed or busy than other Egyptian destinations; it has its own unique chilled, laid-back vibe. There are fewer of the large resort hotels, and more small, owner-run places. If you stay in the town itself, as we did, you can walk everywhere you need to get to. The centre of Dahab is one long pedestrian walkway on the shoreline, with restaurants, shops, hotels and some dive centres lining the route. To find somewhere peaceful to stay you only have to move back a little from the shore, or stay at either end of the route. The food and nightlife are in the centre, so to find it, just walk towards the noise! Some of the group had been to Dahab before, so we could share our own personal favourite places to eat, from the very posh Italian where they came up with mouthwatering imported wine (there’s a reason you haven’t heard of Egyptian wine – it tastes like nail polish) to King Chicken, a busy rotisserie place serving chicken and pigeon where we were the only Europeans eating.

On our last day of diving everyone had finished their courses and it was time for Phil to put his cunning plan into action. He dropped back a little with his buddy on our morning dive, and re-emerged from behind a coral mound transformed into Fozzy Bear. He finned back up to the group with no fuss at all, and I got to watch the spluttering, giggling mask floods as each person noticed that they were suddenly diving with a Muppet.

All too soon we had to head home. We knew before we left that we will be back early next year, having promised ourselves that as soon as the dive kit has been washed and the credit card bills have come in, we’d start planning for the next trip.

Dahab gets under your skin. The place is full of people who came for a holiday, and just never left. As for us, we’ll be back!

Fish n Ships Divers will be heading back to the Red Sea in May of next year. If you’d like to come along, you can contact us at: email.

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