I wanted to give a trip report on my 7 days spent in Dahab in the first week of March, 2009.
DAHAB IN GENERAL
We were impressed by the friendly, playful nature of most of the Egyptians we met - from restaurant and hotel staff, even to the usually strict and serious immigration officials in the airport (even they had a joke with us while stamping our passports). Dahab town has A LOT of touts, trying to get you into their shops or restaurants, but providing you give them a polite ‘no thanks’, they usually let you pass with a simple ’have a nice day’ in return.
There was one, young shop keeper on the seafront who was confrontational and a little scary. He was angered every time we walked past his shop and once stood in front of us with his arms outstretched, shouting, trying to stop us from passing. Another group of travelers we met also mentioned him. We gave up trying to be polite and would just hurry past him. Don’t let that put you off though - mostly it was fine.
Don’t buy jewellery from the seafront unless you’re confident it’s a good price. We were overcharged compared to a shop slightly further inland and silver bought closer to the sea is likely to be duller in colour, due to the sea salt (so ask them to polish it up before leaving the shop).
We also bought some stuff in a pharmacy near the taxi rank - the staff were helpful and they recommended a cheaper product than the one I first looked up, so they were clearly more keen to help than take our money!
Weather was ok - first few days were overcast and cold (people told us it was the coldest it had been in ages, so bad luck for us!), but the rest of the week was warm and clear. It can get chilly at night, so make sure you pack a light jacket.
HOTEL - HILTON
We stayed at the Hilton, which was one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed. The grounds are beautiful, the rooms comfortable and the whole complex looks like it’s recently had a new lick of white paint (we saw some reports from last year, saying it was looking a bit tired, so it looks like they’ve sorted that out now).
Breakfast buffet comprised of a lot of options. We just went for b&b, but had the lunch buffet once, which was good.
The sun-beds on the Hilton’s section of beach are in great condition, the sun-bed mattresses are comfy and the free towel hire is handy. Remember to tip the staff!
There are plenty of watersports to take part in, if that’s your thing, with a small area for swimming / snorkelling. The fish come right up to the beach - we’ve never been somewhere where so many fish come so close to the shore!
Stella is the tastiest beer IMHO - Sakara is quite watery. Both are local beers (it’s not Stella Artois, it’s a local lager with the same name). Sizes are rarely specified on menus - in a hotel, expect to pay LE 22 for a small 320ml (coke can size) can, while in local restaurants in Dahab town, you’ll usually pay less than that for a large 660ml bottle of beer.
We went to the Tree Bar in town - pretty good with pool (although tables are a bit wonky!), friendly and with a colourful dancefloor.
Hilton’s Windjammer bar and Coconut bar were good, but a bit pricey. The latter is a great post-beach place to watch the sun set. Hilton also has a night club, open twice a week. It was dead when we popped our heads in though.
MONEY & ATMs
We exchanged GBP for Egyptian pounds in the airport and got a better rate than we would in a UK money exchange and also better than at cash points, so my advice is to take a wod of GBP with you and change it in the airport. Also, we found that some ATMs wouldn’t work with the cards we had that had chips in. The Hilton ATM worked with our chipped cards, though.
We did a 3 to 4 hour quad bike tour with Quadroads (office just over the bridge on the main Dahab stretch). Cost was LE 360 per person, which bought us a quad bike each and a guide whom we followed. The quads were automatic, easy to drive, helmets were provided but we had to buy scarves to cover our mouths (it’s very dusty, so don’t wear anything light coloured that you cherish). They picked us up from the hotel and took us to the quads.
We visited the desert (fun to drive, scenic and dusty), then Wadi Qnai which is known as ‘the oasis’ where you can climb a hill to a viewpoint (least fun of the three) and also to ’three pools’ where we stopped for some snorkelling. It was an amazing spot for snorkelling - so much healthy coral and fish, only a few meters from the beach. You can choose different destinations, such as the blue hole, if you want.
There is also a shorter tour for 2 hours, for about half the price, normally with a group of people.
The guide didn’t speak much English and was really just there to guide you from place to place. I’d really recommend the quad biking - it’s fun and you don’t need former experience.
Glass bottom boat
We did this with ‘Water Sport Franco’ because it was conveniently on the beach at the Hilton. Cost LE 70 per person. Worth doing - the coral off the shore is in great condition and the fish are really colourful and varied. You get the chance to snorkel off the boat - gear is all included in price. Trip was an hour and a half. Well worth doing.
We didn’t do any more trips, but we spoke to a laid back guy at Embah ( www.embah.com ) who spoke excellent English and offered us a variety of great-sounding trips. We were just too lazy to leave the beach this time!
FOOD & RESTAURANTS
Many restaurants along the Dahab town seafront have exactly the same dishes on their menus. Prices are similar too, so it’s a guessing game which one to go with. When choosing seafood, pick fish with clear eyes and blood-red flesh behind the gills (grey gills and cloudy eyes are a sign that the fish is old).
Many restaurants throw in freebies if you buy a main meal - usually that’s soup and / or bread with dips, and a desert, which is normally cold pancake with fruit and ice cream. Some places also do free tea / shisha too.
Here’s some good places we ate:
Just by the bridge on the main stretch. We went there twice for their great seafood. The staff are among the friendliest in Dahab - a really good laugh. As with all places, negotiate on price. We had 6 prawns, half a squid (calamari) and a whole red snapper one night which they originally priced at over LE 300, but they brought it down to LE 200 when we said that was our max price.
Recommended by a few people on here, food was good and more traditional / unique than many places - kebabs were good and the bread was Bedouin-style and great. We got slightly ripped off on the bill - we were chatting and complimenting the owner, when he said that the bill was LE 205 - after we left, we worked out it should have been about LE 180. Don’t know whether he did it on purpose, or whether it was a mistake, but this could have been avoided had we asked for a bill breakdown! Still, don’t let that put you off – the food was good.
We had a coffee and milkshake there - both good. Great place to go on windy days, because they have big wind-breaking fabrics up all around the seating area.
Same Same But Different
Good value. Normal free starter and dessert. BBQ chicken wasn’t barbecued though!
Mai Tai Thai restaurant
Near the beach, at the back of the Coralia Hotel. Authentic and flavoursome! We had a green chicken curry and a red beef curry - both were spicy and great.
STUFF WE DIDN’T LIKE
In Masbat (Dahab town centre), near the taxi rank. Coffee was ok but small, cake was old and dry and all overpriced.
Rush bar restaurant
Might be good for western stuff (we saw someone eating a burger that looked ok), but our order was wrong and the staff were unhelpful when we questioned it. One of us had calamari, which was grilled in big rubbery chunks (calamari was great everywhere else we had it), while my partner had ‘drunken prawns in white wine sauce’, which turned out to be two prawns bulked out with loads of cheap, gritty clams with a pot of sauce that tasted like balsamic vinegar (no flavour of white wine).
When we questioned why we had half a plate of clams and only two prawns, the cook just said that was normal (they could have specified that on the menu). Then when the waiter walked by and did the usual ’is everything ok with your meal?’ thing, we questioned Prawngate again and he just said, ‘I dunno, I’m not the cook!’
The roasted veg that accompanied the meal was nice - shame about the rest. Also, unlike other restaurants, no free starters or desserts. Nice venue for drinks though. Popular with ex-pats.
Neptune restaurant at the Hilton
Expensive, small portions that taste of nothing.
Hope this proves helpful to someone – we got a lot of good advice on here, so it’s nice to give something back.