Abdullah, my driver and new friend blasted the first Britney Spears album on the speakers in his car while he speeded through the desert at night. Nothing but the headlights and the stars to be seen in the dark while we both hummed "oops, I did it again".
This was my last moment in Dahab, headed to the airport. I still had sand in my hair and a slight sunburn on my skin – leaving for Milan or even putting on shoes felt unreal.
When we arrived in Dahab two weeks earlier, I found the same situation (minus Britney of course) slightly scary as we passed the armed military stops which you'll find all over Sinai. Due to the ongoing conflict between Islamist militants with the Egyptian police and the number of terror attacks in the past years, Sinai has been pretty much cut off from the rest of the country. While my friend Saskia napped happily in the back seat, I stared at the machine guns and was wondering if it was our best decision to come here.
After a one hour drive, we arrived in Dahab in the middle of the night, and stepped out of the car onto a dark street. While we loved our apartment at first sight, we still didn't feel at ease.
The next morning, I went for a walk through this tiny beach town while Saskia was still sleeping:
Small cafés lined up on the shore, divers in their wetsuits on their way to the water, cats, dogs and goats sleeping in the sun. In the sunlight, this place didn't feel anything but friendly and adorable.
Saskia started her dive course that day, while I snorkelled at the surface. The water was so clear, that I could spot her all through her dive. We spent the afternoon laying in the sun petting the stray dogs, making friends with the waiters at the café, learning a few Arabic words and chatting about Egypt and the world. We had only talked to a couple of them, but that first night our way home took double the time because we had to stop again and again for a little chat with our new friends who called us habibi ("my love") within minutes of meeting.
The next day I joined Saskia and her instructor Mamdou of Dive Urge on a dive through Canyon and Blue hole, both easily made it in my personal top ten of dive sites.
We had Vitamin C, hot orange juice with mint and spices, a drink that is believed to cure every illness you can think of, while sitting in the sun; rode on the back of a truck to the next dive spots and left our phones lying on the beach while diving without even thinking about it.
How could I ever worry about this place not being safe?
After riding through the desert on the back of the truck, we decided we wanted to see more of it.
We rented quad bikes and drove to a canyon, about an hour from Dahab. It was just us in the desert, the huge mountains surrounding us.
My main reason for coming to Dahab was the bustling freediving scene. Not just scuba dive centers, that have one freedive instructor: in Dahab you'll see just as many freedivers as scuba divers.
I started my training in the best conditions I've ever seen. You simply walk into the water from the beach and the boeys are only a tiny little swim away. Warm water, no waves and nothing but freedivers in the water.
There even is a freediving dog, which bumped into me under water a few times.
I spent the next days freediving in the morning and napping on the sunbeds at one of the cafés in the afternoon, only woken up by cats or by my new waiter friend who made sure I didn't burn in the sun.
The only downside in the desert and in the city was the amount of garbage everywhere. In the city the goats aren't helping, they roam the streets like a teenage bike gang and rip open the garbage bags looking for snacks. There are some recycling bins on the main street and you can tell that the restaurant owners and the hotels make sure not to produce more waste than they have to - Dive Urge even provided cotton bags so we wouldn't use plastic bags - but there is still a lot of work that has to be done.
When Saskia left, I moved to a cheaper, but not less beautiful airbnb where the owner Yussuf jumped out of his kitchen to offer me food whenever I opened the gate. This happened to me every day. In cafés, at my airbnb, at the dive shop: new friends offering to share their meals with me, looking at me with big eyes while I tried the local deliciousness.
Every morning I was woken by the cats playing in front of my door, I then checked if the turtle in the garden was up yet, walked towards the dive shop, saying hi to the goats in one of the gardens on the way and petting the dogs at the beach front.
I could not have been happier.
Dahab, my habibi, this wasn't our last date.
Where to stay in Dahab
Saskia and I shared a room at Dive Urge, which we absolutely loved. She took her advanced dive course there, which meant she only had to stumble out of our room right into the ocean in the morning. We can also highly recommend diving with them!
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