Dahab - Day 1 

Dahab, Sinai, Egypt


(Dahab Bay)

The sun sets around 5:30 p.m. this time of year in Dahab. It's a pity really. The landscape is spectacular. Dahab lies on the eastern finger of the Northern Red Sea. It's also called the gulf of Aqaba. The gulf, indeed all of the Red Sea lies in a rift valley. Rugged mountains rise rapidly to the West of the town, hemming it in next to the sea. Here you can see across the sea to the equally dramatic mountains on the the other side in Saudia Arabia.

My trip from Paris yesterday happened uneventfully - always a blessing when travelling and especially when travelling on vacation. The Boeing 737 belonged to an Egyptian charter company called AMC, no frills, typical long, slow line to check in with infrequent flying holiday travellers with lots of luggage. 15 kilos was the luggage weight limit but they thankfully looked the other way when the scale displayed 23 kilos (I need to remember not to travel with hard covered luggage on these charter flights). I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had assigned me an emergency exit seat on the aisle no less. I couldn't have asked for better than that. The meal which was served was nothing to speak of but the flight left on time.

All flights to the Sinai land at the airport at Sharm-El-Sheihk. I do believe they have built a new airport terminal there since I was last here. I don't remember the old terminal to be particularly outdated but the new one is much bigger. Dusk was already well advanced by the time the plan landed. No time to withdraw any local currency as the tour operator slapped the Egyptian visa sticker (also an innovation as the last time I was in Egypt they were stamps) into my passport and hurried me and the other two people signed up with the same company into a mini-bus for the final drive in the darkness up the coast to Dahab. Count on a full day of travel to Dahab when coming from Europe.

Driving at night here is a real experience and full of mystery. What messages to drivers send to each other by flicking their bright lights on and off? In France it's to warn others of police checkpoints, two or three rapid flicks is enought to get the message across. Sometimes they do it if they want to pass and of course to signal displeasure at oncoming traffic which may have forgot to dim their lights. But in Egypt, the flicking is frenetic and seems indiscriminate, at least to the uninitiated like me. Thankfully the drive ended mostly without incident. As we approached the destination, the driver appeared pleased by the successful journey and solicited comments about the drive. But when he dropped off the French couple at their hotel, he came back into the minivan and I heard him muttering. And soon, as he started to take me to my hotel, he dropped all subtlety, started jingling coins and mentioned the "B" word. "B" for Baksheesh. It's legendary in Egypt.

I realized that the French couple had probably stiffed him. When he dropped me off I finally fished out a 2 euro coin for him and he looked at it and me strangely. Hard to tell what he was thinking. I would have thought he would have been thankful but he left without saying anything.

I guess I'm satisified with the Hotel. I'm staying at the Iberhotel Dahabeya located on the beach. The buffet food I had last night after checking in was reasonably good, the room a bit spartan as they always are at these mass market tourist resort places. Even though it was dark out, I walked along the beach to do some reconaissance and got as far as I could before I ran into a fence which extended into the water and blocked my advance. I was trying to find out of I could walk to a dive/snorkel site that I had located on the internet. I was disappointed. The first day on any vacation is a process of orientation. And the information on Dahab is less then plentiful. It really is very much a process of discovery and trial and error especially if you are the pioneer within your circle of acquaintances.

This morning I investigated my wind surf connection, the Harry Nass winsurf club and enrolled in my lessons for later in the day. After encountering two malfunctioning money machines, I managed to exchange some euro notes for local currency at a bank branch at another hotel in the area. I was reminded that time is a relative concept in Egypt as the bank supposedly opened at 09:00 but I had to wait until 09:15 until someone showed up. (I guess it could have been worse). I was caught smuggling in bottled water into the hotel (a no no as they lose money from their captive audience this way) but was pardonned and succeeded anyway.

And I completed my first day of windsurfing. A great success if I do say so. I remembered much from seven years ago. I used a size 180 board (used for beginners) and I think a size 5.0 sail. I succeeding in pulling off a beach start, maintaining balance on the board and in tacking (very important because it allows you to turn and come back to where you started from).


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