What makes Dahab so special

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The first time I came to Dahab, I came with my father. It was 1983, and for me Dahab was nothing less than Heaven. A palm tree oasis with shining gold sand (this is what Dahab means, 'Gold')... and the Sea. This was my first time to see and feel the Sea. It's a feeling that I cannot describe, except to say that it stayed with me for a long time. Back home in the desert, I would close my eyes and see the amazing colours of the coral reef, and the blue water stretching all the way to the Saudi Arabian mountains on the other side. It was no surprise that when I finished school I returned to Dahab.

By the time I returned, Dahab had started to make its mark on the travelers' map. Anyone who came for a day ended up staying for a week... or a month. And when they went home, they couldn't stop talking about Dahab (Dahab has always had this way of making a permanent home in your heart). In these days, Dahab was even more easy going - full of party nights and losing your day on the beach enjoying the breeze. Enjoy today, tomorrow will look after itself!

So, what work would I do in this beautiful place? It was normal for the Bedouin to work in one of the beach cafes or as a taxi driver, but when you look around you at the mountains and the sea... when you hear the wind and see the stars... it's hard to do a city job. I wanted to do more enjoyable work connected with Nature. A friend taught me to windsurf and later I visited the other world - the diving world. Then alongside diving, I started to practice Yoga and Freediving, and to return to the desert to learn more about the traditional Bedouin medicines and herbs (this was an amazing experience - even for a Bedouin). And during all this time, I concentrated on learning the tourists' languages, especially English and Hebrew, so that I could introduce them to all the wonderful things in Dahab and the Sinai.

Today, Dahab has grown up a little. It has seen many generations of travelers - the Bedouin fishermen, the hippies of the 80s and backpackers of the 90s. And throughout this time, the Israeli visitors have made Dahab their home in the summer months. Today, there is a beautiful mix of all these people in Dahab. They live, work and holiday alongside the divers and adventure seekers that have discovered Dahab in the last 5 years.

There are people here who came as travelers with nothing, and now have their own places in Dahab and families that are growing up here. Once you're in Dahab, it's hard to leave. You live near the sea... you hear Dahab's famous wind. One friend of mine said that he would leave Dahab if they built a MacDonalds. Well, in 1999 they started to build a MacDonalds, and my friend Flo left Dahab. Then, half way through construction, the flood come through the wadi and took MacDonalds to the Sea - and Flo came back to Dahab!! So everyone was very happy to see Flo, and also very happy to say goodbye to MacDonalds.

The nice thing about living in Dahab is that you get to meet people from all over the world. People from so many different cultures, but who share the same independent spirit and open mind. You can share experiences, learn new things and end up with close friends from distant countries. After 14 years of living in Dahab, I am still in touch with friends living all over the world. From time to time they return to Dahab, and we pick up where we left off - as close friends always do. So, you could say that there is a good world connection in Dahab, and this is a very important thing these days.

Perhaps the other thing we bring to the world is our care for the environment. When you have experienced virgin Dahab - covered in palm trees, surrounded with pristine coral reefs and full of fish - you work hard to keep these things and to prevent less caring people from taking them away.

So what about diving in Dahab? I have over 4800 dives throughout the Red Sea, and I can tell you that Dahab diving has a different style. We dive from shore, with a cup of Bedouin tea on the beach and nice chat around the fire. I shouldn't forget our famous Blue Hole or Canyon. Many Dahab divers will tell you that their favourite dive is a sunrise dive at the Blue Hole, or a Full Moon dive at the Canyon. Full Moon at the Canyon is a very peaceful dive, followed by Bedouin Dinner in the Wadi and watching the stars. And of course, there is nothing like a Camel Diving Safari. We go to remote places north and south of Dahab, like Gabr El Bint (a National Park area) and Ras Abu Galoum (a small Bedouin Village). Both are fantastic places for diving or for taking 2 days off from your holiday!! Half my diving history has been on these safaris. I like to say, "Three Worlds, One Choice", because they combine the three things that make Dahab so special to so many people - diving, desert and Bedouin culture.

So now, after growing up in the Nomad life, and coming to Dahab with little tourism experience, I have my dream - Desert Divers. We mix the diving & freediving with all the other adventures in the Sinai - desert safaris, climbing & yoga. I am happy welcoming my friends and helping anyone who would love to see Dahab and the Sinai.

Said Khedr
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