Diving in Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt

Trip Start Sep 30, 2009
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Trip End Jan 30, 2010


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Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Red Sea Coast is arguably one of the most famous stretches of coast; along this location is where they think Moses parted the Red Sea and freed the Hebrew Slaves. It has the most brilliant turquoise waters and splendid coral reefs. We chose Dahab as it is hailed as the Koh Samui of the Middle East.  We had to choose between Dahab and its air brushed neighbour, Sharm el-sheikh - with its flash resorts, but are so pleased we chose Dahab. It was laid back and relaxing, and blended nicely the hippie mellowness and resort chic.  We now understand having experienced crystal clear snorkeling and diving, desert visits and ocean-side dinners why it has a long history of trapping travelers for days or weeks on end.  We were originally there for one week but extended our trip by five days and could have stayed longer.

Accommodation was at Christina's Hotel (a boutique hotel run by a Swiss woman married to an Egyptian) it boasted a lovely pool and beach front rooms. We ate breakfast each morning while watching the Red Sea lap against the shore.  It was very warm by 8.00am, hence we tended to be out doing activities by 9.30am.

Interestingly one can see 20kms across to the Saudi Arabia coastline from the beach at Dahab.  Apparently an inexperienced Japanese windsurfer was blown all the way across and given a very cool reception. He was then flown directly back via helicopter, which left him a few thousand euro’s out of pocket.  Saudi does not need or encourage tourists.

The first day we all snorkelled while Chris dived.  The spot was called Moray Gardens.  Very dramatic site with the high, barren, brown cliffs behind you and the beautiful blue sea before you.  Each day many Bedouin (native Arab people) children tried to sell us various trinkets they had made.  Sadly only 5% of Bedouin children attend school, they live a nomadic, subsistent lifestyle. Very different to the ones the Sewter children are accustomed to.

Next day off to the Blue Hole, and despite its intimidating reputation as a danger zone for careless divers we were instantly captivated, as the top of the reefs are teeming with life. It was a little scary to get into the deep key hole entrance that plunges straight down 30 meters, but once we got our heads under water we were all mesmerized.  The Blue Hole is over 100 meters deep and is enclosed by a coral reef. We managed to snorkel above Chris’s diving group, at one stage, and catch their bubbles.  We followed the reef around with a gentle current at our backs and after 30 minutes climbed out only to run around and do it again.  At the entrance to the hole we swam above a large turtle for about 10 minutes.  It was only two meters beneath us, an awesome experience.

Of course watching Chris dive gave the children a hunger to do the same, so next day we were back to Moray Gardens for the children to do an Introduction to Diving lesson.  Mitchell and Olivia did well hence decided to go on and get their open water dive ticket. Ryan was a little freaked out with the whole experience and so pulled the plug on his intro dive.  That night he was somewhat upset at the thought of his siblings being divers and not him, so negotiated his way into another introductory course, which he passed.

Robyn not wanting to be outdone decided to commence her dive ticket with Ryan (having got clearance from her doctor for her asthma), however she suffers from ear pain in aircrafts when ascending and descending thus when diving only down two meters experienced terrible ear pain, which she could not overcome.  The instructor informed her that it would not be possible for her to be a diver, so Ryan continued the course on his own.  Kai a German guy was the instructor for all the children and seemed to enjoy sharing life with a New Zealand family for a week or so.

Mohamed another lovely Egyptian Instructor ended up taking the now qualified males in the family for another few dives and Ryan and Mitchell especially enjoyed him, he treated them like younger brothers.

When the children decided to do their dive tickets it spurred Chris into completing his advanced open water course.  This required him to complete five dives with a fabulous instructor, Ahmed, a real Egyptian gentleman (he had a daughter Olivia’s age, so was interested in her and took time to gently draw her into conversation). Chris dived to a depth of 30m and    one of the dives was at night, which he enjoyed very much.

We met a lovely couple from Sweden at Moray Gardens, Marika and Joakim. They taught Ryan how to play Yatzy and met us for dinner a couple of times. We really enjoyed their company.  We are hoping that we have persuaded them to join us for a camping holiday in NZ.

A break from the water for one day meant a visit to the St Katherine’s Monastery situated at the bottom of Mount Sinai.  The Monastery is quite remote and the only part you are permitted to enter is the ornately decorated 6th century Church of the Transfiguration.  In the church’s courtyard it has a large bush planted at the spot where it is thought Moses encountered the burning bush.  A 'typically’ French man called Alain arranged the trip for us and we joined him and a lovely couple, Berenice (French) and John (English) on this expedition.  Berenice and John took a great liking to our children and she especially had a soft spot for Ryan.  He has this way of charming older woman!!!!!  We couldn’t have chosen a nicer group to go with.

After viewing the Monastery we commenced our mission to trek to the top of Mount Sinai and watch the sun set.  It was a punishing hike, climbing the 2500m to the top.  There were two well defined routes to the summit, the Camel Trail and the Steps of Repentance which met about 300m below the summit at a plateau known as Elijah’s Basin. A 500 year old cypress tree is planted in the spot where Elijah heard the voice of God.  At this point everyone must take the steep series of 750 rocky and uneven steps to the top. We decided to walk the trail and negotiated a camel ride for Ryan and Mitchell, and while we arrived shattered at this meeting point, they were both brimming with energy.  Next we all climbed, Robyn puffing and panting, the750 steps of repentance.  At the top was a small chapel, which was unfortunately locked.   The climb up and the summit offered spectacular views of the nearby plunging valleys and of jagged mountain chains rolling into the distance.  We sat and watched the sunset and it was one of those amazing, unforgettable, inspiring moments in life.

As soon as the sun had set, we commenced our descent.  This time the route we took was the entire 3750 steps of repentance (built by one monk who I hope received his just reward) back to the monastery.  It was only half an hour and darkness had descended.  Certainly was hard work coming down, more so for Ryan and Mitchell who have no depth perception.  We shared torches and very much appreciated the help of the mandatory Bedouin guide.  It took over two hours to descend and when we weren’t in the shadow of the mountain appreciated the light from the full moon.  The downward climb required strong knees and careful concentration when placing our feet.

Back at Dahab we stumbled upon this wonderful Italian/Egyptian Restaurant *(Ramez and Paolo’s) on the water front, and it quickly became out favourite (there are numerous restaurants to chose from and not all of them fantastic).  One night when Chris was diving, I took an unwell Olivia back to the room and left the boys to have dinner on their own at this haunt.  I could sit on the balcony of the hotel room and see them being fussed over by the Italian woman (who owned it with her husband). Then upon finishing she escorted them arm and arm back to our Hotel.  I called out to her that I could see them the whole time and it was fine.  She replied that she couldn’t possibly let them walk home on their own.  Oh my, this pampering will have to stop or the Ryan and Mitchell will become accustomed to it.

On the last night we invited our Diving Instructors, Kai. Ahmed and Mohamed to have dinner with us at our favourite eating place. We had a great night with them. Dahab has been a very social place and we thrived on it.

We also became very aware of how privileged we are to live in NZ. The average Egyptian earns the equivalent of NZ$125 a month!!!!!!  A drive around the back of the Dahab, when returning to the dive centre, was an eye opener.  People live in very poor conditions.  Goats were running everywhere and as there is no real infrastructure, household rubbish is strewn all over the streets.

This has been a wonderful adventure and we take away memories which will last a life time.

Next stop Jordan.
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Comments

Muriel (Mum) on

What a wonderful time you are having - to see all those places mentioned in the Bible and enjoy the hospitality of the people. Will I know you when you come back?
Its just great to share all your travels and insights. Heaps of love

Doreen on

Hi what a wonderful time you are all having!! I'm jealous but would have to be at least 30 yrs younger to hack the pace. We'ra all so enjoying following your journey by this wonderful story. I hope that you get to keep a copy so that you will also be able to follow it for many years to come.
Bye for now Doreen.

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