When the first Bedouins set foot in a small stretch of land by the Red Sea coast, they knew right away that the land was like no other. They decided to call it “Waqt Thahab,” which literally means “Time Has Gone By.” Later, the name was shortened into “Thahab,” which then turned into “Dahab,” meaning “Gold,” having been mispronounced by thousands of travelers who’d reiterated the name, believing they’d stumbled upon a treasure of a place.
Dahab is a little Egyptian coastal town nestled in the Sinai Mountains. Tucked in the folds of these omnipresent peaks, you will find a different reality in intriguing colorful canyons, lush valleys and vibrant oases. I could write pages about the splendor and magic of Dahab’s scenery, but Dahab means so much more to me than its tourist attractions.
The Bedouins were right in calling it “Thahab,” just as were the tourists for mishearing it as Dahab. The town is most definitely a rare and precious place, and time there seems to fit in a different equation. Once you arrive in Dahab, you feel like you’ve been pulled into another dimension. You will willingly start losing track of time at this place where days and nights seem to merge into one another to create a whole different sense of reality.
[bctt tweet=”When you arrive in Dahab, you feel like you’ve been pulled into another dimension.” username=”wearethetempest”]
If it’s your first time in Dahab, you might think that it doesn’t look like much. But, it would not take you long to realize that this town’s beauty is skin deep. The place has a personality of its own – so relaxed, laid-back and peaceful, that many tend to think of it as a hippie town. It has not changed much since I first started frequenting it back in 2007, and I still fall in love with it a little bit more every time I visit.
[bctt tweet=”I go there to just be. Not do. Be.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I go there to just be. Not do, but be. I can spend 10 days doing nothing but relaxing in the shade by the pebbly seashore and wandering wherever my feet can take me. Some nights, I would just chill by the seashore at 2 am and star gaze until the stars fade into the first rays of dawn. Other nights, I’d go up with my friends to the mountains, and we’d lose ourselves in their silence, or chat and giggle around a bonfire and sip on some bedouin tea that just came out of it. If I’m feeling really active in the afternoon, I would go for a stroll along the Mashraba promenade and dip in and out of the little shops that line the footpath. I’d chat with the vendors about the knick-knacks and leather bags they sell. I’d feel the fabric of the displayed ethnic pants, scarves, bedouin and Kahaymeyya style couch throws without feeling the pressure to buy anything, because the people there are as laid back as the place.
I go to Dahab, to just get lost and enjoy it. I wait patiently all year long for the few days I get to leave the city and go to enjoy the perils of living in the desert and disappearing into oblivion.
[bctt tweet=”‘I go to Dahab, to just get lost and live.'” username=”wearethetempest”]
I am not the only one who feels what I feel in Dahab. If you are a person who craves simple relief, you would definitely feel that way too. Like I said, the town has these inescapable vibes of serenity and peace that affect anyone who sets foot in it.
There is no place for luxuries in Dahab. If you decide to go there, you know you must abide by the unspoken rules of the place. It’s modest, unassuming and unpretentious, compelling everyone who visits to leave all traces of affectation behind and just be their true authentic selves.
[bctt tweet=”If you decide to go there, you know you must abide by the unspoken rules of the place.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Simple cotton dresses, cheap plastic slippers, wide legged patterned pants from the local market, basic T-shirts and your most comfortable pair of shorts that you no longer wear because of how faded they’ve become. This is all you need to fit in at Dahab. After all, you’ll stay at one of the shabby hotels or camps spread out along the promenade, because every little corner of that town takes after the simplicity of the whole place.
I have cut my visits to popular summer getaways to a minimum because I just can’t be required to conform to social expectations when I have chosen to take a break from them. I cannot be expected to style it up just to go to the beach or hang out at places identical to those I left back in the city. A getaway is supposed to be, well, a getaway. And to me, Dahab fits that description in every sense. It is, at least, a 7 hour drive from Cairo, where I live. But, no matter how short my annual leaves are and no matter what time of year it is, I always make sure to return and not miss a beat.