Monday, November 28, 2011

Life In Dahab, Egypt Part 1

Hey ETD peeps! =)

Sorry for being MIA for the past few months!! My excuse: lack of /slow internet access, little spare time to sit in front of a computer when there is better things to do/see and just my general laziness!! :p But now that we're chilling out in Dahab, we do have spare time to sit in front of a computer!!

So, let's back track to when we first arrived in Dahab....

After a nice relaxing week away with the in-laws in Cornwall, we had 2 days to pack our summer clothes and dive gear for our journey to the Red Sea. We arrived early to Gatwick Airport, thanks to Mr & Mrs B driving us. We checked in and waited for our gate number to flash up on the screen. Typical (sl)Easyjet, the gate was unluckily the last gate in the whole terminal!! So off we sprinted to the gate to line up for a good seat - since Easyjet don't allocate seats until boarding. The flight was nothing to rave about... and we landed in Sharm El Sheikh in one piece.

sunny Egypt!
We paid our US$15 each for the 1 month Egyptian visa and then boarded the mini bus to take us to the Hilton Hotel. We found a great last minute deal on Expedia to stay at the Hilton for 4 nights, so we took up the offer to stay in some luxury before roughing it out as a local.

our room at the Hilton Hotel
the Hilton Hotel, Dahab
The Hilton was nice, but not all that, I was expecting more - but I guess it was nice for Egypt standards. The location wasn't the best either, we had to take a taxi into the main town of Dahab every time we wanted to get off-resort. After one evening of enjoying a Bedouin Dinner by the beach, GAFFA got his first bout of the "Dahab Dash" and that lasted the best part of a month....LOL. We spent the 4 days relaxing at the beach, roaming the markets in town and trying to find work! We went to Sinai Divers at the Hilton Hotel and did 2 dives (which were pretty expensive) and even though they gave us a "discount", we felt ripped off good n' proper.

the dinner that gave Gaffa a bad belly!

Gaffa chilling out at the beach
So, on leaving the Hilton Hotel we moved to the Red Sea Relax "Dahab Dorms"; into their Super Saver rooms, which turned out to be nice 3 bedroom apartments (poor decor, but a nice chilled out and central location). The shower was a downgrade from the Hilton though - from the usual western shower over the bath, to a shower head over a square section on the floor. But the location was very close to town and Dahab Divers Technical (for GAFFA) meant lots of smiles from the G-Man.

our room at the Dahab Dorms
We spent about 3 weeks living in the Dahab Dorms, while waiting for Nads to join us in Dahab - so we could rent an apartment together. When they arrived we went searching for an apartment we could call home.... Gaffa's long time friend from his last Dahab visit - Roxy, introduced us to an Egyptian man who had a 2 bedroom apartment in Assala, which is a small village/town about 5-10 minutes walk from the main part of Dahab. It was basic - with another downgrade of the shower, this time to just a shower head and a drain in the bathroom - but it was clean and good enough for the four of us to live in. Gaffa and I took the room with the air condition unit, while Nads kindly took the room with just the fan. Gaffa can't handle the heat!!

Our Apartment

Our bedroom

Now we were locals! Renting an apartment for 2500LE per month, which is about 285GBP; shopping in the Assala fruit and veg market, and cooking our own meals at home instead of eating out at the restaurants.  Gaffa got stuck into the kitchen, making curries and soups...getting his spices from the only spice man in south Sinai...picking and tasting fresh spices gets Gaffa very excited!!!

The vegetables here in Dahab are fresh and quite cheap, priced by weight. But the fruit is mostly imported and a bit more expensive. Meat is expensive too, and fresh meat...hmm... well if you saw the state of some of the butchers shops here, you'd be cooking mostly vegetarian meals like us! They hang the meat outside (in the heat) and there are flies swarming around them all day, not a pretty sight. We've tried packet mince meat, packet burger patties and packet crumbed chicken fillets. But it's just not the same as a nice fresh juicy steak that you'd get back home. There is one store here though, The Chef; where you can get decent meat, frozen but probably the best in Dahab.

Gaffa and I were invited to his friend, Sparky's house for a BBQ, and he cooked us some juicy steaks which were marinated soooo nicely, that I finished off two pieces, plus all the fresh salads he'd spent all day making, plus the brownies that he also made! Best meal in Dahab so far! =D

For lunch we discovered koshury - Arabic for 'pot mess'. It's spaghetti, rice and lentils mixed together, with a tomato sauce, and spicey sauce if you want it, topped with fried onions. For only 5LE, it's a bargain and tastes pretty good. Along the main street of Dahab, there are a couple of men pushing carts selling koshury. They also have rice pudding for 5LE. When we got sick of koshury, we found falafel sandwiches. These were only 3LE each! A pita bread pocket filled with falafel (mashed up chickpea and fried), eggplant, some potato stuff, salad, tahini, some spices. Usually two sandwiches can fill you up. I also discovered Yum Yum Falafel shop, which do a Monster Falafel sandwich, which is two pita pockets inside each other, filled with everything! The first time I got one, I was staring at it for a few moments, trying to decide how I was going to eat it - I could hardly get my mouth around it to take my first bite!

Monster Falafel Sandwich!
The work was coming in gradually, and we were really settling into life in Dahab. People were saying hello to us on the streets instead of pestering us to come into their shops to buy things - which gets annoying after a while, so it was a relief when they stopped. Ana eysha henna - Arabic for 'I live here'.

The main strip of Dahab

During our early days in Egypt, we had dinner at El Fanar Restaurant. We met the owner/manager on the first night we ate there - Mohammed Ali (yeah we laughed too, but that's seriously his name!) He was a kind man and genuinely wanted to talk to us, and not sell us anything. He had just taken over the restaurant a few months ago, and wanted to turn it into something great. He asked our opinion on food, decor, etc and we developed a good relationship with him and the rest of the staff at El Fanar. We went back to his restaurant many times, so much that we were regulars and knew the names of all the staff! We felt like it was our second home for a while!! We tried traditional Egyptian dishes that weren't even on the menu. Nowadays, we're living a bit more basic, and don't eat out much. We've tried some of the other restaurants along the sea side, but they're much of the same. There's even a restaurant called Same Same But Different...

El Fanar Restaurant 

Some other restaurants in Dahab (non Egyptian) though that we do enjoy are The Kitchen - with Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese cuisine, The Blue House - Thai, and Athanor - Italian. The Thai curries at The Kitchen are almost as good as the ones in Australia, and the sushi is not bad either. But at the moment the sushi chef is on holidays :( Athanor pizzas are great - better than the 2 for 1 pizzas we were getting at The Kitchen Express (which is now closed down!) They also have the best banana bread ever! And their chocolate thick shakes are scoops of chocolate ice cream in a tall glass with chocolate sauce - Gaffatron heaven! The Blue House is run by Thai's so the food there is generally good, but it was being renovated so we haven't been back since. Another place to try in Dahab, is Nirvana. We've only tried to homemade ice cream there, but it's enough for us to keep us coming back! They have different flavours all the time like chocolate, vanilla, chai, mango, cookies and cream, peanut, coconut.... again - heaven in a waffle cone!! This keeps Gaffa's cravings at bay ;-)

In Dahab there's not much else to do besides diving and general chilling out. On windy days, there's alot of windsurfers and kite surfers out, but the main tourism is scuba diving. There's side trips you can do to climb Mt Sinai, see St Katherine, visit Petra in a day and you can also go quad biking and snorkeling...But we'll be writing separate blog posts about diving, so watch this space!

In general, Dahab is quite a relaxed place to be, the sun shines here 99.99% of the year, with only about 2 days of rain (if any). The prices for most things are cheap compared to Australia and UK, so it's a perfect holiday destination for all. Facilities are good, if you book into a nicer hotel rather than a 'camp'. The majority of dive centres are well run and you can't complain about the diving conditions here. The only downside to Dahab is trying to stay away from foods that may give you an upset stomach, which can ruin you holiday plans for a few days if you're not careful! Hahaha   

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