Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.
Semi-sheltered, open water, Red Sea destination.
Dahab occupies a south facing location that sits in the lee of the Red Sea’s prevailing wind, blowing from the north. A shallow area in front of the main beach gives downwind access to another spit of land. On the downwind side of this you’ll find what all visiting windsurfers call ‘Speedies’. And yes, Dahab is predominantly a flat water windsurfing paradise that forms part of the Gulf of Aqaba. But. The wind doesn’t blow all the time. And even when it does there can be some fun downwinders to be had. To the left of Dahab is a shallow reef that separates the shallow water from the much deeper Red Sea. If you paddled out from Masbat town, a few km north of Dahab’s tourist hub, you could do a downwinder in much bigger rolling swell. But you’ll need experience and a solid get out plan! There’ll be nobody coming to help you if it all goes Pete.
There’s reef in abundance around the Sinai Peninsula. Even in Dahab’s accessible waters, some coral pieces can wash in having broken form the reef. And all reef is super sharp, infested with sea urchins, and other sea life – some of which sting. The area is a windsurfing hub so any paddling needs to account for windsurfers speeding back and forth. Although of late Dahab is much quieter. Wind is a big factor. It blows offshore from Dahab’s main south facing beach. As a beginner SUPer it’s possible to stay in the sheltered waters close to the sand. But drifting offshore is always a risk when it’s blowing. Fortunately the small downwind spit can catch you. But the walk of shame back round to the main put in will have to be undertaken. Unless you’re using one of the watersports school facilities. In which case a RIB ride back home will be included.
Access is super easy. All the hotels along Dahab’s beachfront have entrance ways. With plenty of public access also available.
Dahab used to be one of the main haunts for European windsurfers – especially during winter. The consistency of Dahab’s wind and warm weather/water being the main reasons. Following political unrest in Egypt a few years back it suddenly got much harder to get to. Direct flights from the UK to Sharm el Sheikh were halted. It’s still not as easy as once was getting there. But it is doable. The global pandemic hasn’t helped. For anyone able to get out to Dahab you’ll be rewarded with much quieter waters than in the past. This is great for riders of all craft. Not so much for the local economy which thrives off watersports tourism.
Hotels, restaurants and windsurf school/centres (most racking SUPs for flat, windless days) dot the shoreline along Dahab’s blue waters. If you’re staying at one of the hotels then you’re probably on an all inclusive package where everything you need will be provided. Heading into Masbat – the local town – visitors will find more in the way of accommodation, shops, eateries, and bars. For a seemingly out on a limb location Masbat is quite bustling and pretty cosmopolitan.
The hallowed shores of Dahab, and its consistent flat water windsurfing conditions, were a big lure to many UK sailors back in the day. Particularly in the off season when warm weather, seas and breeze beckoned. Political unrest and the global pandemic has caused severe issues in terms of tourism numbers. For a while it was nigh impossible to get a flight into Sharm el Sheikh – the gateway to Dahab and other Sinai Peninsula resorts. That said we know a few UK windsurfers and paddlers have been able to get out there of late.
All this talk of windsurfing may put stand up paddlers off. But Dahab, whilst certainly breezy, has its fair share of windless days. Which are perfect for SUP. And even if it is blowing there’s good shelter and flat water to be found right next to shore in Dahab.
The adventurous/experienced can indulge in some epic downwind SUP. A few different routes exist. From the lighthouse area in Masbat back to Dahab. Or launch from Dahab and head down to Harry Nass’ Centre 4 in the bottom righthand, southern corner. Just don’t miss it! If you do decide a downwind paddle is your thing then make sure your logistics are sorted prior to setting off. Plenty of the local Bedouins operate truck taxi services. They’ll happily transport you and your SUP gear back to town for a fee.
Those learning how SUP will find Dahab a good venue for practising the basics. Dahab’s seafront, as we’ve already mentioned, is pretty flat. And on windless days with enough water in the kitesurfing lagoon it’s super shallow and will catch those drifting off in an almost 360 degree radius. We wouldn’t recommend going to paddle if it’s blowing though. There’ll be too many kiters!
Dahab is probably best enjoyed as a connoisseur of both wind and paddle sports. Or at least, a fledging stand up paddler, learning to SUP on days when there’s not enough breeze for windsurfing. The heady mix of authentic Bedouin and Egyptian culture is worth immersing yourself in. In particular, heading off on camels into the desert for some quality Bedouin hospitality (and food) is an amazing experience. As is scaling the awe inspiring Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise or sunset.
To those who know Dahab has always been a special place for watersports. And whilst it’s had its fair share of struggles lately we’re sure it’ll come back into its own at some point.