“I can’t be bothered.” That was the phrase I kept hearing. It was a declaration of the traveler’s current state of inertia, an abbreviation of “I would swim in that warm sea, but I can’t be bothered to walk the three meters.” Or, “I would play shesh-pesh (backgammon) with you, but that would require sitting up.” If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, then surely Dahab is the laziest.
Or at least it was when I was there 20 years ago.
Situated just over the boarder from Israel, Dahab is a tiny Egyptian village on the Gulf of Aquaba. Picture it: A sandy beach along an aquamarine-tropical sea. About 15 meters back from the shore sits a line of small restaurants. And between the restaurants and the water, nestled under the palm trees, someone has repeatedly laid four tree trunks in a square and deposited a mattress in the middle. So every morning travelers select their “pad” for the day and then commence to earnestly and intensely do nothing. When you get tired you drift off, listening to the sound of the waves. When you get hungry you flail your arm up in the air and a waiter runs out from the restaurant to take your order. You read until you wake up. Basically it’s like being at the beach, in a restaurant and in bed at the same time.
At the time of my visit, Dahab had some built in limitations which suited me fine. As part of a Muslim country, there was no alcohol available. Since most of us were already spending the greater part of the day passed out, I didn’t see this as a problem. And if you had crossed over from Israel without pre-arranging a real visa, you could only stay two weeks. “Good thing,” a fellow traveler commented. “Stay any longer than that and you’ll probably never work another day in your life.”
One thing which was not limiting, at least not back then, was price. I remember feeling curious and apprehensive when I called the waiter over to square up the bill at the end of my first day of sloth. I had enjoyed a fruit and yogurt cup, a pita sandwich, a delicious plate of tahini, and several bottles of water. It came to eight Egyptian pounds – about $3 US.
Is There Anything To Do?
If for some silly reason you just can’t stand to sit back and relax, Dahab does offer some activities. There’s good snorkeling and the 107 meter deep Blue Hole is known to be an excellent (although potentially dangerous) dive site. I went on a short camel trek and was impressed by the bleak Sinai landscape. (My camel was named Bob Marley and the guide was riding Bob Dylan.) Pilgrimages to Mount Sinai and St. Catherine’s monastery were also popular.
But seriously, try just doing nothing for a few days. It rocks.
I Loved Dahab So Much I Don’t Want to Ever Go Back
Most places I’ve traveled to, I’ve liked. And most places I’ve liked, I want to go back to. But not Dahab. I just hate the thought that it would have changed. I can only imagine that the passage of time would have moved things in the wrong direction. But I still visit there frequently in my mind. This is one of the side benefits of travel – indulging in memories later. I’m pretty sure that just remembering my time in Dahab lowers my blood pressure 20 points.