Initially, Dahab was a Bedouin fishing village. I suppose what put it on the map is the diving, which is apparently spectacular. The snorkeling was spectacular but that's as far as I went.
We arrived in Dahab in the evening and checked into the Crazy Camel Camp. It has a kind of jungle-y feel to it. But, mercifully, no mosquitoes. Actually, the lack of mosquitoes, I'm sure, is due to the lack of fresh water of any kind.
While the atmosphere was cute, I probably wouldn't stay there again. I could get a lot more amenities for the same price elsewhere. Also, the public restroom there was, well, ewwy.
Before I launch; something I have to say about Dahab - all my friends who have been there have loved it; I do agree with Jessie that their milkshakes are a revelation (compared to anything in Jordan). However, I wasn't so enamored with the place in general.
I admit to being charmed the first night when we arrived. It was like a little fairy-village; seaside cafes, colored lights everywhere, quiet, waterfront promenade with no vehicles.
After that, it started to feel somewhat unholy...and a bit flaky.
So, the two tourist populations you have there shake out to be the hardcore divers and the world traveler types who need a break from ME restrictions and just want to party. Being a big stick-in-the-mud non-partier type, this was, for me, kind of like when I was majoring in engineering at university. I'm up studying while a bunch of drunk sorority sisters are singing badly at the top of their lungs and some guy is puking in the bushes outside my apartment. Dahab is a strange California party town plunked onto the shores of the Red Sea. But quaint...like Chico meets Capitola.
For sure, it is not un-beautiful. It's more the combination of the tourist-vibe with the local vibe. Like any tourist scene, the locals (actually, not locals but transplants from places like Cairo and Alexandria) are there to take your money. The guys want you in their stores and the restaurant guys angrily rebuff you for not coming in, behaving as if you'd written a bad review of their food. Later in the evening, there's the locals ogling the tourist girls who dress like they're in Malibu. It's easy to forget where you are when you're on the promenade there but you're still in Egypt. Actually, that tourist seediness is exactly the same as anywhere else, whether it's Niagra Falls or Monterey.
Meanwhile, a half a block behind the promenade is the Bedouin village:
The promenade is like a movie set, a facade.
And here, at one of the dive spots, the local girls work for the dive centers:
Could'ya tell which ones were the local girls? Well, check this out:
Here, a couple of the girls have finished work and are heading in for a swim. On a side note; in Wadi Rum you will never see any of the Bedouin girls working with tourists. But then I've heard about a non-touristy area in the north of Jordan where they're more relaxed about the women interacting so it appears to vary tribe by tribe.
No segue provided - this is just so cool:
So, we're hanging out near the beach one day and these women with a baby walk up (no, this is not the beginning of a joke). One is playing with the baby while the other gets in the water. So, I'm thinking, 'oh, ok, not so interesting.' But then the woman on shore hands the baby off to the woman in the water. Turns out this woman is a freediver and the woman on shore is her doula. So, they're passing the baby back and forth and he's kinda swimming, face down, moving his arms and legs a bit. Also he has these teeny goggles he's wearing part of the time. But then, the freediver puts the baby on her back and he's actually hanging on totally on his own. She goes under with him and pops up a few seconds later and he's still hangin' out.