You can’t go home again!

Dahab Promenade

Right now I’m sat in my parent’s house, on their spare bed, staring out of the window at the rain. Nothing unusual in that for most people except the fact that I left home fifteen years ago and have been living in Dahab, Egypt for the last six.

I’ve had to come back temporarily for two reasons. One is to meet with sponsors, the other financial. Anyone who’s read the news recently will have seen the issues being reported on in Egypt. For us in Dahab life has carried on as ever, without the revolutions really effecting us. Aside from one worrying day when the shops had run out of Doritios during the first revolution there was little to notice. There were perhaps slightly less tourists coming but that seemed to be it. Then a tourist bus was attacked up on the Taba border. Taba is 140km away or almost the same as London to Calais. Unfortunately, this meant the British government changed their travel advice so that the northern most part of Sinai was a Red zone, or “Advise against all travel”. Remember, this is 140km away from where we are. Our area was then made yellow, or “Essential travel only”. As most people pointed out, scuba diving IS essential. No one’s been able to give a satisfactory answer as to why this area has been designated as such, so we’ve just had to put up with the decrease in tourist numbers, again.

Finally, at the end of October 2015 a plane crashed over northern Sinai. Different countries have said different things, with one investigation saying it categorically WASN’T a bomb and another that it was. What this meant to us was another change of advice by the British (along with the German, Dutch, Danish and others) government making the airport at Sharm el Sheikh (not the whole town, just the airport) “Essential travel only”. This meant that all direct flights from the UK have been cancelled, effectively ending the flow of tourists.

Dahab is a tourist town. If it wasn’t for the tourists, there is little there to sustain anyone. The Bedouin have used it as a fishing village for hundreds of years but for the Egyptians and foreigners that live and work there, tourism is our lifeblood.

It was heartbreaking to walk around the town I love and have made home and see it empty. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few die-hards going over (mostly via Istanbul with Pegasus or Cairo with Egyptair, if anyone’s fancies a holiday) but as the flights are no longer direct a lot of people aren’t bothering. A lot of people who work there are making the difficult decision to either take extended breaks or leave. Which is why I am back in England, staring at the rain. I plan to stay for a few months to earn some money and meet some of my sponsors. I have another project coming up that I’m also starting work on but more on that another time.

I am one of the lucky ones. Being English, I have the freedom to come back here and find alternative work. My Egyptian friends and colleagues don’t have that. Many are already struggling and looking at alternatives. The lucky ones will be able to continue, at the moment there are a few nationalities still arriving and those that speak Korean or Chinese for example are surviving. The rest are doing as much as they can. Many have families in other areas of the country and are normally able to send money back to them to help them. Now they are having to return home but unlike me they are not necessarily going to have jobs there when they do.

I plan on returning in a few months, sooner if the flights resume before then. I hope the peaceful town I love can survive this period. I can’t wait to go home.

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8 Responses

  1. Beautifully written, Jenny! Evocative and accurate. My heart aches for Dahab in more than one way. It aches for the town and the struggles of the people to “keep their heads above water” which is a bizarre thing to say about a place that depends so heavily on diving for its existence! My heart also aches for the place that I called home for a couple of years. Yes, I am very homesick for Dahab -it is a very special place. I sincerely hope all goes well for you over the coming months and that you can soon return to Egypt.

  2. Well written Jenny … unfortunately it doesnt seem very promising at the moment .. i just done with my D.M a month ago tried to go back to cairo (my home city) but couldnt take it ,,, so iam back to Dahab hoping for a better luck..

  3. Yes, it is such a shame, Jenny. I have been visiting Dahab since 1989. Tota was there then, only one hotel on the Laguna, and the Blue Hole had one Bedouin and a few sets of snorkels and masks to rent.
    Since then I have seen it grow and ended up working in tourism coming through regularly with groups for 10 years from 1996. Bought a house there in 2004 as a base for our business and.a home. Next year we were forced to close down our business, but kept coming spending two long periods with our baby, which was pure gold. Last time was during the attack in Taba that you mention which forced to go home a month early. Desperately want to go back but not easy with the responsibility of a child. Hope to God things get for Dahab, Egypt, the region and the world. We miss our home in Dahab.

  4. This makes me so sad. I was in Dahab nearly 20 years ago, I worked at the Blue Moon cafe in 1996/97.
    Dahab and its people have never left my heart and mind.
    I am still in contact with a few people there and its heartbreaking to know what they are going through.
    I will be back x

    • I’d have loved to have seen Dahab back then, I bet it was very different. It’s one of the few places I’ve lived that has a true sense of community, I miss that.

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