The Sinai Peninsula offers scuba divers a different view of the Middle East
Thou shalt not step on the coral. That must have been the 11th commandment, lost to the world atop of Mount Sinai. The nib of land that separates Africa from Asia holds a legendary allure, both in biblical lore and regional conflict. It also has some of the best scuba diving in the world. The Gulf of Aquaba, in the Red Sea, offers some of the most dazzling marine life found anywhere, and its all right off-shore.
The first thing we noticed about Dahab is the friendliness of the people. Everywhere we turned, people were pouring us tea and imparting us with gifts. Our guesthouse manager, whose "cousin" owned the restaurant across the way, took care of our first round in the hopes we would stay loyal to that particular café. Shopkeepers would insist that we come in for tea and, of course, the sales pitch and display of goods. Even after we convince them that we really are not interested in buying anything, they still wont let us leave without a "birthday" present.
Cozy beachside lounges entice us with bonfires, fresh fish and free salad buffets. The restaurant touts out front, after being told that we just ate, still offered a hearty "Welcome to Alaska! Pleased to meet me!" and bid us goodnight. Being told by some to expect quite the hustle and hassle in Egypt, we were pleasantly surprised by the local amicability and the low-pressure of the touts and vendors.
Our first day diving was to include a refresher, since it had been over six months since our last dive. After a quick review of basic skills, we were off to explore Lighthouse Reef in the bay. After lunch, our dive-master took us to a site called Islands. The coral outcroppings here are massive, and the sea-life brilliant. Unfortunately, our dive ended in a 10-minute surface swim with 30 bar of air left, because our DM kind of lost his way looking for a new exit through a hole in the reef.
The next day we had a different DM. She had it more together. We swam out across the coral to a crack in the reef, and descended 30 metre into the Canyon. This is not the place to get claustrophobic. The walls of the Canyon are encased in coral and the submarine hallway teems with fish. We ascended into the aptly named Fishbowl. Through a crack in the wall we watched a Lion Fish swim by amidst a sea of smaller fish and backlit by the distant sun. Beautiful. Swimming back along the reef we noticed bubbles from the divers now in the Canyon percolating towards the surface of this very large aquarium.