After three and a half weeks on the road, our sense of time is changing. Waiting 20 minutes for the T used to be unacceptable but now a nine-hour bus ride to Dahab didn't seem at all daunting. And it went by so quickly and easily, save for the six--count'em six--passport checks and the over the top Egyptian movies.Dahab is a sleepy beach town on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Saudi Arabia lies in what seems to be shouting distance, or for the more bold, swimming distance, on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba. It's not close to anything (which learned on the aforementioned bus ride) and no one has a reason to be there except to relax and enjoy. Which we did--lounging for hours at a time at our favorite spot, the Funny Mummy, ordering more food, drink, and the extremely popular water pipe whenever desired. When it got too hot, we'd take a dip in the perfect temperature sea. There was no list of sights to see or things to do. It was just what we needed.
Dahab also has its own reef along the coast and the biggest activity after lounging is snorkeling and diving. Seemingly every business along the water has three branches: hotel, restaurant, and dive club. You can rent a snorkel and fins almost anywhere for $2 a day.There are a few high-end hotels in Dahab, but mostly they are more casual, "camp-style" places with basic necessities and most importantly, quick access to the beach. We had read fantastic things of one of these, Penguin Village, and made a beeline there upon arrival. They told us they only had a room for one night, but we were sold on the glowing recommendations plus the $16/night rate. Unfortunately things immediately started falling short of expectations. Our room was run-down and depressing, and the sheets were dirty, not like a couple hairs, but multiple in addition to stains that were too large for comfort. Air conditioning, which we had gone without the three nights previous, appeased us for the evening, but the next morning we were woken up by a loud banging on our door. When Katrina answered it, a hotel employee informed us that the people who had a reservation for the room that night had arrived from Cairo and they wanted us out so they could clean it and move them in. "But downstairs it said check out was noon," Katrina replied. The man agreed, but still said we had to leave immediately, we could shower in another room later if we wanted.
We begrudgingly obliged and hussled out of the hotel half dressed and not really sure what just happened, but pretty sure our experience at Penguin Village was not a pleasant one. Our suspicion is that they are living off the recommendations of guidebooks and tripadvisor...making it the only fully booked hotel on the strip. Though our experience may have been isolated we are more inclined to think they resting on their laurels. And one last thing, though the place is called "Penguin Village" we certainly didn't see any penguins during our stay and are pretty sure penguins have never been anywhere near Egypt.
Our theory was immediately supported by our experience finding a new hotel. Within ten minutes of being kicked out of Penguin Village, we'd booked a room at Star of Dahab with private balcony, air conditioning, tasteful decorations, and actually clean for $4 more than we paid at Penguin Village. No obnoxious personal wakeup call included.View more pictures from Dahab here.