Dahab is one of our favourite places and one of the few towns we have returned to a second time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we visit again sooner or later. Just before we threw ourselves into looking for a home somewhere in Eastern Europe in 2006 we visited the Sinai town for a holiday and the place piqued our interest as an option for somewhere to live. Kirsteen Mahmoud also took a holiday in Dahab but took things much further than us by marrying an Egyptian man she met in the town, settling in the town last year.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I’m from England. I was born in Torquay in Devon, and then I lived in London for a few years in my 20’s and I lived in Newbury in Berkshire for 6 years before I moved to Egypt.
And what did you do there, then?
I worked for various travel companies, including STA Travel, Peregrine Adventures, Dive Worldwide and a gap year company called GapGuru.
How did you end up in Dahab?
I first came here on holiday in 2006 and I really fell in love with Dahab. I returned in 2010 and this time I fell in love with an Egyptian man. I came back to Dahab a few times to see him, and then I moved here in May 2012 and we got married in Cairo in February.
Have you lived abroad before?
No, not really. I spent my gap year in Australia and in 2009 I spent 10 weeks volunteering in Kenya, but those experiences were very different to living here in Egypt as I knew that I’d be going home at some point.
So what’s so good about Dahab?
There are lots of amazing things about Dahab – there is the weather (12 hours of sunshine almost every day), swimming, snorkeling and diving in the Red Sea, the beautiful beach at the laguna, the mountains and the stunning views across the Gulf of Aqaba, the Bedouin and Egyptian culture, the friendly people, and the general laid back atmosphere.
And what don’t you like?
Unfortunately there is a big litter problem here (mostly in the residential areas rather than the main tourist areas) and it is difficult to recycle which is very frustrating. There are some fantastic community groups which organise regular clean ups, however it seems like a never ending issue.
I’m not a big fan of the cockroaches either!
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
Um, that is a tough one. I guess mostly I feel like an insider, perhaps because I am married to an Egyptian and I know a lot of local people here.
How do you support yourself?
I work part-time for GapGuru who are a gap year company based in the UK. I speak to gap year students about their plans and what they want to achieve from their time abroad and I give them information about GapGuru’s fantastic overseas volunteer programmes and internships. It is amazing that I can do the same job I was doing in Newbury from my laptop here in Dahab.
I also do some PA work for Sara Campbell – Discover Your Depths. Sara is a 4 times World Record holding freediver and a Kundalini yoga teacher. I help Sara with her general admin and diary management, plus I’m currently helping her with re-branding Discover Your Depths ahead of the launch of her new website.
Any advice for wannabe Dahabians (I’m sure this is wrong. What do you call yourselves?)
Yes Dahabians is correct. (Yay, first time – Ed)
I would recommend that they try something different during their time here – perhaps a new activity such as diving, freediving, kite-surfing, windsurfing, sand-boarding, rock-climbing, or they could climb Mount Sinai, attend some kundalini yoga or meditation classes, learn Arabic, or they could even spend a couple of hours a week volunteer teaching at a little Bedouin nursery school. Dahab is a great place to try new experiences.
For those who are planning to stay more than a few weeks I would suggest that they try not to get into the trap of only befriending fellow ex-pats and sitting in the ‘English’ bars all the time, instead they should try to get to know the local Bedouins and Egyptians and learn about the Bedouin and Egyptian culture and customs.
Is the move permanent?
I’m hoping that the move is permanent, but I guess it depends on the future of Egypt.
Finally, tell us about something typically Dahab (or Egypt)
There are dozens of Bedouin children who spend their days in the Masbat Bay area either selling friendship bracelets to tourists or just having fun and playing in the sea. They are beautiful, smiley, happy, polite kids and when you take the time to get to know them you will discover their individual personalities. The kids are very smart too, recently I was sunbathing and reading my book and one of the little Bedouin girls asked me why I read books, I told her that I read books to learn new things and to go to another place for an hour a day, but she looked at me confused and said ‘I mean why do you read books and not a Kindle like everyone else’.
Kirsteen blogs about her life in Dahab at MrsMahmoud.