Post-Revolution Development in Egypt Destroys Popular Red Sea Dive Spot

eco-tourism, egypt, coral reefsThe revolution in Egypt has left a power vacuum that is allowing unchecked development to take over a once thriving, quiet dive spot.

Apart from the Egyptian revolution itself, a powerful culmination of civil disobedience that roused thousands of somnambulant citizens from decades of political apathy, it’s still hard to see in what way this grand moment in history has been good for that country. While the country attempts to work through its political uncertainty, and as funds that were set aside to help environmental organizations enforce regulations dry up, unscrupulous developers are exploiting the attendant power vacuum with projects that take nary an environmental or social impact into consideration. Just south of its border with Israel on the Sinai peninsula, Dahab is an immensely popular Red Sea dive spot that is in serious jeopardy of losing its precious coral reefs and rustic atmosphere to a series of crowded resorts.

Almasry Alyoum reports that local environmental groups have been keeping an eye on development projects planned for Dahab since 2004, when the Ministry of Environment released a report which estimates that by 2017, there will be 248% more rooms in South Sinai than there were in 2003.

Along with a massive influx of residents (who would ostensibly work in said resorts), these projects appeal to tourists who are more concerned about getting a tan than the they are about protecting the area’s sensitive coral reefs. As such, they are less likely to observe measures to protect them.

To combat this potential problem, the Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) received funding to enforce environmental regulations throughout Southern Sinai. For a while, they campaigned vigorously among the tourism and environmental ministries, as well as local governorates, to draw attention to the development agendas that would ruin their beautiful sand and sea.

But those clarion calls have gone unheeded, and funding for CDWS was rescinded following the 25 January revolution that toppled former Egyptian PM Hosni Mubarak, leaving only the tourism ministry in charge of ensuring that tourism operates sustainably on Sinai. So far, no good.

Already cement waste is being improperly discarded, restaurants are being extended over the water, and sewage plants are spilling into the Red Sea. And all signs show that this could get worse. Since 25 January, 2011, according to the paper, building projects have really taken off as a result of a more relaxed regulatory environment. A handful of dive instructors talked to Almasry Alyoum to generate support against developments in Dahab, while both the local City Council and Tourism Ministry declined to comment.

Evidence shows that eco-tourists comprise only a small percentage of the market and that European resort types are more likely to visit Dahab than anyone else. Given how desperately Egypt hopes to drum up tourism dollars to make up for shortfalls experienced since the revolution, there’s a very strong possibility that quiet little Dahab will soon look just like another Sharm Sheikh. And that would be an enormous shame.

:: Almasry Alyoum

More on eco-tourism and sustainable development in Egypt:

Morocco and Egypt Eye Eco-Tourism Markets

Egypt May Survive Climate Change Thanks to AUC Students

Romantic Desert Lodge in Egypt Offers Fresh Eggs and Sanity

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4 thoughts on “Post-Revolution Development in Egypt Destroys Popular Red Sea Dive Spot”

  1. jeni a lewitt says:

    Well, sad to report from Dahab today that things are not good.Tourist numbers are much lower than previous years, which is to be expected. The influx of families from out lying areas looking for work, and the rapid growth in the population means the ‘infrastructure’cannot cope. There are scores of partially built homes and apartment blocks scarring the whole area. Piles of rubbish, especially plastics, blight every street and the shoreline…and are covered in scavenging stray dogs [around 400] and three times as many stray cats. Today in a 2 hour beach clean, covering an area of just 200 square metres, 6 of us collected 2 sacks of plastics;ring pulls and rubbish…all of this would have ended up in the Red Sea destroying the coral and marine life.There are Bedhouins here who want to make changes, but it is a massive challenge for them to re-educate the people and get the support of local government to provide a suitable system of rubbish collection and recycling facilities. I have been looking for funding sources that may help kick start some local Bedhouin-led initiatives, but it’s going to take money and collective thinking from a wide range of stake holders. They got EU funding to feed 350 stray dogs but can’t get funding to save the marine life, the coral and the local tourism industries….what’s left of them. The dive schools are the ones keeping the inward flow of Europeans and their money to the area, but that’s not ideal as they don’t seem to be very ‘green’ either.
    Sorry this isn’t more up-beat….

  2. well, the 70s…. that’s another century really when it comes to development in south sinai.
    I am living in dahab since 1993 and saw drastic changes during this period of time. the western influence didn’t do the area any good and was handled completely wrong.
    But the problem has nothing to do at all with the revolution. There was always a rubbish problem in dahab, the sewage never worked properly and even the bedouin don’t care about a palm tree any more these days.
    If there would have been a proper plan for developing dahab in an ecological way, this place could have been a gem. But nobody cared as dahab never had the high class 5star resorts like sharm but attracted much more the backpacker – type of tourist that didn’t bring real money to the place. so why bother for a bunch of poor tourists?
    the results are obvious. sadly, there is way too much uncontrolled construction, the government has been bribed for issuing building licences or people just built without any licence at all. nobody cared. yes, there was the occasional governmental punishment and some of the houses have been taken of…. but there was never a real intention to stop the money flow under the table.
    and as you mentioned the CDWS: they were doing pseudo-checks on tourism establishments and gave people a hard time but never really came up with real suggestions or help for improvement. eventually they were found as well to have used membership fees inappropriately and having been involved in illegal actions. so no praise there, at all.
    hopefully there will be strict laws implemented under the new government in order to safe the last beauty of dahab. and there is still a lot to safe!

  3. Judith Holmes says:

    How sad. My family and I visited Dahab often in the early 70s to camp among the bedu and snorkel along the reef. It was simple and unsophisticated and we loved it. We bought fish from the local people to barbecue and met some of the tribes in the area. The fact that we were a group of doctors and nurses helped. At that time people had to travel to El Arish for treatment. A truck came regularly with goods to buy from El Arish – I remember buying a gelabiyeh. Also I collected interesting button like objects on the beach. They were the opercula of various molluscs and very pretty.

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