Day 10 1/2, One of Us Stayed Awake on the 18-Hour Bus from Luxor to Dahab

Phil often makes statements such as "... one of us will have to stay home and take care of the baby", or "one of us will have to go on site and take care of this server crash..."  And somehow, when he makes such statements, that unfortunate "one of us" always ends up to be me.  So on this long-dreaded 18-hour bus ride, "one of us" stayed awake to give you the full account of the ride.

During the planning of the trip, there was no question that we wanted to see at least a little bit of the Sinai Peninsula.  But we had a choice.  The two popular destinations on the Red Sea were Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab.  After reading much on the Internet and our trusted Lonely Planet guide book, we decided to forgo Sharm and go to Dahab, for a more low-key and authentic "Red Sea Experience".  Then there were the two choices of how to get there, a fast ferry to Sharm then bus, or a straight bus ride from Luxor to Dahab.  The price difference was steep, with the ferry route costing more than double.  And the departure time of the bus gave us an extra day in Luxor.  So, with the knowledge that we would have to be cramped up in the bus for 15 to 17 hours, we decided on going the true independent traveler style, the bus.

So to pick up from our last post, we finished our tea and sheesha, walked over to grab two shwarma sandwiches for the ride and headed over to the bus station.  We had learned that Luxor now has a new bus stop near the train station instead of the one that is a half-hour outside of town.  So we confidently walked over to the train station.  However, when we arrived at the train station, there was no sign of the bus stop.  We walked around the station several times and found no signs and no buses.  Just when we were getting a bit nervous, we saw a couple of backpackers sitting in front of an unmarked store right next to the station.  We approached, then realized that the store was in fact, the bus station.  OK, now that we had found other travelers, we felt more relaxed.  I think it's a "safety in numbers" thing...

While we were waiting for the bus, another couple showed up and they looked obviously East Asian.  Then I heard them speaking Mandarin, so I introduced myself.  Turned out they were a Chinese couple living in Holland, heading to Dahab to learn scuba diving.  Just about now, the girl of the second backpacking couple (with whom we have not  yet spoken) showed up in tears telling us how her ATM card was eaten by the machine.  She tried to go to the bank and get it back, but they told her that she will have to come back on Monday...  And this was how we met our new travel companions Maya and Mike, sister and brother, with whom we traveled for the rest of the trip.

About two weeks before the trip, I had thought perhaps I should learn a few words in Arabic, so I borrowed the Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic CD set from the library.  It turned out that I didn't learn anything useful at all.  The whole first CD was to teach you how to say, "I don't speak Arabic" and "Do you speak English", in Arabic.  I thought that was incredibly useless.  Do I really need to say "I don't speak Arabic" in Arabic?  Wouldn't people just get that? Anyway, but I thought that at least we wouldn't have to worry about reading numbers.  After all, the numeric system that we use in the US is the "Arabic Numbers", right?  Wrong.

Apparently Arabic countries have a different numbering system...  So on this bus, which had assigned seats, we had no way of telling where we should sit.  We decided to play dumb tourists and picked the most comfortable seats right behind the back door and plopped our stuff down.  No one said anything to us, however there was obvious confusion on the seating for other local passengers since we did not sit in our assigned seats.  So everyone else just sat wherever the bus director told them to sit.  And whenever the director looked at us, we gave him the dopey ignorant tourist grin, he just left us alone and probably thought it easier to just find seats for the other passengers.  The bus departed on time around 4 pm, leaving Maya's ATM card in Luxor...

The bus rolled on into the desert.  We passed some pretty heavily armed check points along the way.  The desert changed colors as the sun set, from brown to warm yellow to bright red, then finally pitch black.  Hours later and after a couple of very dingy rest stops, they turned out the lights and started a movie on the two TV screens in the bus.  It was of course in Arabic, but I was able to understand the plot of the movie from the action.  It was a B-rated movie at best, but I was thoroughly enjoying the movie.  That was, until the hero of the movie became a freedom fighter and started guerrilla warfare against the military...  The military guys did not have flags to identify what country they were from.  For some reason, I had a panic that this was an Anti-American movie.  But truly, I didn't really sense any Anti-American sentiment while we were traveling.  The military guys were probably the Israelis...  I would later find out from Mike that it was in fact the Israelis and not the Americans.  But at that moment, I wasn't sure,  so with an uneasiness, I scooted down lower into my chair and tried to sleep.

Somehow, it was a lot harder to fall asleep than being on an airplane.  I must have finally dozed off, because I was awakened suddenly by a gust of fresh air.  We had come to another rest stop.  I got up with my hair now looking like a bird's nest and shuffled my feet to the grotesque scene of a usual Egyptian restroom.  I realized we were on the coast now.  The desert heat had let up a bit and the wind was howling, still reminded me of a hair dryer, with a fishy scent of the sea.  I stood outside for a few minutes, actually enjoying the strangeness of it all.  After the bus started rolling again, I fell asleep.

From my calculation, I must have slept for a couple of hours.  When I woke up again, it was about 6:30 and bright out already.  From other blog posts that I have read, the bus's arrival time is uncertain, kind of depends on the road condition.  So we did not have a clue where we were and when we would arrive at Dahab.  The trip should take "15 to 17 hours" the posts concluded.  However, our trip would prove to be just another hour longer than that, since we finally rolled into Sharm El Sheikh at 8:30 am.  Dahab is now just 1 1/2 hours away...

  • Paulo Moreira

    Hy dude!

    I´m from Brazil and I stop planning my trip to Egypt and Israel in the same point: how to go from Luxor to Dahab?
    Thanks god I´ve found your blog!

    Could you help us, PLEASE? If you can, I have some questions about that bus! My e-mail is

    Congratulations for the blog, some informations have no price!


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