A Review of Big Dune, one of Nuweibas Many Camps
By Mona Ibrahim
When it comes to relaxation and nature, beautiful skies, clear blue water and sand as far as the eye can see, Nuweiba is one of the best places in Egypt to experience it. Since the area has no major establishments, other than a few hotels, it provides the ideal atmosphere for the ultimate in relaxation.
Many tourists, mainly those who are interested in peaceful relaxation and locals who want to get away from the crowded cities, flock to Nuweiba and enjoy unwinding in any one of its many camps. There you can enjoy the mountains behind you, the beautiful blue-green sea ahead of you, the sight of the distant mountains and lights in Saudi Arabia across the sea. At night you can even experience some of the best star-gazing Egypt has to offer as the entire area is pitch black. Nuweiba, the city on the Red Sea, is also full of many underwater natural wonders. The area is known for diving and snorkeling, and is a popular destination for those interested in seeing these spectacular sights.
While there, the best way to experience staying in Nuweiba is by staying at any of the many camps all along the coast on the Taba - Nuweiba Road. The area boasts dozens of camps all along the coast, ranging from small ones with only a couple of huts, to larger ones with huts and chalets. Though many of these camps offer a wonderful experience, there are a few that fall slightly short of the incredible experience expected.
This November, I visited Nuweiba and stayed at a camp called Big Dune. Unlike many of the camps in Nuweiba and Dahab I had stayed at before, this camp was in the city itself. During my four day stay at Big Dune, I was able to get a real feel of what the camp was like, and experience everything it had to offer.
Huts and the shoreline of Big Dune Camp
Big Dune is located in Nuweiba itself. Its Facebook page mentions that it is located on Sharia Masraa in Nuweiba. In trying to find the place, we were told to take a left by the hospital and then follow the road until we found a small sign that read Zoola Beach. At that sign is the entrance to Big Dune, though nothing you see will actually confirm this. After driving for a couple of minutes on what looks to be an abandoned winding dirt road, with what used to be melon farms on either side of us, we arrive at the parking area of Big Dune. This is where our experience with Big Dune begins.
Once the car is parked, and you make your way inside to find someone for you to check-in with, the first thing youll notice will be the huts and chalets to the right, and the cafeteria on the left. Youll almost immediately be assisted by friendly staff that will show you to your hut/chalet, and check to see that everything is in order. At this point, someone from the group will go with him/her to complete the check-in process with IDs and necessary documents.
During our stay, the person helping us with the check-in and overall assistance at the camp was a man named Ramadan. Ramadan is from a small village and his dialect is almost unintelligible in Arabic, even to native speakers. Ramadan informed us that depending on the type of car, we could actually park near the chalet, but we just had to be careful not to get stuck in the sand, as youre not actually driving on a paved surface.
To be honest, its quite surprising just how clean and modern these chalets actually were! Located the furthest from the shoreline, each one consisted of a small, one story stone building, with a porch area in front. Covered in ceramic tile floors, and fully equipped with air conditioning in the bedroom area, a fan in the living area, hot water, a mini fridge, and a living area that has seating that can double as cots for sleeping. With all of these amenities, you may not even feel like youre camping! If necessary, these chalets can house up to 5 guests, though I wouldnt recommend more than two as the cots arent exactly very comfortable to sleep on.
The huts, however, are a different story. There are two kinds of huts at Big Dune. The first, located just in front of the chalets, is the same standard hut you will find at many camps, and this is an almost octagonal small straw structure that has a small window and almost nothing else. The floor is actually the sand, and there is just a small mat for you to sleep on. Located the closest to the shoreline, the second hut is the same concept, but is a different shape, being a square, with a covered opening in front.
Different kinds of huts and chalets at Big Dune Camp
Strewn across the shore, there are seating areas consisting of old, hollowed out palm trees with rugs covering them, and a few cushions. However, I wouldnt really recommend relaxing at any of these seating areas for the simple reason that the shoreline at Big Dune is unimpressive and spotted with litter. There are plastic bottle caps and pieces of plastic along the pebbly shore. Ramadan tried to convince us that this was all because of the ferries that run between Nuweiba and Jordan, as the passengers tend to throw their trash in the sea, but I think it had more to do with lack of cleaning and effort to upkeep the shore since most other camps dont have such a problem with their shore.
Sunset at Big Dune Camp
Since Nuweiba is so small, dining options are few, so it isnt unusual to just have a meal at the camp. Big Dune, like almost all other camps, has a cafeteria where you can enjoy a meal by the beach. Having decided to take advantage of this option on our first night, we quickly learned our lesson that we should find other dining options. With only two options to choose from, chicken or calamari, we decided that since we were by the sea, calamari was a good choice. After calling ahead for Ramadan to prepare our meals, we finally received the call that the food was ready. Once we sat down, we were served a very large bowl of salad, a bowl of tahini sauce, two plates of rice and two plates of calamari. The salad and tahini sauce were delicious, but the rice and calamari left much to be desired, being too oily.
Overall, the experience is not one Id like to relive. While the accommodation was superb, the fact that the beach, which is the main attraction in Nuweiba, was in such poor condition, and the food was barely edible, makes this place only good for sleeping and not much else. This is completely the opposite of what youd like out of a camp, which means Big Dune isnt very high on the list of recommendations.
However, the camp does have its diehard fans, especially among Israelis, so you may still wish to give it a chance. If so, my advice would be this: pack a flashlight for movement at night, bring your own sandwich ingredients and snack foods so that you dont go hungry, and try to spend your days elsewhere, like maybe nearby Castle Zaman. Though Big Dune didnt offer the best Nuweiba camping experience, many of the other camps along the way, such as Basata or Ananda, do!
** Photos courtesy of Mostafa El Khafif
Last Updated: June 9th, 2011