Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Reefs built by corals are the underwater equivalent of rainforests and have been fascinating humans ever since people started to take a look underneath the surface. Astonishing colours together with countless inhabitants have been attracting adventurers and vacationers alike. Whenever tourists arrive in large numbers, however, they often become a blessing and a curse at the same time. Supporting the local economy by putting money into the pockets of the people living there and promoting development in the region is certainly a positive aspect of tourism not to be neglected. Even so, touristic activities often threaten to overwhelm the very system that attracts so many people in the first place. Where tourism is not regulated and managed, this can have drastic consequences for humans and nature alike.
At the moment, I am writing this post while sitting on a sunny terrace in Dahab, a small town in a protected location in the Gulf of Aqaba. Gorgeous Dahab brings everyone back to the roots of Bedouin life and has continuously grown in size over the last decades. Egyptian culture is represented with all its charm and beauty here. It is a place that fosters the indulgence of our lives and helps to escape the shadows of our world, where we can fully devote to our appetite. With its Caribbean-like spirit, climate, and laid-back mentality of the locals, one might even call it the Jamaica of the Arab region. Most notably, Dahab became what it is today through its beautiful coral reefs along the coast. Whether you are a diver or a snorkeler, whether you are studying marine systems or completely unfamiliar with this foreign world, the reefs here will inevitably draw you under their magic spell. They undoubtedly form the backbone of Dahab’s success story by protecting the shoreline, attracting visitors from all over the world, and not least by providing numerous hungry mouths with freshly caught fish every single day.
What goes around, comes around. I want to give something back to the Red Sea, which is why I am investigating the health of coral reefs around Dahab as part of my master thesis. Although the reefs in this ocean basin are generally less affected by climate change than in other places of the world, the reefs have been continuously deteriorating over the last decades, and I wish to know why. I look at coral diseases and predation, however, of specific interest to me is the overgrowth on corals by algae. Although algae represent a vital component of coral reefs, they can overwhelm this diverse system and change its appearance fundamentally.
I am amazed by how far the region has gotten, at its pace and the things people here have done, and amazed in the way those people are all still here. Looking at the last 50 years of their success story, I truly hope Dahab will continue to prosper in the decades to come. I get to enjoy Dahab Life for another month, and then I will have to say goodbye. There will be tears in this farewell, but what I’ve done will hopefully contribute to the preservation of this cultural and natural paradise.