Egypt has certified the country’s first female dive master – a devout Muslim who refers to herself as a feminist. With coveted dive spots scattered all along the Red Sea, the ecologically-threatened Sinai Peninsula attracts scores of Egyptian and foreign visitors every year. But until now, not one Arab or Egyptian woman has taken their passion as far as Suezett al-Fallal.
Hamdy Anan has been leading diving trips for the last 17 years, and in all that time, he told Egypt Independent, there has not been a single female dive master. Anan helped to oversee al-Fallal’s three month certification course, a process that requires extraordinary commitment and physical stamina, but there is more to the newly ordained dive master than meets the eye.
On the outside, no one sees much of al-Fallal since she covers herself head to toe in accordance with her strict religious beliefs. She is a muslim, and maintains coverage of her head, arms and legs whether she is ploughing the vast desert or navigating the great marine underworld.
But on the inside, this woman is a firecracker who wears many hats!
Only 27 years old, al-Fallal has a degree in cinematography, and worked as a stylist and camera assistant before quitting the industry.
She was disappointed in how poorly women are portrayed in movies and television, and felt that insufficient effort is made to use television’s widespread influence to the betterment of society.
Al-Fallal has also worked as a personal trainer in various gyms across Cairo and as an assistant parachuting coach at an Egyptian military-run club, Egypt Independent reports.
Apart from the stylist position, all of these positions are stereotypically reserved for men, so it is no small feat that a woman, especially one who observes hijab (the veil), should have experience in all of them before her 30th birthday.
Unsurprisingly, al-Fallal’s road has not been without its pitfalls.
She told Egypt Independent that it is not easy for an Egyptian woman to travel and live alone without facing scorn or judgement from society, but she considers herself a feminist and still has a handful of other big goals she would like to meet.
In addition to becoming a dive instructor and opening her own shop, a dream she has had since she was 18, al-Fallal wants to do underwater photography – a pioneering field in Egypt that would allow her to combine two of what appear to many loves.
She also wants to learn how to sew, so that she can fashion her own clothing.
When the paper asked the dive master if they could do a profile, she humbly thought she didn’t have much to offer and felt hesitant to go through with it. Ultimately she did – in order to inspire other women to step out and live their dream.
Maybe a girl will read it and [decide to] do something that she really likes,” she said, “and someone who thinks negatively about Muslims will read it and change his mind.”
Stock image of woman diving, Shutterstock