If we told you we had the honor of meeting a real mermaid, what would you think? Would you say that we are talking about a fairytale? Well, fairytales can come true, if you work hard enough. At least, that’s what Somaya Zidan thinks, the first Egyptian female in the Middle East to become a commercial diving and underwater welding trainer.
Somaya, who is only 26 years old, already holds a Guinness Book of Records certificate for her participation in a global event to cleaning up waste the bottom of the Red Sea and the Shield of Excellence from the Maritime Academy. But how did she break into this man-only field in Egypt?
Everything started 7 years ago, when she graduated from the Faculty of Technology with a major in HVAC engineering. She wasn’t in love with the field, so she decided she won’t ever bother to waste her time on something that doesn’t truly make her heart full. So she decided the only type of work that could match her personality is something related to the water, which she has always enjoyed.
“I went to Arab Academy For Science, Technology & Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt where I took courses on welding above water and I also took all sorts of diving courses. Then I enrolled in the Italian school “Don Bonsco” to become a professional welder. I spent an entire year taking course after course, then I interned for a year at a commercial diving company so that I could get the experience I needed, since I knew I would be responsible for the lives of many people training with me.” says Somaya.
She didn’t want to stop there, so she obtained a professional commercial diving certificate to dive up to 49 meters below water. Since then, she has trained countless people from different countries , from France to Algeria, Jordan, UAE, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, including the first two females underwater welders from UAE.
What has made the biggest difference in her journey? The support of her loved ones: “My number one supporters are my family especially my mom and dad. My dad had always been supportive and loving. He was a weight lifter in his youth and he was the one who taught me how to swim when I was a kid.”
Diving also brought romance into her life:
“My husband also is a source of love and support. He’s a professional diver. We met through this field and fell in love. He saw me at my worst, while I weld underwater, when I’m too tired.”
Somaya loves the adventurous side of her job, but also realizes the risks she gets exposed to everyday, including marine wildlife, which she finds fascinating. She has seen sharks in Hurghada before, but says that people have this misconception about sharks, that they are very dangerous, when in reality they are just curious animals and humans are not part of their diet.
She has been in dangerous situations before, one being her deepest dive yet, at 46 meters. Somaya has experienced “narcosis”, a term used for drowsiness underwater, similar to ingesting a narcotic substance, which can be life-threatening, if the diver takes off their equipment and comes out of the water too quickly, resulting in exploded lungs. Good luck she had an experienced buddy with her, Captain Walid Bakr, and when she started experiencing the symptoms, she tapped his hand and signaled to him that she was beginning to feel drowsy:
“The only treatment for narcosis is to come up to a shallower depth, so we began rising and I started feeling normal again”.
For her, one of the people she finds inspiring and a good role model is Manal Rostom. She loves diving in her country, but some of her favorite places to go to are Dahab and Alexandria. For recreation, she loves being a diving instructor and also a swimming and lifeguard trainer at the Egyptian Diving and Lifesaving Federation as well as a fitness coach and nutrition specialist from the Sweden University.
For us is pretty clear, she is a kick-ass woman, breaking barriers and stereotypes!