Saudi women seek scuba diving areas

Updated 11 February 2013
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Saudi women seek scuba diving areas

An increasing number of women scuba divers want designated areas to dive in the Red Sea to avoid the obstacles they face when trying to obtain a permit for a diving trip.
The Coast Guard does not permit women to dive without mahrams (male guardians).
Women-only diving courses are expensive, yet it has not hindered more Saudi women from taking up the sport. A six-day diving course for women costs between SR 1,500 and SR 2,000. The course includes two days of study, two days of diving in a pool and two days of diving in the sea. A trainee must be above 18 years old.
Factors like these keep women from practicing the sport.
In the last 10 years Saudi women divers showed commitment by obtaining diving licenses abroad, said diving coach Fuad Azmerli.
Saudi Tamader Baitallmal is a certified diving coach. She said it is difficult for women to practice diving since they do not have their own areas where they can dive freely, privately and without a mahram. Most boat trips also require a large number of participants. “These are not always available,” she said, adding that many diving trips were canceled because of that.
The fees of women coaches are high because they are few and the demand is high. “Nonetheless, an increasing number of women have started taking an interest in the sport,” said Riham Al-Qhadi, another licensed coach. She could not provide the number of women divers in the Kingdom, as such statistics are not available.
Women divers also deal with transportation issues since most coaching centers are in remote areas, Al-Qhadi added. But remote coaching centers that welcome women are the only ones that can provide privacy.
Samar Al-Fatih, a Saudi diving coach who obtained her license abroad, “because the adequate atmosphere in Jeddah is unavailable,” said she wants to compete internationally.
“Nothing is impossible. All I have to do is to keep training,” Al-Fatih said.
Al-Fatih said she would travel to another country to practice the sport without limitations, referring to “marine clubs in the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain that charge subscribers for arranging diving trips.”
She said private pools are a dull alternative to the ocean for any diver.
Diving coach Azmerli said it is important to create clubs and centers specifically for women divers to provide them with the surroundings they require. Implementing regulations for women diving would support the sport in Jeddah, especially since there are many women who beat experienced men in terms of skills. Women are qualified to compete internationally. However, Azmerli said dedicating beaches to women only beach is unpractical and expensive.


Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

Updated 1 min 29 sec ago
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Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

  • The president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Shagaf Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey
  • Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back”

CHRISTCHURCH: King Salman’s Hajj offer to host families of those affected by March’s Christchurch terror attacks is “something really special,” said the president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Shagaf Khan.
The Saudi king has offered to host and cover the expenses of 200 Hajj pilgrims when they journey to Makkah this year.
Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey. “For some of them, it’ll be a great comfort feeling like they’ve fulfilled the obligations of being a Muslim,” he added.
Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back.”
When asked what the offer would mean for Canterbury’s Muslim community, Khan said it is part of the solidarity and support that has been shown to them since the Christchurch terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 51 people.
“Four months on … people still feel supported and they feel they’re still being remembered,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Amir, who is working closely with the local community, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy and its Ministry of Islamic Affairs to implement King Salman’s offer, said it will be available for those who had lost family members or been injured in the mosque attacks.
Canterbury’s Muslims are “very appreciative” of the offer, added Amir, who is chairman of the Islamic Scholars Board of New Zealand.
“I’ll say with full confidence that this will be a big relief for the deceased’s families, for the victims, for all those who’ve been injured and affected,” he said.
When asked how the organization of the pilgrimage is going, Amir said “so far, so good,” but added that it has been challenging without official records to track everyone down.
He said it is an honor and a responsibility to help organize the pilgrimage, which he has been helping to plan since the end of Ramadan. “People are very excited about it,” he added.
He said he believed that the king’s offer had been made to help people’s rehabilitation after the terror attacks.
“The community believes he’s going to contribute in building Christchurch and bringing people to a normal life,” Amir added.