(MENAFN - Arab News) 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.