image via al-madina.com
A few years ago, one woman made history in Saudi Arabia by becoming the country’s first woman to get a diving instructor license. Nisreen Khan obtained her license in 2013 and since then has been training other women, becoming an inspiration to aspiring female divers across the Kingdom. Speaking to Al Madina newspaper, Khan explained that training others to become divers was something she felt would be a hobby at most, saying “It wasn’t my main goal as the sole reason behind becoming a diver was to explore the world of the sea. I was fascinated by it and I watched numerous documentaries about the sea and what it hides.”
Khan explained that it was in 2013, on a trip to Sharm Al-Shaikh, that she met professional divers and her talk with them changed the way she approached diving, saying, “Their world intrigued me and I was mesmerized since then. The moment I came back to Jeddah, I began looking for diving centers and I found plenty. On my first visit to a diving center, I registered to be on a course that prepared me for the international diving license. I then trained on diving in open waters and I quickly got the national license to be a trainer.”
During that time, Khan was also juggling her daytime job as a schoolteacher, an experience she says helped in many ways:
“My day job may seem far from my hobby but working with children has taught me patience and the ability to think on my feet and have fun at any given moment. These are important characteristics to have when you are a diving instructor. You need to be able to deal with different people and earn their trust by being patient and acceptable to them.”
As a female diver, she was told for many years that her passion was something that only men do. However, Khan didn’t let such sentiments deter her as she felt the sea is a creation of God and that “God did not limit it to a particular gender.” Although she felt her diving was something she did that was actually a source of pride as a Saudi woman, as well as being an activity that was important for meditation and mental health, she kept it a secret from her family at first.
“My mother has an extreme phobia from the sea. She finds it dangerous and unpredictable. So, I would go to classes behind my family’s back. But after a while, I wasn’t comfortable with hiding the truth from them and I began gradually introduce them to my new hobby. I am very thankful that they opened their minds to it and accepted it once they learned that it is safe to practice,” said Khan.