The scariest part of diving is always that moment before you take the first step into the water. Staring down into dark, endless waves – weighed down by diving gear – you find yourself questioning what you are about to do, especially if, like me, you’d volunteered to be the first to leave the vessel.
I was going through the usual feelings of apprehension standing above the Red Sea, just off the coast of Aqaba in south Jordan. I’d already got over my fear of diving a couple of years previously – following a bad try-dive experience as a backpacker a decade earlier – and was now undertaking an advance PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) course. But still, with an inner voice telling me I shouldn’t jump, I found it difficult to take the plunge.
Then I saw Wa’ed Alma’aytah.
She was leading a group of first-time divers, and at first, I thought it was a neoprene hood she was wearing on her head. But after jumping into the water and watching her as I explored the soft corals amid eagle rays and brightly coloured reef fish, I realised that she was diving in her hijab. And not just diving, but leading and teaching a group of students hoping to become PADI certified.