Game Changers

Meet Oman’s environmentally-conscious mermaid

Ehdaa Al Barwani is raising awareness about underwater conservation through photography.

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By Sekka Editorial

33-year-old Omani driving instructor Ehdaa Al Barwani. Photography by Riyadh Al Hinai and Khaled Al Aqour.

Perhaps some of the most predictable images that you will see when you visit a diving instructor’s Instagram page, are images taken of wildlife undersea, or a portrait of themselves in signature black scuba diving gear. But that’s not the visual experience you will get when you visit Ehdaa Al Barwani’s Instagram page.

Known amongst her friends and clients as “Dee”, the 33-year-old Omani female diving instructor, took a creative approach in her latest photo series to not only shed a light on her diving skills, but to raise awareness about a bigger cause.

Adorned in colorful, traditional Omani dress, with an oxygen tank strapped to her back, the diver’s photo series, taken by her Omani photographer friends— Riyadh Al Hinai, Tariq Al Barwani and Khaled Al Qour— are thumb stopping.

Ehdaa Al Barwani undersea donning traditional Omani attire. Photography by Riyadh Al Hinai and Khaled Al Aqour.

Explaining the inspiration behind her photos, Ehdaa says that it was the desperate need to encourage people to keep the sea clean. “It provides us with many resources: oxygen, climate regulation, food and medicine sources,” she says.

Ehdaa also makes sure to spread the environmental preservation message amongst her fellow divers and students all year round. “During my dive, I encourage my divers and students to pick up any plastic or rubbish during their dives and to pop it in their pockets to be thrown away afterwards. This encourages good habits and instills a sense of responsibility in the divers,” she says.

According to the Ocean Conservancy Organisation, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our ocean every year on top of the 150 million metric tons that are already floating undersea.

“During my dive, I encourage my divers and students to pick up any plastic or rubbish during their dives and to pop it in their pockets to be thrown away afterwards,” says Ehdaa Al Barwani . Photography by Tariq Al Barwani, Riyadh Al Hinai and Khaled Al Aqour. Click on each image to see it in a larger size.

 “We can’t expect people to be aware of the level of rubbish without them seeing it, neither can we expect them to understand the beauty of the underwater flora and fauna without them being able to swim amongst it,” she adds.

Though the traditional attire looks heavy in the photos, Ehdaa begs to differ. “It’s a surprisingly versatile dress, and very warm. The only difficulty was the current that we had during the shoot that stirred up a lot of the soot,” she explains.

Ehdaa established Aura Divers, a pioneering all-women run diving center, in Muscat last year. Today, she witnesses an increased interest from females to train with her.

Though the traditional attire looks heavy in the photos, Ehdaa begs to differ. “It’s a surprisingly versatile dress, and very warm,” she says. Photography by Tariq Al Barwani.

Ehdaa’s goal is to have a full team of Omani diving professionals, and to establish an Omani dive team aimed at raising awareness for underwater conservation.

“The first step is to take them underwater and show them the beauty and fragility of our reefs, and along with that, show the destruction we have caused. Then we can start to educate the younger generation,” she explains.

Diving was an easy and a natural transition for Ehdaa. Growing up in the coastal city of Muscat, and a country that has over a 3,000 km coastline, Ehdaa describes herself as a “water baby”. 

“We used to go to the beach every Friday for our family get-togethers, and I would spend the day in the water,” she adds.

A video featuring Ehdaa Al Barwani diving and collecting plastic, made for Oman’s National Day, to raise environmental awareness . Courtesy.

Diving also proved to serve as a new stream of income and a great way to meet new friends for the young instructor. “I was traveling for a while, and working as a divemaster was a good way to earn some money to sustain my travels. It’s also a great way to meet new people,” she explains.

While in some locations around the world, there are diving seasons, Ehdaa explains how lucky she feels to live in a country where one can dive all year round. Her favorite locations in the country are Daymaniyat Islands, Al Fahal Islands and Bander Khayran. 

As for the future, Ehdaa says that she will continue to use photography as a medium to raise awareness about different topics.

For more information, and to book your diving session with Aura Divers, click here.


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