Two decades under the sea
Usama Fathe
The owner of the Scuba Diving center in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh

Two decades under the sea

Coming to Egypt for vacations, many tourists see people in black wetsuits. Carrying heavy air cylinders, they walk along the pontoon, and then jump into the sea and remain at a depth for several tens of minutes. Usama Fathe, the owner of the ‘Butterfly’ Scuba Diving center in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, told EcoTourism Expert about what diving is as a profession, how Russian divers differ from English ones.

- Please tell me, how many years have you been diving?

At the age of 12, I dived for the first time. It was not in the sea, but in the pool. Later on, I dived, of course, but not systematically. And I started diving professionally 22 years ago.

- Why diving? Why are you neither a driver nor a service worker?

- Because when you work at sea, you dive professionally, you make friends with a huge number of people who share the same interests and love the sea. You love the sea, they love the sea, all of us love the sea, we love the underwater world. And we all become friends.

Diving is a real adventure. When diving, you get to know not only the underwater world, you get acquainted with different people, different cultures - the American, European, Russian ones. They come to you from cold countries, as you came, or from hot countries, you get acquainted with children, married or single people and those who have been together for many years, you really get to know the world around you.

- Did you immediately decide that you would have your own scuba diving center?

- I decided to have it long ago. At first, of course, I worked as an instructor at a diving school, but gradually, I came to the idea that I would like to have my own business in this area and depend on myself only and work for myself only.

I like when people come to me, we have a cup of coffee together cutting jokes. And I like that later on, just before diving, they change and become serious and focused. And they are happy.

In total, 1,500 people have received their diver certificates from me.

- Do you remember how many dives you’ve made?

- It’s really difficult to keep count of dives. Five years ago, I was 36 years old and by that time, I made about 5 thousand dives. Since then, I stopped counting, I just dive and enjoy the sea and I am happy.

- As far as I understand, organizing a dive required less ‘paper work’ earlier. Has it really become more difficult now, is there more bureaucracy now?

- I would not say that there is more bureaucracy. The matter is that when a person wants to dive in the sea, you don’t know how healthy he or she is. Therefore, people fill-in papers where they note whether they have health problems that may prevent them from diving. Filling-in these papers makes people be more responsible for their words and health.

Many people come to me and say that they are healthy, but they can be sick at that time or, for example, have a headache as they drank too much alcohol on the eve at the hotel, but the next day, they come to make a dive. This is dangerous, so why should they dive?

So, filling-in all these papers is not a bureaucracy, it is an ordinary control.

- Is there any dive that you remember the most?

- I can’t remember any specific dive. But my best dive, super-dive, is when a person who dived with me is happy after diving. That’s good when a person has no problems, he or she dives deep and spends long time under water and comes out of water with a happy smile.

Some people like deep diving and some, on the contrary, like to dive 5 metres deep, the main thing is that in the end, diving should give a pleasant experience, and such dives are the best and most memorable ones.

- Is there a difference between Russian, English, German divers?

- Yes, there is a difference. The Russian divers very often become my good friends and when the Russians become your friends, they are very open-hearted and it is easy to get along with them. The Russians love adventures, they are thrill seekers and practically not afraid of anything underwater while diving.

The British are usually more ‘bureaucrats’, they approach the new in scuba diving with apprehension, they try to fully control and take everything into account. This is also true about the German divers.

And the happiest divers are the Italians. They always ‘feel a million dollars’, they come to my club, laugh a lot, talk a lot, joke a lot, have a lot of coffee. And diving comes next.

At the same time, it is clear that there are poor divers among the Russians, and there are cheerful people among the British who love noisy groups of friends, there are also the gloomy Italians. Quite different people come to make a dive and it’s wonderful.

- Please tell me, what is the age when diving is not recommended?

- There is no such age, there are divers in Egypt who dive at the age of 75. My instructor is 65 years old and he dives often. The main thing is experience. If you generally take care of your health, if you have your own equipment, if you dive from time to time, you gain a lot of experience, which gives you the opportunity to dive at a very old age and, most importantly, to dive without harm to your health!

- And the last question: tell me, is there a danger of the destruction of corals in the Red Sea? What is your opinion about the ecology of coral reefs?

- It may seem strange, but I can say that I do not see a serious danger to the coral reefs of the Red Sea at the moment. On the one hand, human influence is really seen in some places. But firstly, it is forbidden to take corals away from Egypt under the threat of a heavy fine and a ‘red mark’ in the passport. By the way, this measure has seriously reduced the coral smuggling and helps keep the reefs unplundered.

Secondly, the Red Sea is very warm. It is warmer than, for example, the Pacific Ocean and the place where the Great Barrier Reef is. Therefore, the coral growth rate is a fairly high, the reefs can quickly recover in case of any damage.