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Navigating AIDA IV through new Suez Canal on opening day: Meet Egypt’s 1st female shipmaster

Marwa El-Selehdar reveals how she became Egypt's first female shipmaster and her journey to be part of the new Suez Canal celebrations

Menna Alaa El-Din, Thursday 6 Aug 2015
Marwa El-Selehdar
Egypt’s first female shipmaster Marwa El-Selehdar (Al-Ahram)
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As the government promoted the new Suez Canal as "Egypt's gift to the world," Marwa El-Selehdar, the country's first and youngest female shipmaster, received the good news.

The 24-year-old would assist in navigating a naval vessel through the new waterway during the opening celebrations on 6 August, she was recently informed.

“I never thought that my dream would finally come true. I am going to be part of the inauguration as a second naval officer on the deck of the training ship AIDA IV," El Selhdar told Al-Ahram newspaper.

El-Selehdar believes that her participation as the youngest and first Egyptian and Arab female shipmaster would bolster the image of the "civilised Egyptian women."

“I was filled with joyous fear when I first learned about my participation."

A 2012 graduate of the Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT) in the coastal city of Alexandria, El-Selehdar said that becoming a shipmaster was a childhood dream.

"In my first time ever training on board a ship, [My] Captain Abdel Hamid El-Qady and the rest of the crew made me feel at home,” El-Selehdar recalled.

Initially enrolled as a student in the maritime transport department at AASTMT, El-Selehdar was later encouraged to move to the marine navigation department at the school when she found out that there were no rules that prohibit females from studying to become shipmasters, she said in a television interview back in 2010.

Her determination to join the marine navigation department was further fuelled when she heard that a female student from the African Island of Djibouti won a scholarship to study at the department. 

“I challenged myself and asked for a transfer from the maritime transport department to the marine navigation department. Amid a wave of refusals, this was the battle I had to fight in order to achieve my dream,” El-Selehdar said.

As she joined a male-dominated profession, El-Selehdar says that her mother encouraged her [as a woman] to continue on the path she chose.

Egypt has been preparing for grand celebrations for the opening ceremony of the new Suez Canal waterway on Thursday.

On Tuesday, nine swimmers who belong to the Egyptian Paralympics team - set to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics --  crossed the new waterway holding a huge Egyptian flag.

Incoming visitors to the country had their passports stamped with "Egypt's gift to the world" by Customs authorities. 

After fulfilling her first dream of becoming a shipmaster, El-Selehdar is ready to achieve her second dream of living through the opening of the new canal.

“I always thought this project was a major one, but I never realised we would actually witness this remarkable and extraordinary event," El-Selehdar said.

 

 

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