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Sara El Laithy, Egypt’s little mermaid, watches over the Red Sea biodiversity

Profession mermaid, a dream that came true for Sara El Laithy, an egyptian who decided to make her life an art of the underwater world.

Who doesn’t remember the Christian Andersen tale of the Little mermaid, popularized in the 80’s by the Walt Disney animation movie. The story depicted the life of a young and beautiful mermaid living with her friends underwater, until she decides to explore the human world out of love. For some, the fairytale became reality, like Sara El Laithy, a egyptian girl who describes herself as a professional mermaid and deeps dive into the blue waters of the red sea to protect and clean up the ocean floor.

Can you explain to us what a professional mermaid is?

Professional mermaids are humans, mostly females even though there are also a lot of men, we call them “merman”, they wear tails and swim underwater. Some make their own tails, some buy them or collaborate with tail makers and there are even companies specialized in tail making but they usually make very expensive tails. Regarding their mission, some people do it as a hobby just for fun, some do it to fulfill their child dream or just to make money out of it as an entertainment business during birthday parties, in aquariums, pools or at sea for example. A mermaid can be an artistic performer and do shows with other mermaids, but can also do conservation work in resorts.

Did you always dream of being a mermaid?

I learned to swim with my mum when I was a kid, and in 1996 my father took me to the blue hole in the red sea. This was the first time I saw a fish in my life. I was fascinated by the idea of living in an ocean and I liked to pretend I was a mermaid and had a lot of dolphins friends. I had a wild imagination at that time (laughters). When I was around 15, the little mermaid II came out and my obsession for marine life came again. Two years later, I entered my 1st year of college and found out online that some people were mermaiding professionally and were making their own tails. I remember that I thought “whooo… this is real?”. In 2013, I moved to Hurghada to live by the sea, so I started to think about doing professional mermaiding myself, because buying a tail was too expensive, something like 2000 dollars maybe, I decided to make my own one. 

 

You said some mermaids are working in marine life conservation. You are as well. Can you tell us more about this mission?

I always wanted to protect the Red Sea, so I turned my hobby into something professional and humanitarian. In 2018, I started to work with NGOs like Dolphin Watch Alliance and also Hepca, a team of scientists and industry experts who are actively working towards the protection and preservation of the natural resources of the Red Sea, as well as the promotion of sustainable tourism practices. This includes the underwater bio-network of coral reefs and the sensitive land ecosystems of the Red Sea coastline. We used mermaiding as part of the awareness program to protect marine life, because when you try to do something fun, people are more keen to listen to you. People already involved in the ocean will listen to you easily, but to talk to the wider audience, you need something more entertaining. But mermaiding is also used to do clean-up operations underwater.

In a country like Egypt, how is this activity received ?

In Egypt, mermaiding is something completely brand new, and even though we have been doing it for so long, we never put it in the public eye. But in Hurghada, people like it because it is part of an entertainment program, during a day out of seeing the aquarium

Would you consider mermaiding as a feminist act?

I wouldnt call it only a feminist act, because it is also opened to men. I would call it simply an inclusive act, which allows us to express oneself as we are. If you are a merman, this is still a way to come out and show what you really want to be.

What message do you want to convey through mermaiding?

I always had this thing for nature, trees and animals… so I just want to make people think about creatures aside from human beings. We should not be part of an “egosystem” but an ecosystem, and this is why we should work together with nature. We forgot that because we live in an industrial world but whe should try to work on our compassion to understand what surrounds us and not causing any harm to other creatures.