Mina: Hi Nada, thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Every time I see you and your photographs, I have this urge to share you with the rest of the world and tell all my friends about all the wild things you do. This is exactly why the first blog of 2015 is going to be all about you and how you can inspire others by “taking the leap” (literally)
Nada: * giggles *
Mina: Okay so moving right along, give us a brief introduction of yourself, how old you are, what you do etc.
Nada: I just turned 21 a few days ago and I am originally Egyptian but I have been living in Dubai since I was born. I have been representing Dubai and UAE in different sports like football and handball, now I represent the UAE as the first freestyle skydiving competitor and I am also on the first female formation skydiving team.
Mina: Okay so, this might be tangential, but if you jumped off the plane one day and landed on an island with no food whatsoever and the First Aid helicopters asked you “WHAT ONE TYPE OF MEAL WOULD YOU NOT MIND EATING EVERYDAY FOR SIX-MONTHS” – What would that be?
Nada: * makes awkward face at Mina’s random unnecessary question *
Uhmm…I think it would be pineapple or watermelon.
Mina: What were you like as a child? When were you finally able to realize that you “actually” like jumping off planes for fun (or even a potential life long career)?
Nada: I always wanted to move and play around. I realized I was into this sport after graduating from school, and when I wanted to do my first jump to be on the team they said I was underage. So, I had two options, either to wait until I was over 18 after a year, or to beg my father to go to court and sign a paper saying that he does not mind and gives me permission. After long discussions with my father we came up with a final agreement, that I should study engineering in order for me to be on the UAE team.
Mina: Everyone rushes to ask this one question every time I mention you: “WHAT DID HER PARENTS SAY WHEN SHE TOLD THEM SHE WANTS TO SKY DIVE PROFESSIONALLY?” Seriously, how did you convince them that their little baby was going to jump of a thousand feet of altitude every single day?
Nada: I think it was not hard to convince them that I wanted to join a professional team or that will travel a lot to compete - this is because my father had been in many athletic teams himself, and always wanted us to take sports seriously. The hard part was the actual sport itself - skydiving for them was a surprise and it took them a lot of time to start adapting to my new hobby. We arranged a lot of meetings with the instructors and coaches to help them understand the sport and see how safe it actually is.
Mina: What does a typical week look like for you? How early do you have to get up everyday?
Nada: As I haven't graduated from university yet, my week is full of training and studying. I try to manage my classes in way that I can jump in the morning and then attend my classes in the afternoon. It’s very hard though... because sometimes my day starts from 6 or even 5 in the morning and I come back home by 6 in the evening - only to remind myself that I have to study and prepare for the next long day.
Mina: How are you able to manage your training time, your academic and school obligations, sleep, family commitments and social life all in a tight schedule? How much coffee exists in your daily fuel?
Nada: A lot of coffee for sure, I drink coffee more than water to keep me awake and active. I try to manage everything by writing it down and calculating how much time I need to do everything and how long it takes me to reach places at the right time without missing out or being late. It is not perfect - a lot of times I miss classes when I am too tired or I am late for training.
Mina: I understand you travel a lot for different competitions, every one is always raving about traveling and jet setting across the globe; I know the excitement to it, but I am sure they come with certain downfalls. Tell me, according to you, what is the most challenging/inconvenient aspect about having to leave your hometown and family all the time?
Nada: After being on the team for 4 years now, I got used to the jet lag. We have been traveling long trips the past few years and even training the same day we arrive. For example in England, we had tunnel training at 2am after reaching the same night. Of course I miss my family every time but I always try to make the most out of everything. So I always keep myself busy with new friends or learn new things or walk around new places.
Mina: Do you have an incident where things didn’t go quite well for you? Any near death experiences?
Nada: Not death, but just a malfunction were I had to cut away my canopy and use the reserve to be able to land safely. It was because of a tension knot that made that parachute spiral down fast and break a lot of altitude.
Mina: As a Muslim hijabi, what kind of criticisms have you received from the naysayers about you pursuing professional skydiving? How do you respond to them?
Nada: A lot of people are very supportive to what I do and find that I am breaking barriers but at the same time showing the world that we as Arab Muslim women are fun, educated and sportive. But a few criticisms were about what I wear or that I do a lot of splits and gymnastics in the sky that might not be a good way to represent a young Muslim woman wearing the hijab. I understand the concept but I do not fully agree.. because I see that what I have achieved has helped me reach the hearts of people across the globe. My hijab has nothing to do with my sport. I believe that this is the best way to showcase some Muslim women to the world. I don't understand what the mainstream media thinks of us!
Mina: There seems to be a slight shift of people in our generation/culture pursuing career streams that do not necessarily adhere to the stereotypical “Doctor, Lawyer, Engineering” professions. I personally, am a strong advocate of this revolution towards
“doing what * you * [actually] love” (and not what your parent’s love or what your community wants) in the Middle East. What is your view on this?
Nada: I think that is very true, the new generations are thinking out of the box and are not being mainstream in their everyday life. I like it this way, but in reality I am doing both. I didn’t think I would say this one day, but it seems very important to have a strong degree to the side of an awesome hobby.
Mina: Interesting response, I guess it's always good to have that back up plan right?
Anyways, they say, with hard work, discipline and persistence, one can be ANYTHING they set their mind to be. How much do you think this is true? There are so many youths out there who might want to do what you do. How much do you think one’s situation and circumstance plays into this?
Nada: If you dream it, you can do it. Nothing is impossible unless you set your thoughts that it is. On the other hand opportunities plays a very important role in these situations, but you will never get the opportunity if you don’t believe in it and look for it. It will never look for you.
Mina: Wow, I'm so impressed by what you said, I'm actually going to write this down. You're so very right! If you "don't look for it," you might not even know it came knocking at your door! Fantastic way of putting Nada - I love it!
And what would you say to people who want to pursue your field of work?
Nada: Skydiving is a very expensive sport compared to others, so I would recommend them to have a stable job and skydive for fun on weekends. But if they want to pursue it professionally, I would say that you should work hard first, and then get the right people to sponsor you.
Mina: And what’s next for Nada Attia El Bayoumi? I know this sounds stressful, but what do you imagine your future to be ?
Nada: I wish I could accomplish more in this sport, because I did a lot to be were I am and to start and break all these barriers. So hopefully I will be a world champion before having real responsibilities like getting married, having children or working with my degree. I will try to keep jumping for fun even after all these responsibilities, but I don’t expect to keep competing and traveling for long.
Mina: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I know that I’ve asked you to do this a million times and life’s schedule always got the best of us. You know you make me proud. I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors. Shine Bright!
Nada: Thank you for all the support Mina!
Dear readers, I hope you enjoyed this month's blogpost - If you want to follow Nada on instagram click here . Also, I have some exciting things coming up for the month of February - so please do check back in. Until then --- à tout à l'heure!
Mina is a multimedia journalist currently based in London, U.K.
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