The captain, who had ignored me during the whole navigation, was now yelling in Arabic. He was yelling at me and, following the fixed rule in effect at any given latitude, he kept repeating the same incomprehensible phrase in an increasingly loud voice, as though it had been a problem of decibels. I had no idea what he wanted, but whatever it was, it was urgent, because all around me people from other boats had also started yelling. They were making strange gestures, jumping about, hunching their shoulders, mimicking someone who was cold and was wearing a coat, or something heavy on his back.
I decided to figure it out by trial and error. I walked all over the boat, pointing to any object at hand: a ring, a pair of shoes, a life jacket, a saucepan. Only when I touched a diving tank there was a certain murmur of approval, followed by thanks to someone up above. Without question I wore my equipment and the deckhand pushed a putrid piece of rope in my hand, gesturing as if he were possessed. Everyone was chanting the same word, without pause, “…m..d..ra!” I felt incredibly stupid. During my entire career, nothing of the sort had ever happened to me. They were all pointing their index finger downward, in a way that could have meant a million different things. In the end, someone from a neighbouring boat yelled something in barely comprehensible English. They wanted me to tie that line somewhere underwater, no one explained precisely where. I candidly asked the reason for this. At this point, they became really furious and raising eyes and moustaches to the sky, they started whining as though something terrible was about to happen to the boat. Apparently, I was the chosen one who could prevent this impending disaster. For all I knew, the word they were chanting, “Shamandura! Shamandura!” was the name of the supermarket under McDonald’s in Naama Bay. I couldn’t take it anymore and I burst out, “Now, what the hell do you want from the supermarket!”
I understood, but it was too late. The current was turning, pushing the line of boats against the reef; I should have fixed the line of the last boat on the bottom of the sea to avoid what… happened in an instant.
When I jumped in the water, there was nothing left to be done. There was a racket of engines; dozens of fenders squeaked. A few boats hit the reef; the stern-rails of others broke in the hurried attempt to escape, throwing dozens of snorkellers into a panic. No one was injured, but a great deal of people were so frightened that they said they wouldn’t to go out on a boat again. A crowd of people, equipped with reef shoes, found shelter by climbing on top of the reef, only to be forgotten there and rescued a couple of hours later by the last boats leaving Jackson reef.
It was my first day of work in the Red Sea: I was fired.
Before kicking me out, they made sure I understood the meaning of the word shamandura. It means mooring, but especially tying the boat on any given point on the bottom, whether a rusty metal ring, a sunken buoy, a piece of rotten line, or even a clump of coral (!). I discovered that this ‘not exactly healthy’ duty (it is not good for the body to go up and down between dives) was the true essence of the work of a dive guide in Sharm, as well as a reason of pride and respect. I later realized that a dive guide, to be respected here, had to, first and foremost, be a good connoisseur of knots and shamanduras, know where to find mooring spots or invent them and most of all, be the first at the shamandura. A true Red Sea dive guide is, before anything else, a shamandura-man, a challenger of nitrogen.
From: Shamandura Generation by Claudio Di Manao