The History Of Ouma In Tunisia

The History Of Ouma In Tunisia

The History Of Ouma In Tunisia

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Tunisia’s Nejib Belhedi recently completed a 155 km sea swim around Djerba, the largest island of North Africa, in 47 hours 50 minutes located in the Gulf of Gabes [see below].

The former Lt. Colonel in the Tunisian army and heart surgery patient is also known domestically for his dramatic series of Iron Swims off the coast of Tunisia [see below].

But he is also well-known in Tunisia for his series of Ouma events. Ouma is an Arabic word meaning to swim in the sea. Its concept is popularized in Tunisia by Nejib Belhedi who started the Ouma for Kids program in 2012. Its history is as follows:

May 27th 2012: Belhedi organized Mahdia International Ouma for 60 children with the participation of group of swimmers from England (Thomas G Noblett, Clare Noblett, Stuart Hyde, Nicola Fraser and Helen Brindle) and Malta (including Keith Bartolo, Samuel Attard, Gilbert Bartolo, Andrew Grech, and Roberto Demicoli).

July 14th 2012: Belhedi organized Chebba Ouma for 150 kids in Chebba Public Beach in coordination with the Tunisian Civil Protection.

September 7th 2012: Belhedi organized Monastir Ouma for 350 kids at Chatt El Goraya in coordination with the Municipality of Monastir City presided by Ali Mzali via the Municipal Council of Youth and Childhood. British swimmers Michelle Sharples and Claire Benisson participated. The Ouma event started a partnership with Toa o le Tai® in American Samoa.

September 21st 2012: Belhedi presented Ouma at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference on RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

September 28th 2012: Belhedi presented Ouma to the students of Santa Barbara Community College with the support of Ingrid Schmitz.

June 2nd 2013: Belhedi organized Djerba Ouma for 450 children on the occasion of the Djerba the Land of Peace and Tolerance Fiesta on Athenée Beach in coordination with Djerba Ulysse Association. Swimmers participated in this Ouma including Thomas Noblett, Clare Noblett, Adam Walker, Gemma Clarke, Jackie Cobell, Dave Cobell, Hayden Welch, Katherine Ellington, from Great Britain, Maurau Giocona from Italy, Gabriel Galli and Osman El Genein from Libya, Keith Bartolo from Malta, and Ralph West from South Africa who also participated in a similar Ouma with a team at Port Elizabeth.

September 4th-5th 2015: Belhedi organized Monastir Ouma for Fids Formation for the Municipal Youth Council of Monastir City Ouma presided by Dhoha Gharbi in presence of Rory Fitzgerald and Kate Steels-Fryatt.

November 9th 2014: Belhedi is honored at The Municipality of Sfax presided by Mabrouk Kossentini the Mayor of Sfax City while recognizing Kate Steels-Fryatt, Jonathan Joyce, Rory Fitzgerald, Pauline Barker, Ruth Haynes, Cath Woolley, Richard Macartney, Robert Hamilton, and Ion Lazarenco Tiron from Moldova.

November 6th-19th 2014: Belhedi organized the International Ouma of Dunes with 50 chidren mainly in Corbeille de Nefta. Other Ouma events were also held in Tamarza, Chbika and Ksar Ghilane. The Ouma of Dunes was supported by the Regional Commissary of Tourism of Kebilli and Tozeur as well as Rory Fitzgerald, Kate Steels-Fryatt, Pauline Barker, Ruth Haynes, Cath Woolley, Richard Macartney, Robert Hamilton from Scotland, and Ion Lazarenco Tiron from Moldova.

September 4th-6th 2015: Belhedi organized Monastir Ouma for children was organized by the Municipal Youth Council of Monastir City presided by Dhoha Gharbi with the participation of British swimmers at the International Ouma of Dunes and the Ouma of Dunes.

January 1st 2017: Belhedi was voted as the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year celebrated for his Iron Swims. Later his achievements were similarly honored on January 20th 2017 by the Tunisian Minister of Youth and Sport Affairs.

September 12th 2017: Belhedi organized Bizerta Oumas for 75 children in coordination with the Governorate of Bizerta (Delegation North of Bizerta) and Bizerta Diving Association on the Occasion of the 2017 International Ouma of DunesGlobal Open Water Swimming Conference supported by International Ouma of Dunes Shelley Smith Taylor ( Australia), Lisabeth Taylor from Australia, Kate Steels-Fryatt from England, Tatiana Ostania from Russia, Rory Fitzgerald from England, and Ger Kennedy from Ireland at the Bizerta Resort Hotel, supported by Afrikisol. The Regional Commissary of Bizerta organized the event from different regions of Bizerta for this Ouma.

September 18th 2017: Belhedi organized Ajim-Djerba Ouma in coordination with the local Red Croissant of Ajim presided by the Doctor Adel Mezdari and included Shelley Taylor-Smith, Lisabeth Taylor, Kate Steels-Fryatt, Tatiana Ostania, and Rory Fitzgerald. The Governor of Medenine and the General President Director of Holiday Beach Malek Boujbal welcomed the delegation as well as did the Minister of Agriculture and the Governor of Sfax in at Borj Dhiafa Hotel – Sfax.

March 13th 2020: Belhedi completed his 2020 Ouma Handbook that describes and explains the concept and organization of year-round Ouma for children as a global system.

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Steven Munatones