Up­per Egyp­tian iden­tity re­vived through spear­ing com­pe­ti­tion

The Daily News Egypt - - CAMERA CAPTURE -

Far away from the city’s mod­ernism that de­mol­ished the in­her­ited Egyp­tian iden­tity, cit­i­zens of Up­per Egypt still hold on to their elders’ cul­tural rit­u­als, which “El-Mer­mah” (Spear­ing) is one of.

El-Mer­mah is the old­est fenc­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the his­tory of Egypt. On their horses, young men of Up­per Egypt, es­pe­cially in the re­gion’s south, gather an­nu­ally to show­case their abil­i­ties of fenc­ing while rid­ing on their horses, as well as ex­hibit­ing their abil­i­ties of danc­ing with their horses.

Hundreds of young men train on a daily ba­sis for this com­pe­ti­tion, of which the win­ner holds the so­cial hon­our of mas­ter­ing deal­ing with horses and fenc­ing.

The com­pe­ti­tion is usu­ally di­vided into two parts: the first is where the par­tic­i­pants com­pete to achieve higher points by reach­ing the body of their op­po­nent, while the other is the art of danc­ing with the horse while rid­ing it to the bass of drums.

The com­pe­ti­tion still holds sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural im­por­tance in Up­per Egypt.While hundreds travel from dif­fer­ent cities to par­tic­i­pate in it, thou­sands of peo­ple come to wit­ness the in­tense com­pe­ti­tion in which art is mixed with sports.

The spear­ers are seen as knights of sorts. Back in the old days, hav­ing such abil­i­ties was es­sen­tial for wars. How­ever, thou­sands of years later, the so­cial view of the per­son hold­ing the win­ning ti­tle of El-Mer­mah com­pe­ti­tion still holds a re­spect­ful, hon­oured place in the whole Up­per Egyp­tian com­mu­nity.

All pho­to­graphs taken by Ahmed Dream

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