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.