Photo by Waheed Mekheimar – Photo Courtesy of Waheed Mekheimar official Facebook page
CAIRO – 4 December 2017: In Upper Egypt, there is an Egyptian heritage that is not properly recognized, called El Mermah. It is a traditional competition between the tribes. It begins in the second half of the Islamic month of Shaaban, at the same time as the festivities of “Mouled Sidi el-Qenaway”, the birthday of the Abdul Raheem el-Qenawy and many other holy individuals.
Six photographers traveled in Upper Egypt for a period of three months, following the race from Qena to Aswan to produce beautiful photos and document the event as part of the rural heritage of Egypt. An exhibition was held in Lamasat Art Gallery and inaugurated by movie star Mahmoud Hmeida showing the work that they produced. Mahmoud Hmeida was happy to know about the race. He listened to the photographers explain their work because he is a horseman too.
The photographers participating in the exhibition were Ihab Aly, Adel Bayoumi, Hussein Ahmed, Mohamed Khalil, Hamdy Sharmi, Mahmoud Hawary, Dalia Raef and Waheed Mekheimar. Their passion for photography took them on an adventure in the heart of Upper Egypt and led to a great understanding of the horse traditions among those proud tribes.
Photography for the artists is a passion, as they are amateur photographers for more than three decades. Basically, like all true artists, they spend their efforts, lives and resources to practice their craft and improve their talents.
The exhibition included various pictures concentrated on the horses and race. Each of the “Eight Knights of Photography” took one angle and showed it in their photos. The angles included the competition itself, the simple race between the horses with their knights, the fight itself where the sword was replaced by a stick, and the winner’s determination through the knock-out system. The festivities accompanied the race with traditional Mezmar music, the entrance of the knights into the race yard, showing the talent of the horse rider and his control of the horse, and finally the beauty of the horses themselves.
What’s amazing about some of the photos is that they draw the eyes and the feelings of the viewer into the image, transfer the smells, the sweat of the rider, the horse, the dust in the air that rises from the action, and the competition.
The horse is tied to prosperity and welfare in the minds of Egyptians. It simply brings happiness and luck. A winning horse is nearly worshiped by its tribe, and riding it is an honor. The knight who wins the race rides with the utmost prestige among his peers. They also memorize the names of the horses and knights. It is a deep-rooted tradition in Upper Egypt amongst each of the tribes.