Having been performed since the 25th century BC, the martial art known as 'Tahtib' is a significant icon of Upper Egypt’s intangible heritage, and a brand new Tahtib school in Qena has been built to preserve it.
If you grew up in Egypt, you might be familiar with a certain stick-fighting martial art they call ‘Tahtib’. Even if you've never seen it in person, it's made the rounds in the climaxes of too many melodramatic Egyptian films to miss. As a martial art, Tahtib’s history runs deep; depictions of soldiers using it were engraved on the archaeological site of Abusir from the 5th Dynasty, as far back as 2500 BC. Over the millenia, Tahtib has evolved from a war practice and an exercise to a ceremonial practice, widely performed as a form of dance at weddings and other celebrations. To this day, the martial art remains a significant icon of Upper Egypt’s intangible heritage, and a brand new Tahtib school in Qena has been built to preserve it.
The school – which falls under Qena’s Association for Development in Al-Toud, under the supervision of the Directorate of Social Solidarity - is open to boys between the ages of 6 and 18, and currently holds 100 students split into 10 different classes. Students must wear the Upper Egyptian ‘jilbab’ to maintain the attire traditionally worn while practicing Tahtib.
The main goal of the school is twofold: to encourage its students to improve their fitness and finesse, and to preserve this Upper Egyptian heritage, which has become almost synonymous with the governorate itself.