Hooves pounded the ground and raised clouds of dust as a small group of young horse archers drew their bows back and let their arrows fly at a passing target. Most of them missed. They will get better, said Mohammad Abu Musaed, who forms the first team of horse archers in the Gaza Strip, a stranded coastal enclave with a population of two million. Mounted archery is a difficult skill to master. Centuries ago it helped Genghis Khan’s Mongolian army conquer much of Asia and is featured in niche competitions today.
Abu Musaed, 40, is keen to build a team capable of competing internationally and has so far recruited a handful of participants. After several more tries, the five Palestinian horsemen managed to hit the target.
“I want to revive this sport and encourage young people to play it because it helps release bad energy,” Abu Musaed told Reuters.
He makes the team’s bows himself out of wood, carbon fibers and glue. Sometimes he decorates them with animal horns. There are several hundred horsemen in Gaza, but few have so far been willing to try archery.
The challenge, said Abu Musaid, is to stay calm and focused while standing upright on a galloping horse. Muhannad Abu Musaed, a 15-year-old team member, said he enjoyed shooting arrows while rolling.
“If you try once, you’ll want to do it again,” he said.
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