„One of the oldest, most famous and admired breeds worldwide, the Arabian horse is the product of generations of selective breeding”. The horses of the Bedouins „traditionally symbolized prestige, nobility, power and prosperity”. This is how the authors of the exhibition held at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran (Saudi Arabia) describe the Arabian horse. This educational center impressive in size and in its ultramodern form, designed by architects from Snøhetta, the Norwegian architectural study renowned for its bold designs, was inaugurated on December 1, 2017. The center hosts an interactive library, museum, art gallery and a movie and performance theater. Today it is a true pride of the Eastern Province (Asharqia).
So, guests of the second edition of the Asharqia Arabian Horse Festival in Ad-Dammam (February 20th-24th) had an opportunity to not only take part in two shows, the Asharqia Arabian Horse Classic and the Gulf Straight Egyptian Arabian Cup, but also visit Ithra and recall the story of emir Wacław Rzewuski’s expedition to Arabia, the latter owing to the presentation of a facsimile of the manuscript during the Festival – a feature of a major part of the exhibition accompanying these two shows. As in the previous year, the event was organized under the auspices of HRH Prince Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Governor of the Eastern Province. The Organization Committee was chaired by Sheikh Khaled
Al Gahtani. „From the early start of this Festival, our idea was not to make it only for the elite, not only for the horse owners and the best horses. We wanted this Festival, these horse shows to be for everyone, for all families. This is why we wanted to expend the horse show from a single purpose of showing horses to a multifunctional festival in order to satisfy all kind of taste. But also, in the back of this, what was also very important to us, was to promote art and culture and the educational part”, he told us.
This time, the event was organized on extensive exhibition grounds of Dhahran Expo. Easy road access, parking lots, roomy stable tents, the ring where horses could show up in unconfined motion and, finally, a number of booths – all that attracted a crowd of participants and audience. Two hundred and thirty six horses were present in the catalogue of the Arabian Horse Classic show (there were as many as four groups of yearling fillies!) and one hundred and thirteen of the Gulf SE Cup. There were cash prizes for the class-leading fives and for medalists. Three top horses from each class qualified to the finals and the finals were open. All in all, the event took six days: three days of the Arabian Horse Classic (Feb. 20-22), two for the Gulf SE Cup (Feb. 23-24) and, in the end, one day for the guests to see horses at the studs (farm tour).
Wacław Rzewuski back in Arabia after 200 years
Two hundred years after the famous emir Wacław Rzewuski’s expedition to the desert for horses (1817-1820), the Saudis attending the Festival had an opportunity to see the facsimile of Rzewuski’s manuscript produced by Manuscriptum Publishing House (Poland). This richly illustrated work by Rzewuski, “Sur les Chevaux Orientaux et Provenants des Races Orientales”, is one of the most valuable relics of the Polish literature, today held at the National Library in Warsaw. The audience of the event in Ad-Dammam were shown a copy of the third, the most beautiful, volume containing images of horses and Bedouins well known by Arabian horse fans, bound using a 200-years old technique. Rzewuski – not only a diarist, translator, poet, warrior, outstanding horse breeding authority and draftsman but a talented cartographer as well – was also the author of the maps. The facsimile handcrafted in Poland reproduces accurately details of the original and, in addition, it has a cover bejeweled with gold and gemstones. To regret of some guests, the figure of Rzewuski – an inspiration of Polish bards including Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, and great painters, such as Juliusz Kossak – is not commonly recognized, in contrast to other famous explorers, such as Thomas Edward Lawrence or “Lawrence of Arabia”, though Rzewuski’s merits as an orientalist and traveler are unquestionable. His manuscript has been up to date an invaluable source of knowledge about life and culture of Bedouin tribes inhabiting the desert of Najd.
To be fair, the exhibition was appreciated: the flow of visitors interested in the artifact and in the story of emir Taj al-Fahr (“Crown of Glory”), known also as Abd al-Nishan (“Servant of the Sign”), did not abate until late night. The work made a splash and in the pavilion – where also sculptures by Arend Eloff, a South African artist, the author of this year’s statues (show trophies) were displayed, among others – we could see sheiks and other VIPs, including Rachna Korhonen, the US Consul, or WAHO president Peter Pond from Australia, bending over the manuscript. The most prominent of the guests was undoubtedly HRH Prince Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud himself. As Sheikh Khaled Al Gahtani told us, the presentation of the manuscript had been an integral part of the event. „We are a young population, 60% of the Saudi population is under 20 years old. So it is extremely important to look into the future. We have new leadership who is very strong and forward-looking. They have vision for 20, 30 years, already mobilizing the entire country to achieve successfully a high economical and social status. But at the same time we should not forget our past to see
where our strength is coming from. I think this manuscript of Rzewuski, its timing is extremely important because it says the story that many of young population of Saudi never heard of. It is also important for Saudi nation that we are not alone, that there were always friends to Arabia before, now and will be in the future”, he said. HRH Prince Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud got a copy of the manuscript during the Sunday culmination: the ceremony of presentation of prizes to the winners of the show.
Large studs triumph but there is a room for smaller breeders too
The renowned princely studs that appeared with the strongest stake of horses, the Al Khalediah Stables and the Athbah Stud, were most successful during the both shows but also individual breeders and foreign guests had reasons to feel satisfied. Aroub Al Hamad (Emerald J – Ajmani Al Hamad/Ajman Moniscione), the graceful and expressive moving (2×20) yearling filly from Al Hamad Stud of Sheikh Hamad Khaled Al Sabah, representing Kuwait, became the gold medalist of the Arabian Horse Classic (her score in class: 91,63). She defeated Halalat Al Khalediah (Baanderos – Halah Al Khalediah III/Marwan Al Shaqab),
the grey mare from the Al Khalediah Stables in the final confrontation. Victoria Al Khaled (Glorius Apal – Victoria CH/Barritz SF), the two years old grey filly from the Al Khaled Farm of Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmed bin Baker Baagdoo (Saudi Arabia) triumphed among junior mares. Sheikha Nahawend (AM Emiro – Sohar/Axel by Jasmine), a WH Justice granddaughter, also grey, bred by Yazid bin Musaed bin Abdullah bin Shibayan, owned by Murshed Nasser Murshed Alkhaldi, was second on the podium.
We saw an interesting situation in the senior mares championship where two charges of the Athbah Stud of Prince Abdulaziz Bin Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud won both the gold and the silver medals. Meqbilat Athbah (QR Marc – Martinique J/Ekstern) was in the lead, followed by Tarfah Athbah (by EKS Alihandro), the daughter of Polish Ermina by Galba, sold at the Janów auction in 2010. Tarfah, a four-year-old statuesque chestnut mare with an extreme head, vividly reminiscent of her mother, scored as many as 93.25 points in her class (including “20s” for type and movement). Hard on her heels came her older, grey, stable mate who made her appearance in the 10 years old and above class mares. She scored 93 points, including 2×20 for type. Finally, the umpires awarded the first prize to the ten-year-old but we will certainly hear again about the comely Tarfah.
In the stallion category, the horses born at the Al Khalediah Stables took places on the podium again. In the group of the yearling colts the bay Sadeh Al Khalediah (out of Evening Fantasy/ZT Shakfantasy), son of Razi Al Khalediah who triumphed as a sire at the same show last year, won the silver. The Al Majd Stud (Saudi Arabia) owns the colt today. He was defeated in the finals by Arkan BHM (by Alexxanderr), a son of Alegra by Ganges, the Janów’s mare sold to Saudi Arabia in 2013. Bay Arkan, bred by Dr. Ali Ghanem Ali Almazrouei, scored 90.75 points in the class and qualified to the finals from the second place. Wajeh Al Khalediah (out of Bushra Al Khalidiah/Abha Ifni), another son of Razi, won the gold in the junior stallions category, repeating his success from the previous year. He was followed by the chestnut D Rawaj (FA El Rasheem – D Shroud/Royal Colors) born at Dubai Stud, owned by Rased Hamed Sayed Almari.
Grey Yaasoup Al Muawd (Shanghai EA – Alishya/Psytadel), bred by Al Muawd Stud (Sons of Abdullah Bin Muhammed Al Subaiee), owned by Al Khalediah Stables, was nominated as the best senior stallion. The silver medal went to Magic of Shawan (FA El Shawan – WA Priscilla/Providence), bred and owned by Abdul Aziz Bin Ibrahim Al Bargash (Al Sakab Stables). The stallion moved on to the finals from the second place in his class. The appearance of Albano (Enzo – Alena/Emigrant), born in Janów, who did not bring shame on the Polish breeding, placing second in the class of 10 years old and above stallions, was a matter of interest to Polish fans. He scored 90.88 points (including “20” for movement). Ghazi Bashir Mokhalad Al-Otaibi (Al Mokhldiat Stud, Saudi Arabia) owns the horse.
The representation of straight Egyptian horses was less numerous but the competition was fierce also in this show. The three-year-old Sahla Al Khaled (Ibn Dahra Al Khaled – Sukayna Al Khaled/El Thay Khemal Pasha) from the Al Khaled Farm of Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmed Bin Baker Baagdoo, rewarded by the umpires with the overall score of 92,75 points including as many as six “20s” for type and for head and neck, won in the junior mares category. Indeed, the judges said many warm words about the quality of straight Egyptian mares presented during the show, particularly those classic grey ones with large dark eyes, such as Sahla. Maysuna Guasimo (out of Najiba Guasimo/Moroc), the 10 years old
grey daughter of Al Adeed Al Shaqab, bred in Italy, owned by Al Fala Stud (Sons of Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al Tobaishi), was announced the champion of the senior mares. And there were more highest scores in this category! The judges decided to award Maysuna with “20s” for type all across the board (the only such instance during this year’s Asharqia Festival) and 3×20 for the head and neck. The final score for this mare was 93.25 points. She won the second place in her class, following another grey beauty Shalwa (Sinan Al Rayyan – Al Galyla/Ansata Riyal) from Kuwait (Al Danat Stud) who scored 93.5 points (including 3×20 for type and 3×20 for head and neck). Shalwa won the silver in the finals.
The situation during the competition of junior stallions was similar to that in the mare category: the three-year-old Najm Alward (M Raed – Shams Alward/Noorreddine Ezzain) was the winner with a 92.5 point score (including “20” for movement). Salah Ahmad Abdulrahman Al Terkait (Alward Arabians) from Kuwait is the breeder and owner of this horse. Najdi Al Shakhoura (Naif Al Rayyan – Falha Al Rayyan/Alidaar) from the Al Shakhoura Farm in Bahrain (owned by Mohamed Waheed Hasan Alaali) was chosen as the best stallion. He was another horse valued very highly by the judges: 92.63 points (including 2×20 for type).
Asked whether the hosts are satisfied with this year’s round of the Festival, Sheikh Khaled Al Gahtani said: „We will never be satisfied, but yes, we are very happy, extremely happy from the feedback we are receiving, from the young child to the biggest personality. They all find something that they belong to. In the end of the day, if we are lucky to promote what is already in the Arab gens, the Arabian horse, that is for us the biggest satisfaction”. So, will there be any further rounds of the event? Will be the Asharqia Festival a solid point in the calendar of events for Arabian horses in Saudi Arabia? „His Royal Highness, the governor Bin Saud, when he was leaving, I was hearing him giving an interview. And he has been asked the same question. This is what he answered: we don’t want this event to be in the calendar of horse shows in Saudi Arabia, we want it to be a very important show in the calendar worldwide. So now our objective and our celling has been raised up”, sums up Sheikh Khaled.
Visits at the studs were an additional, and surely very much expected, attraction. This year Sheikh Khaled Al Gahtani invited guests to the evening party held at his Salayel Arabians stud. Everybody was charmed by not only the unusual hospitality but also the beauty of the place that the host built seven years ago on the grounds of a former transport base. Today it is a genuine paradise on earth with its thick vegetation, bubbling fountains, impressive architecture and, naturally, the great collection of horses including Mai El Farida (Ansata Almurtaiz – Imperial Balaanah/Imperial Baarez), one of the author’s of this report
favorites, who extended their necks with interest to welcome the visitors. Then, after the end of the Festival, a princely treat and a lot of esthetic impressions awaited us at Kenana Arabians owned by Abdul Aziz Bukanan and in the Alwadi Stud owned by Hamad Bin Awad Bin Quraya. Kenana Arabians showed their horses from Dahman Shahwan, Saklawi Jedran, Kuhaylan and Hadban Enzahi strains. The damlines presented at Alwadi included A Dahmah Shahwaniyah d.b., A Hadbah Enzahiyah d.b. and A Kuhaylah Rudaniyah.
Judging by all signs, the Eastern Province – the largest of the 13 provinces of Saudi Arabia, the center of the country’s oil industry (with the HQ of Aramco based in Dhahran) and the region of the Saudi cultivation of date – will continue to attract Arabian horse fans from beyond the region and from beyond the Persian Gulf countries. As Sheikh Khaled Al Gahtani told us, the hosts are already planning surprises for the third edition of the Festival to be held in 2020.