The 2017 Salon du Cheval D'El Jadida
The 2017 Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida
By Lisa Abraham
~with three FULL SIZED photo galleries (links at end)
The 2017 Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida, which took place from October 16-22nd, marks the tenth edition of this outstanding event. Organized under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, over 220,000 visitors from all over the world enjoyed Morocco's rich equine heritage. As this was the Salon's decennial anniversary, the theme of this year's edition was "Ten Years of Pride and Passion." In his Word from the President, His Majesty Prince Moulay Abdelllah Alaoui wrote, "According to many observers, the challenge of making this an important, attractive, prestigious and internationally renowned event has succeeded. Through sporting, playful, artistic, literary, scientific and many other activities that were organized during each edition, this event has continuously participated in the development of the equine sector and in the conservation of the national equestrian heritage."
This week long equine event took place in El Jadida, a lovely Atlantic port city that one might consider "off the beaten track." It is located in north central Morocco and it is approximately sixty miles southwest of Casablanca, which is also the city with the closest international airport. Due to it beautiful beaches, it is a vacation spot, but enjoyed primarily by Moroccans from different regions. In addition to its attraction as a resort town, El Jadida is also used for coastal shipping of agricultural products.
Much of El Jadida's significance is connected to its history with the Portuguese. In the year 1502, the area which is now El Jadida was seized by the Portuguese and called Mazagan. In 1772, two hundred and fifty years later, the Portuguese finally abandoned this area, which was their last occupation in Morocco. However, upon leaving the country, the Portuguese destroyed a great deal of the territory. As a result, for years, this land remained uninhabited and was referred to as "al-Mahdouma" (translates: the ruined). In 1969, the city was once again rebuilt and renamed "El Jadida" (translates: the new).
Although overall there are only little reminders of El Jadida's occupation by the Portuguese, there is a small area, referred to as Portuguese City, which serves as a nice tourist destination and education to the history of the area. Built on the actual shore line, in the heart of Portuguese City, is the Fortress of Mazagan. It was from this very spot where the Portuguese ruled over the territory and kept tight boundaries on water travel to and from this small region. Many of the walls of this once strong fortress still stand and are reminders of the architecture and ambiance of its European roots. Furthermore, for being considered to have "outstanding universal value," the "Portuguese City of Mazagan" is a "World Heritage Site" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Although my work at the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida occupied most of my time, I did take an afternoon to visit. Upon entering Portuguese City, there is a street that leads directly to the shore, where the strong walls of the Fortress of Mazagan remain. On both sides of the street are vendors selling regional souvenirs to those who pass by in route to their sightseeing destination. As I was by myself and without time constraints, I stopped in each one. But it was the very first store in which I found a bit of treasure.
Northern Morocco is rich with ancient fossils and remains. In fact, earlier in the year, in a remote part of this region, archeologists uncovered what may be the oldest Homo Sapiens remains found to date. Anyway, as I walked into this store filled with dusty tickets which were stacked up to the ceiling, I noticed two small piles: one of Ammonites and one of Othoceras--both fossils commonly found in the Sahara Desert which, in part, was once an ocean floor. These fossils contain the remains of creatures that once inhabited the earth. Ammonites, which were similar to squids, lived in the sea between 65-415 million years ago; while Othoceras date back 190-500 million years ago. Although the store owner offered these fossils in a variety of conditions, the ones that got my attention were cut and polished. Although I had seen these in gem and bead shows in the US, they were rare. Also, those of this quality could be very expensive.
Because the very first store I entered has these for sale, I assumed that they would be everywhere--I was wrong. So, as they were priced inexpensively, I purchased a few on my way into the area, then several on my way out. These few hours in Portuguese City turned out to be an exciting "get-a-away" and a lovely change of pace. I will have these fossils incorporated into jewelry as a lasting reminder of my few days in El Jadida. Also, interesting to note, as I traveled out of the country, I had these fossils carefully wrapped in my carry-on luggage. Twice they were nearly confiscated by authorities--as I left Morocco and as I entered the United States.
Mohammed VI Parc d'exposition
The Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida took place, for the third year in the newly built, Mohammed VI Parc d'exposition. In 2015, it was formally inaugurated by King Mohammed VI, just a week before the show. The center had large hosting capabilities, yet remained easy to navigate and was designed such that foot travel from venue to venue was both comfortable and easy, with detailed attention to the needs of the disabled. The layout of the facility consisted primarily of two large halls and one outside arena. Hall A contained the larger indoor show arena, while Hall B hosted the vendors and a smaller show arena. Around the main halls were the restaurants, the childrens activity center and places to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and environment.
The Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida is an enormous media event. As an experienced journalist, it is one of the largest coordinated events that I have attended and covered. Overall there were six hundred journalists invited from Morocco; and twenty-five who were invited from International destinations. Countries who were represented by media included: France, Switzerland, Belgium, Unites States of America, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Italy, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Ireland. The organizers of the event were thoroughly prepared to accommodate this extensive group whose coverage was sophisticated and included a variety of mediums. The media room which was located on the upper level of Hall B was equipped to handle all the needs of those recording the show and who took full advantage of these first-class accommodations. As I covered the entire event, I would like to comment that despite the huge number of journalists attending, there was great cooperation, not just from the organizers of the show, but also amongst each other. Information was easy to obtain, and the channels of communication were very effective. As a representative of Arabhorse.com (USA), I was proud to have been invited to cover this prestigious equine event.
One of the most delightful qualities of the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida was the tremendous presence of children and families. The show invited 20,000 school age children of all ages to attend free of charge. So during the week, one could see school class, after school class, after school class, walking together in an orderly manner, each row with a teacher who lead at the front and one who followed from behind. The children were able to enjoy themselves, but were also expected to behave--and they did--I cannot site a single example of behavior that was less than exemplary. Also, the children were given t-shirts to wear for their visit which was excellent promotion for the show. Furthermore, as various equine disciplines all over the world, are suffering from a lack of participation, that was far from the case in El Jadida. The stands were full of cheering kids who were engaged and enjoying themselves. On the weekend, the children attended with their families. Also, there was a special area designated for organized children activities as well as other opportunities scheduled throughout the week in various other areas.
The Commercial Center which filled Hall B encompassed cultural exhibits, artistic installations, commercial vendors and regional artists. In total, there were one hundred exhibitors, representing thirty-five countries and four continents. Among the cultural showcases there was a very special one set up by the organizers of the show to celebrate the tenth-year anniversary of the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida. In this exhibit, there were photos, videos and objects which represented special memories of the past editions. There were also installations and exhibits which celebrated the equestrian heritage in the various regions of Morocco.
The Moroccans rich equine history is echoed in many of the country's cultural arts such as in its literature, music, paintings and photography. For this reason, the show has always made generous space to feature both art and artists--from Morocco and other international destinations. The vendor area featured ample room for artists to display their work and in several cases, their methodology. The artists were very generous not only with their demonstrations, but also and when possible (such as when language was not a barrier), with explanations of their work. As someone who appreciates cultural art, this was a highlight. Some of the various arts being demonstrated were felt making, weaving, metal stamping and saddle making. However, although he was not demonstrating his craft, my favorite vendor was the maker of the Moroccan daggers. Although these can be found everywhere in Moroccan, there is great variation in the craftmanship. I purchased several at the show and was very impressed with their beauty and quality.
In addition, the Salon offered several World Class Equine Competitions. In total, there were over 1000 horses competing and over 700 riders. As my work has exclusively been in the Arabian horse world, I found these competitions to be educational and exciting. The competitions included:
-The Moroccan Arab Horse Breeders' Cup (Oct 17): Organized by the Horse Fair Association and the Arab Organization of the Arab Horse (AHO). A competition for Moroccan Arabian horse breeders.
-The International Arabian Horse Show (Oct 18-19): A Class A ECAHO (European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations) organized by the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida Association, in partnership with the Royal Moroccan Association of Thoroughbred Arab Horse Breeders and the Royal Society for the Promotion of the Horse.
~For a FULL SIZED photo gallery of The International Arabian Horse Show: http://www.arabhorse.com/photos-videos/lisa-abraham-the-2017-salon-du-cheval-d-el-jadida-international-arabian-horse-show/?photo=37922
-Arab Barb-Horse Champions Cup (Oct 20): Organized in collaboration with the Royal Society of Horse Encouragement, this competition is open to horses who have obtained championship titles in previous competitions of like requirements.
-International Barb Horse Championship (Oct 21): Organized by the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida Association, in partnership with the Royal Society for the Promotion of the Horse and under the rules of OMCB (Barb Horse World Organization).
-The International Show Jumping Competition (Oct 11-22): As part of the Morocco Royal Tour, this top-level competition consisted of 27 events, nine of which counted for the FRE Longines-ranking List, while three qualified winners for the World Cup.
-National Championship of Farriery (Oct 18): Organized by the Association of Salon du Cheval D'El Jadida and for farriers who are trainees and/or apprentices. The purpose of this competition is to learn new techniques and forge skills.
-The Cedar Equestrian Endurance Race in Moyen Atlas (Oct 6-7): Organized by the Salon du Cheval Association; in collaboration with the Endurance Village Boutheib (UAE); and in partnership with the province of Ifrane, the High Commission of Water and Forests and the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports.
-His Highness Sheikh Mansour Ben Zayed Photography Competition (Oct 18): Organized by the Arab Photographer Union and devoted to images of the Arab horse. Five Arabian horse photographers were honored for outstanding work in this field.
-Youth Talents Art Festival (Oct 18): A competition which honored the youth with the best representation of a horse in either a drawing or a painting.
-Costume Pony Competitions (Oct 22): Organized by the Salon du Cheval D'El Jadida with the participation of several Moroccan clubs. The objective of this competition is to encourage trainers and children to show greater interest in equine activities by fostering additional artistic and recreational interests. In the form of a performance, various groups which comprised of six to eight riders, competed with ponies who were 1.4 meters or less.
His Majesty The King Mohammed VI Grand Prix of Tbourida
This year was the second edition of this important competition. As a primary attraction, competition began every afternoon at 3:30. Tbourida (translates: game of gunpowder and the proper name for what is also referred to as "fantasia") is considered both a cultural art and form of martial art. It originated from the region of Meknes in Morocco and dates to the 13th century. It is a war ceremony that consists of opposing groups of horsemen, each representing the best riders of its tribe. Each region in Morocco has one or several Tbourida groups, which are called "sorbas" totaling thousands of horse riders nationwide. The traditional style saddles used by the riders reflect the craftsmanship from the various regions of Morocco.
Each sorba had between 11 and 15 riders, with a captain in the middle who called out the commands and coordinated the movements of the team. To begin, a sorba lined up at the far end of the arena and faced the judges. The riders began a slow charge and quickly accelerated as they prepared to fire their muskets. Then after the captain commanded, they all fired with the goal of concurrence. The sorbas were judged on several criteria which included the beauty of their costumes and horses; and the synchronicity of both their charge and fire.
As a photographer, this is a highlight of the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida. As each serba competed, there were so many interesting aspects to capture--and since each charge only lasted 30-45 seconds, there was only a short span in which to do so. Therefore, the challenge to get the shot was exhilarating. Another fun aspect of photographing Tbourida was shooting alongside photographers who have had a great deal of experience with this event. In 2015, I attended the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida. This was my first experience with Tbourida and I have to say I was pleasantly charmed by all the lessons I received from those around me. That year I met a photographer who divided the days by shooting different aspects of the charge. On the first day he photographed the synchronicity of the teams as a whole. The next he photographed only the faces of the riders as they do show tremendous expression. Then he followed by capturing the legs of the horses as that aspect is also heavily dramatic.
This year, within moments of my very first day, I met two young photographers who were listening to the sound of my shutter and agreed that my camera should be set differently. So, since I had nothing to lose, I handed my camera over to them and told them to do what they wanted--either way I was going to learn something. From that moment on, the three of us were constant friends till the end of the show. From them I learned a great deal more about photographing Tbourida and increased my percentage of marketable images.
The photographers with whom I became acquainted were Mohammed Bakkache and Hamza Bendriss, both of whom live in the El Jadida region. Mohammed and Hamza have had a great deal of experience photographing Tbourida and were invited to exhibit their work at the 2017 Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida.
Lisa Abraham: As an art form, what are your feelings toward photography?
Hamza Bendriss: To do effective work, a photographer must see more intensely than others. He or she has to maintain the innocence of a child who looks at the world for the first time or of a traveler exploring a new country. As a younger person, I was fascinated by how a photographer could capture a fraction of a second, literally a flash in time, and communicate exceptional moments. From an early age, this type of art flowed in my veins and I dedicated myself to learning. Now I am attracted to any kind of photography which opens my eyes to details and helps me to see things in different ways.
Lisa Abraham: At the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida, your work was being exhibited as part of a larger group. Can you elaborate?
Hamza Bendriss: Yes, our group, which was founded three years ago, is a Moroccan National Association called Zoom Art. Because we are all passionate about what we do, we are making efforts to increase interest in photography by sharing the fine art we create with our cameras. The invitation to exhibit our photography in El Jadida was a great opportunity for us share our work with Moroccans from different regions of the country, as well as visitors from all over the world. Also, Zoom Art is only one of many associations in Morocco that share these interests. Currently we are working to create a united photographic community so that others will be able to capitalize on opportunities such as the Salon Du Cheval.
Lisa Abraham: As a Moroccan and a photographer, what are your thoughts about Tbourida?
Hamza Bendriss: Throughout the year, I attend many Tbourida demonstrations, competitions and events. Besides the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida, there are also "Moussems" which are popular festivals held in many of the regions throughout our Kingdom at different times of the year. The most popular one is Moulay Abdellah Amghar, which is held south of El Jadida, in the small village of Sidi Bouzid. This festival is famous for its fantasia and attract thousands of visitors from all over the world.
Photographing Tbourida is one of my personal favorites as it is a way to showcase Moroccan culture. I feel it is far more than a sport since it is such an important part of our heritage. When photographing Tbourida it is essential to show the whole troop in unified harmony--from beginning to end. One also wants to capture the power of the horses and their physical capabilities; the courage and fortitude of the riders and cavaliers; and finally, the uniqueness of each troop, which includes the beauty of their traditional clothing and shooting styles. The challenge to capture it all can be very intense.
The crowning moment of the 2017 Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida was the Championship of the Grand Prix of Tbourida, hosted by His Majesty The King Mohammed VI, which took place on Sunday (Oct 22). On this day, the stands were packed to capacity with excited fans, while the media was fully prepared to capture every moment. When the competition ended, the prize giving ceremony, which was of "red carpet" formality and elegance, began. There could not have been a better end to a week that had been full of celebrating Moroccan heritage as it pertained to the horse, than to witness His Majesty Prince Moulay Abdellah Alaoui distribute the exquisite bronze stirrups to the winners of this important Championship.
For a FULL SIZED photo gallery of the 2017 Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida:
For a FULL SIZED photo gallery of The 2017 International Arabian Horse Show:
For a FULL SIZED photo gallery of the 2017 His Majesty The King Mohammed VI Grand Prix of Tbourida:
For more information on the Salon Du Cheval D'El Jadida:
For all competition results:
Lisa Abraham is an International Journalist and Photographer from the United States. Although she does free-lance for various media, her primary dedication is to Arabhorse.com as a Premier Contributor and Representative.