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The 2015 Salon Du Cheval D’ El Jadida: Part One
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November 9th, 2015

The 2015 Salon Du Cheval D’ El Jadida: An Overview

Part One of Three

By Lisa Abraham

 

The eighth edition of the Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida, from October 13th-18th, 2015, under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, was a spectacular experience. In his “Word from the President,” Prince Moulay Abdelllah Alaoui wrote, “The El Jadida Horse Fair was set up in 2008 for the purpose of contributing to the development of the Moroccan horse industry. Within the span of a few editions, the fair has been able to position itself as a ‘not-to-miss’ yearly encounter for horse professionals. Several activities relating to the horse are organized, in the framework of high-level national and international competitions or exhibitions. Along the lines of this dynamic, the Horse Fair proposes a rich and varied program which also includes equestrian shows; playful and fun activities and sporting competitions.”

Moroccans have a rich history of being inspired by the horse as it has played a significant role in its cultural arts such as in literature, music, paintings and photography. For this reason the show has always made ample space to feature both art and artists--from Morocco and other global destinations. Because of this affinity, the eighth edition of the show has chosen to specifically feature as its theme, “The Horse: Arts & Crafts.” The vendor area featured generous space for artists to display their work and in several cases, their methodology.  There was also a large scale installation devoted to the art and culture of Morocco.

In efforts to globally promote the show, the organizers have also encouraged international cooperation. This has no doubt contributed to its overall success. This year, the Salon selected the country of Portugal as its Guest of Honor. Morocco and Portugal have a rich history—both equine and otherwise. This recognition gave Portugal the opportunity to promote its own rich influence in Morocco and its deep equine connection.

 

El JadidaEl Jadida: The coast

The Salon Du Cheval took place in the Moroccan city of El Jadida, an hour from both Casablanca and Marrakesh. El Jadida is a coastal town which is primarily known for its  beautiful beaches. It’s a tourist locale which draws guests from not only within Morocco, but heavily from the Persian Gulf and Europe as well. Is also known for its unique appearance in which remnants of Portugal’s indelible influence are still evident. El Jadida, which was previously known as Mazagan, was occupied and controlled by the Portuguese until 1769. Upon leaving the country the Portuguese destroyed a great deal of the area, which, for years, remained uninhabited and referred to as “al-Mahdouma” (translates: the ruined). Years later, the city was once again rebuilt and renamed “El Jadida” (translates: the new).

Outside of the show itself, one of my most memorable experiences of El Jadida, was on the way to an evening event. We were driving along a coastal road, just as it was becoming dark. Out of nowhere, on the beach, yet nearer to the road, flew a runaway pony. Then, also seemingly out of nowhere, a grey horse and rider with a somewhat worn green Moroccan saddle, took off at a full gallop, in persuit of the escapee. The pounding of the horse’s hooves could be heard from the road. It was particularity amazing as the beach was relatively populated with locals enjoying the coast and nobody seemed a bit phased by the equine theatrics. Then several miles down the road, long after I had forgotten the horse and pony show—there they stood on the side of the road, waiting to cross at the traffic light, the large grey horse and rider with the pony safely managed with lead rope and halter.

I had remembered this incident, so days later when I had a few moments form the show, I visited the beech hoping to see something similar. I was not disappointed. After photographing a lovely Moroccan sunset over the Atlantic coast, a small group approached to my right--maybe a family--two on horseback and one on a camel.  The saddles on the horses were again, traditional Moroccan style.

 

Mohammed VI Parc d’exposition

Mohammed VI Parc d’exposition

The Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida took place, for the first time in the newly built, Mohammed VI Parc d’exposition. 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 children’s activity center and places to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and environment.

 

Media The Media!Dads...

To the equestrian world at large, the 2015 Salon du Cheval D’El Jadida was a HUGE media event—and the level of media present was sophisticated. In addition to the hundreds of Moroccan media individuals, the Salon was attended by just as many internationally—and everyone was eager to record everything!  Although DSL cameras were everywhere, it was really video that was most prevalent. Literally there were hundreds of videographers paired with journalists recording every square inch of the show.  Interviews were also common and seemed to take place around every corner. To insure top global coverage, the show invited twenty of the world’s top equine Medias -- ARABHORSE.COM (USA) WAS PROUD TO BE INCLUDED!

 

The Children

When I first arrived at the Mohammed VI Parc d’exposition, I was given a tour by Malik Iraqi, who was in charge of the International media. Immediately I was captivated by the children, and the children and the children. Very neat, single files rows of well-behaved kids, monitored by conscientious teachers were everywhere. Although the kids ranged in ages, the majority seemed to be twelve and under. According to Malik, the show invited school children and disabled people to attend, free of charge. I have to admit, even though there seemed to be a legitimate school of thought that horses and children don’t  mix as proper “horse show” deportment was not always recognized —I found it refreshing and charming. As an American, who has experienced many, many shows, some of our top shows, in which the stands are completely empty—seeing the seats filled with excited guests, despite their smaller stature, was very nice.

On the weekend, the children were still there, but as part of their family units. It was here also that the Moroccan adoration of their children was truly evident as families walked hand in hand. It was also a common sight to see a father with a child sitting comfortably on his shoulders. As a side note, I found it quite interesting and inspiring that the children were sincerely attentive and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves—it wasn’t lost on them.

There was also an area outside that was devoted to the children for both entertainment and experience. There children could ride a carriage pulled by a pony and take individual pony rides, carefully guided by adults. The pony rides in particular were heart-warming as these kids exhibited the kind of joy that literally erupts straight from one’s heart—while their parents watched on the side proudly beaming from ear to ear. There were also booths set up for fun and crafts as well. This area was very popular and was constantly teaming with excited kids for the duration of the show.

 

Vendor area

The vendor area was an experience unto itself. Not only was it a selling space, but it was also the place to observe various traditional arts as they related to either the equine subjects and/or Moroccan culture.

My favorite exhibits included the artists demonstrating their traditional Moroccan crafts. I had the pleasure of observing at work: a wood carver, a weaver, a metal smith and a calligrapher. All were masters at their art/craft and all were fascinating to watch. These crafts are important to support as in many countries, traditional arts and crafts are rapidly dying out as the younger generations are not always interested in perusing these paths. These were also popular attractions for the kids as well.

The exhibits which displayed the cultural significance of the horse in Morocco were as fascinating as they were elaborate. There were exhibits of how the horses was used by both the Police and Auxiliary Forces—and it was clear that no expense was spared. There were also great efforts taken to display the care of horses, both in modern days and historically. In particular, in the Auxiliary Forces exhibit, there was an excellent “greater than life size” portrayal of how horses’ feet were maintained.

The Vendor area also offered shopping. Not only could one purchase the work made by the craftsmen and women, but there were other purchasing opportunities as well.  Although there was contemporary equine gear available, there were also several booths which specialized in traditional Moroccan saddles and other associated tack such as the brass irons and embroidered boots. Traditional Moroccan clothing was also available for purchase. One of the most charming features of the large vending hall was that nearly in the very center of it, sat a charming and comfortable are to enjoy coffee or tea.

 

Competitions

In addition to the exhibitions, the educational offerings and the shopping, the Salon also offered several World Class Equine Competitions. As my work has exclusively been in the Arabian World, I found these competitions to be educational and exciting. It was also fun for me to see how other horse or performance disciplines are organized and judged. The world class competitions included:Competition: The International Barb Horse Championship

-The Moroccan Arab Horse Breeders Cup (Oct 13): 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 14-15):  Organized by the Horse Fair Association in partnership with the Moroccan Association of Arab thoroughbred Horse breeders and the Royal Society for the Promotion of Horses. An ECAHO Class A halter show.

-The International Show Jumping Competition (Oct 15-18): 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.

-The International Barb Horse Championship (Oct 17): Organized by the Horse Fair Association in partnership with the Royal Society for the Promotion of the Horse, under the patronage of the Barb Horse World Organization (OMCB).

-Tbourida (Fantasia): This is a traditional Moroccan art form in which teams of riders competed on Arab-Barb horses. Competitions were held every afternoon by teams of riders who represented various regions of Morocco.

-Photography Competition: organized by the Arab Photographer Union and devoted to images of the Arab horse. Five Arabian horse photographers were honored for outstanding work in the field.

-Youth Talents Art Festival: A competition which honors the youth with the best representation of a horse in either drawing or painting.

-Costume Pony Competitions (Oct 13): This competition is offered to encourage children’s interest in pony dressage. In the form of performance, various Moroccan clubs, comprised of six to eight riders competed with ponies who were 1.4 meters or less.

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For many important reasons, Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida is worth attending. Not only is it an opportunity to experience various equine breeds, competitions and disciplines, but experiencing the colorful Moroccan culture is also delightful. To a Westerner, like myself, some of these opportunities may even be “once-in-a-lifetime.”

 

Please plan to attend the 2016 Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida from October 11-16

For more information, please visit:

http://www.salonducheval.ma/

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Please plan to attend the 2016 Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida

 

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. She is also a breeder of Straight Egyptian Arabians.