Lisa Abraham: The 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt
Geographically, Egypt is the 29th largest country in the world. Furthermore, with over 96 million citizens, Egypt is the 15th with the highest population and is the most populated Middle Eastern country followed by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. While Cairo, its capital, is the largest city in both Africa and the Middle East. It is also interesting to note, currently, Facebook is by far the most widely used Social Media platform in Egypt. As of the end of 2019, there were over 2.3 billion Facebook users worldwide—with 16 million in Egypt alone. In the Arabic world, Egypt has the largest user group and 17th largest world wide. Bottom line, from a business perspective—Egypt is an important market.
But as Egypt is also home to one of Earth’s oldest civilizations, it is far more than statistical data regarding geography, population and Social Media usage. It has a past that holds a unique fascination for people all over the world and has for many centuries. The history of this country is so bountiful in both span of time and historical evidence, which is still being excavated, it has a field of study all its own, formally referred to as Egyptology. Few have a true depth of knowledge regarding this unique country, but nearly everyone has had romantic notions about its history. In fact, modern culture has continued to incorporate elements of ancient Egyptian art and influence into popular culture keeping this important time still very relevant. Although examples of this could be endless, in his final collection for Channel, in December of 2018, Karl Lagerfeld drew his inspiration directly from the fashion and art of ancient Egypt. This prestigious collection was presented in New York’s Metropolitan of Art’s Temple of Dendur—and it was a huge success. Mr. Lagerfeld drew particular inspiration from the ancient Egyptian image of the scarab beetle.
For many, traveling to Egypt is an important dream. The country offers a wide variety of attractions for tourists, but is most famous for the incredible architecture left behind. Of the original seven wonders of the world, the only one remaining is the Great Pyramid in Giza—and it stands every bit as glorious as it did when it was originally constructed—over 4,000 years ago. It is easy to reminisce of Egypt's glorious past with the lavish clothing and make up, their many uses of metals and of metallic colors such as silver and gold, and the extraordinary number of monuments left that are incomprehensible in size and structure. For this very reason, tourism accounts for a very large part of the country's revenue. However, in recent years, tourism has suffered and thereby has contributed to a more difficult economy.
Personally, I have been Cairo several times in the last year. Being an active participant in a business which requires travel, I enjoy every county I visit. But Egypt has become very special to me. Thanks to the fact that I have been there multiple times within a short span of time, I have developed friendships, both within the Arabian horse community and outside as well. This has made each visit even more enriching as my time gets divided between being a tourist and experiencing the day to day life of the people who call Egypt home. However, I would like to comment on my experiences regarding safety. Of course, it is always important to be aware of one surroundings anywhere, but I have traveled around Cairo quite extensively by myself without any problems. Cabs are easy to get with little language barriers and people are eager to help when assistance is required. As a single female, I have felt very safe in Cairo.
As a tourist, my favorite attractions have been the artisans. Many of which are doing the traditional art forms which have been practiced for many centuries. I am most drawn to the work of the Tentmakers. They produce quilts of traditional Egyptian embroidery in which the design and assembly have remained consistent since Pharaonic times—with the three main tools being a needle, a thimble and a pair of scissors, which are prized belongings often passed down or given as special gifts. In more historical times, their colorful work was used for the construction of actual tents. Although tents are still being made, as well as large scale pieces, most of the work is on a smaller scale, designed to be used as home décor. But in addition to the work of the Tentmakers, I am a fan of metalsmithing, traditional and modern papyrus painting and musical instruments.
Besides the well-known attractions of Egypt, there is another very important reason to visit—the horses! Egypt has a glorious history of breeding some of the most influential Arabians in the world. Carefully bred horses from this ancient land are the in the foundation lines of the most important and contemporary horses in the breed. Furthermore, there are many breeders in Egypt who are generational and are represented in the pedigrees of their horses many times—some on both the sire and dam lines. As a side note, another factor which makes being in Egypt so special is that many of the breeders have known horses that been documented to varying degrees in our history books. Of course, there should be gratitude to the individuals who went to tremendous and often difficult efforts to ensure these horses would not be forgotten, it is also special to be in their land and to hear the stories of those who knew them. One of the best ways to experience the horses and to see the country is during a horse show, where all the elements can be combined while enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the Egyptians.
The 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt
By Lisa Abraham
The 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt, which took place on December 5-7, was a lovely show—and a GREAT SUCCESS! It was held at Rabab Stud in Giza and ran with clockwork precision. Every detail was addressed and most importantly—it was heavily supported by an enthusiastic community. Although the Breeders’ Championship in Egypt celebrated its ninth edition in December, it has even greater importance as the very first AHO show. The Arabian Horse Organization (AHO) is committed to empowering breeders. Therefore, the AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt, was only open to Egyptian breeders and entries had to be owned by their breeders from birth.
AHO was founded in 2010 by Chairman HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Alsaud along with Ahmed Hamza (EGY), Ahmed Adel Abdul Razek (EGY), Essam Abdullah (UAE), Hassan Al Fadail (MOR) and Mohamed Machmoun (MOR)—who also comprised the original Board of Directors. As part of the AHO Constitution it was decided then that each member would serve for three years and could be reelected for consecutive periods. It’s current Board of Directors include Chairman HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and Executive Committee Members: Ahmed Adel Abdel Razek, Essam Abdullah, Mohamed Machmoun and Salem bin Salem Al Barraq (KSA). The founding member countries were Egypt, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. Since that time, membership has expanded to include Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine and Tunisia.
A show can be a stressful endeavor as there are so many factors to consider—some which are obvious, while others go unseen and unknown—unless undone. Furthermore, as live streaming has become an expected service, deeper thought must go into the appearance of the event as well as assurance that a show’s unique ambiance is also communicated through this live media. Considering the level of coordination and multitude of logistics, for a show to run smoothly, teamwork is essential. The show committee included: Ahmed Adel Abdel Razek, Mohamed Machmoum, Essam Abdallah, Mohamed Kattawi (EGY) and Marwa Mahmoud (EGY); while Nahlaa Baraka (EGY) was the show manager. Behind these officials, there was entire team of individuals who also worked tirelessly to guarantee success.
As a journalist, I have covered Arabian horse shows and events now for several years. However, I was never trained in this type of work, so my methodology is more unorthodox. I approach shows with a clear mind and very little preparation. I have found that a successful strategy has been to let each show or event reveal its own story—and it always does. Although our community is global, it is still very small from the perspective of active participants. However, it is up to the organizers to create something different and unique—and it’s up to the media to share an accurate portrayal of their efforts.
At the AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt, it was the Egyptian Arabian community who took the stage. There was so much warmth and support within the VIP section as well as among those working to run the show. This is a very special community, and quite possible one of the most unique in the world of Arabian horses. The Arabian horse market is literally booming in Egypt with over a thousand breeders and owners. In 2019, there were a total of 1,589 foals registered: 969 fillies and 620 colts. However, in the Arabic world, similar statistics could be shared by several countries. But the concentration of generational breeders makes Egypt an exceptionally unique community. In my experience, there are an unprecedented number of relationships that are lifelong—as well as active breeding programs who have been competing against one another for decades. Many of the relationships are not even breeder to breeder, but rather, family to family. This is also interesting from a pedigree perspective and how each farm chose to move forward in terms of incorporated blood.
All over the world, we are passionate about the Arabian horse—and about winning. We all love our horses, and, in turn, they own a very vulnerable part of our hearts. But in Egypt, where there are so many breeders who are presenting horses that were bred from horses that they had also bred, the passion can be intensified--in fact, it can be very personal. However, this is reflected in the comradery as well. There are parts of this community which are closely knit and the support they share with one another is very high. When photographing the Class winners and Champions, it was often difficult to identify the actual breeders as there was always such a large crowd of excited people often passing the trophy around as each got a turn to hold it for the photos. Since I have covered several shows in Egypt by this time, I have become more familiar with who’s who, but even as of now—it is not easy.
The 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt took place exactly one week after the Arabian Horse World Championship in Paris—the absolute pinnacle of the Arabian horse show world. In Paris, the level of prestige was so high and the pressure to win--immense. As the official photographer in Paris, I had the honor of working very closely with the very best in our breed—and that goes for the horses as well as the handlers and officials. Regarding the competition in Egypt, after just experiencing Paris, I was impressed by the level of seriousness in the arena by comparison. The horses were prepared, and the handlers not only carried themselves with a high level of professionalism, but also, gave 100% of themselves. I was just as honored to be in Egypt as I was in Paris—and proud to have been trusted with the responsibility of reporting on a show that had such profound meaning to so many people.
To provide more thorough guidance to breeders, the founders of AHO developed their own scoring system to be utilized in the Qualifying classes. Although the system is very similar to all other contemporary methods, there are two primarily distinctions. The categories of evaluation remain: TYPE, HEAD & NECK, BODY & TOPLINE, LEGS and MOVMENT. However, in the case of HEAD & NECK, the score is averaged between an individual score for HEAD and one for NECK. In the category of LEGS, the final numerical value is an averaged score between two separate evaluations as well: one for the front legs, and one for the back. In the case of a tie, the horse with the highest score in TYPE prevailed. If the tie remained, then it was the score for MOVEMENT whichdecided. However, if this still failed to resolve, one judge who was chosen by ballot named his or her preference. The Championships were judged comparatively in which each judge was to choose his or her top five. In the case of a tie, the horse with the highest Qualifying Class score prevailed. If that failed to resolve the tie, then the rules for resolution in the Qualifying classes applied.
Judges: Fausto Scanzi (ITA), Tomasz Tarczyński (POL), Sufian Tahah Al Husseini (PLE), Elyas Ebrahim Faraj (BHR), Majed Elmehyaoui (KSA) and Skeikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed (UAE)
A total of 203 horses, representing 59 breeders, competed valiantly against their peers for the hope of medal recognition. There was a total of twelve Qualifying Classes, most of which were divided into divisions due to the high level of entries. The Foal and Yearling Classes were particularly competitive each with multiple cuts to accommodate the high level of entries. On the evening of Championship night, the excitement was high, the stands were full—and although to compete at this level was an achievement in itself, it was the senior mares who made the strongest impression. The show closed with two very special recognitions. Al Farida Stud (EGY) was honored with the AHO Breeders’ Championship Best Breeder Award; while PCF Vision was given the award for Best Sire.
I would like to close this coverage with another personal observation. It was a lovely experience being able to work at 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt. Just as the comradery was high among the participants, it was also admirable among the show officials. This spoke volumes for the organizers and management of the show. Building a team of likeminded and equally committed individuals is a difficult task. But once the team is established, maintaining the necessary level of cooperation is the next goal as the stress of an event can create fractions. Such accomplished teamwork at this level required a strong leader—and Nahlaa Baraka was perfectly suited for this endeavor. Nahlaa has been involved in Arabian horse show management for a total of fifteen years. Her work began at the famous El Zahraa Stud in Egypt which included duties in the registration office. Then five years ago, she continued at Rabab Stud, in Giza, and with AHO. In addition to managing the AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt, she is also involved in scoring for the Organization.
My 2018 coverage of this show was my first experience both with AHO and with the Egyptian Arabian Horse Breeders Association (EAHBA), who supervised the event. As with any new experience, I did what I was hired to do which included observing and learning the system. Although my initial experiences and impressions were entirely favorable, there was one thing I found a bit unusual. Before and after the show, my communication with Nahlaa was continuous and frequent. However, during the entire three-day show, we never once met face to face. At the time I was puzzled by how this could have happened as the venue is a more intimate one. However, after getting to know Nahlaa and working further with her, I came understand how this was entirely possible. Nahlaa is one of the most dedicated show managers in which I have ever worked, and she does not generate attention for herself. Her work began early in the morning and continued long after Classes have ended. During show hours, she remained in constant motion as she monitored all facets of the show. She spent as much time “behind the scenes” with the technical team as in the VIP section ensuring the comfort of guests and officials.
The 2019 AHO Breeders’ Championship was executed as planned with not a moment wasted. As a manager, although Nahlaa stayed abreast of all details, she did effectively delegate responsibilities and was a team member. She empowered her peers with responsibility and trust. In turn, everyone seemed to execute his or her position with a high level of seriousness. Even the young men who were commissioned to award the Class and Championship trophies did so with great pride and attention to detail. Nahlaa earned the respect of a very talented team and as a result, created a very special show which will be remembered with fondness for a very long time.
For a FULL-SIZED gallery of Images by Lisa Abraham:
For show results:
For info on the Arabian Horse Organization:
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.