The 2022 Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship ~ Enrichment in Abu Dhabi!
The 2022 Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship
~Enrichment in Abu Dhabi!
By Lisa Abraham
Featuring images by Suaad Al Suwaidi
The 2022 Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship took place in Abu Dhabi on March 23-25. This show, which was dedicated to the Emirate private studs, was another huge event organized by the Emirates Arabian Horse Society (EAHS). In total, 342 horses representing 147 breeders competed valiantly for event honors and recognition.
At the UAE shows, the significant payoffs of winning amplify the level of competition for the breeders and owners who participate. For the Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship, the total prize money awarded to those who excelled was 4,3600,000 AED (1,187,040 USD/ 1,105,787 EUROS). 4,000,000 AED ($1,080,000 USD/1,006,074 EUROS) was designated for Class winners, while 360,000 AED ($97,000 USD/90,360 EUROS) went to the Champions. In addition to the added excitement of success, from a long-term perspective, prize money at this level should also create a higher incentive to breed with greater intent. Therefore, as much of the world’s most outstanding breeding originates from the UAE, the strategy has proven to be successful. The show was governed by the European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations (ECAHO) rules and included a panel of international judges:
Anna Stojanowska (POL), Antonia Bautista (ESP), Janice McCrea Wight (USA), Joanne Lowe (GBR), Karin Zeevenhoven (NLD), Luiz Rocco (BRA), Majed Al Mehyawi (KSA), Marek Trela (POL), and Mohamed Badrawy (EGY)
Although this was the 6th edition of the Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship, it was my first to attend. As such, it was a favorable learning experience from a “people” perspective. The large farms of the United Arab Emirates have some of the highest visibility in the world in terms of breeding current generations of champions and actual presence at shows. Breeders from this country participate and are seen on all continents which showcase the Arabian horse—and we all know who they are. But as this show was for private breeders and not the large studs, several of these individuals were able to show horses from their personal programs, apart from their influential roles at the larger studs. This was a perspective that I had not experienced before and thoroughly enjoyed.
Another aspect that raised the prominence of this show was that it was the start of three events occurring one right after the other. Directly following the Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship was the 39th Annual ECAHO AGM, which was hosted by EAHS in Abu Dhabi. As a result, ECAHO Executive Committee members and country delegates were arriving in Abu Dhabi, many of whom spent time enjoying the show, the hospitality, and our hosts. The Emirate season was finalized by the first edition of the Arab Breeders Show.
The 2022 ECAHO AGM
The 2022 ECAHO AGM took place on March 26-27—and it was SPECTACULAR! As mentioned, it was organized by EAHS, and believe me when I share, it was regal without a single detail overlooked. It took place in a large meeting hall in the five-star Emirates Palace Hotel. The Emirates Palace Hotel has become known as the epitome of luxury in Abu Dhabi—and for good reason. The hotel is one of opulence, and grandeur, and is lavished with amenities which include thirteen restaurants, a full-service spa, and beachfront cabanas. The main building of the hotel stretches over one kilometer and the gardens spread across 100 hectares. As a matter of history, the construction of the hotel began in December of 2001 and was open for business by November 2005. It cost around 11.2 billion AED (3 billion USD) to build which made it the third most expensive hotel ever built. In my coverage of the AGM, I asked the EC members to comment on their experiences, several of them commented on the accommodation at the hotel and were appreciative of the privilege to assemble there.
I must share that this was the first ECAHO AGM I have ever experienced—and I was incredibly captivated by the deliberations. At present, ECAHO is the largest, most influential, and most powerful governing organization in the world of Arabian horses. Although I know many in the ECAHO structure, it was impressive to see everyone in their official roles. Not only did I learn a great deal about some of the current official ECAHO concerns, but I enjoyed the process of deliberations as well. I have to say, from a conversational perspective, I felt comfortable in my knowledge of current ECAHO affairs. But after experiencing this AGM, my respect for the organization as well as the EC members and country delegates has been enhanced many times over.
At this point, for many of us, there are very few new faces. Although we assemble in various destinations around the world, we originate from even more. Our love and commitment to the Arabian horse bind us together in a way that can supersede differences—both large and small. We enjoy chats in between classes, over dinner, while passing in hallways, and so on…But quality time to really get to know one another is a rare luxury. However, when it is afforded, our relationships grow as we learn important, more personal details about one another. In this business, to stay current, great efforts must be made—daily. One of the things I find most interesting about my colleagues is the great sacrifices each makes to participate in this level of the Arabian horse lifestyle. As the various jobs we do can be so different, it is easy to allow oneself to believe it is easier for others. Therefore, when we get to know one another without the pressure of show responsibilities, we learn that we are all working hard to maintain our roles. To excel at this level requires sacrifice and extreme dedication—and those of us who continue to be invited give 100%, if not more. But, when our guards are relaxed and we can share more of our genuine selves—I believe this humanizes our perspectives of one another and therefore, enhances our abilities to work together as professionals. In addition to our work, EAHS provided us with several opportunities to learn about Abu Dhabi, while creating a stress-free social space for us to enjoy. I can share for myself, that through these times, I feel very fortunate to have met several people with who I hope to continue to grow in my personal social circle of friends and warm acquaintances.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the pinnacle attraction in Abu Dhabi. Not only is it the largest mosque in the UAE, but as it is a massive architectural achievement, it is also one of the largest in the world. It was constructed between the years of 1994 and 2007 and was launched under the guidance of late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for the purpose of uniting the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with both historical and modern influences of architecture and art. As part of its construction, it intentionally includes different Islamic architecture styles and schools of thought. Unfortunately, Sheikh Zayed did not live to see it finished, but he was laid to rest in the Mosque’s courtyard.
The design of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque drew inspiration from many sources including the Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque in Alexandria, Egypt; the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan; and other sources including Persian, Mughal, and Indo-Islamic styles. Construction of the Mosque required more than 3,000 workers and 38 sub-contracting companies. Both materials and artisans came from India, Italy, Germany, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, North Macedonia, and the UAE. It features 82 domes, more than 1000 columns, and 24-carat-gold gilded chandeliers. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,100 worshippers. The main prayer hall can hold over 7,000, while there are two small halls with a capacity of 1,500 each.
Our excursion was scheduled for the late afternoon on March 26, after the ECAHO Committee Meetings had been completed. Upon arrival at the Mosque, we were greeted by a guide who lead us to a small auditorium for a lecture on the history of the mosque and protocol. There is a dress code for entrance, so we waited till everyone was appropriately attired. It was required that men were long pants, preferable loose-fitting; while women were required to wear long sleeves, long pants, or loose-fitting, full-length skirts or dresses. Although Muslim women typically wear a headscarf as well, those of us who were not Muslim were required to do so as well. Luckily, I had a long scarf that covered me appropriately. In the mosque itself, shoes were to be removed by all.
As VIP guests, we were taken on a special tour which allowed us a more intimate experience. Outside of the overall opulence, I was most interested in two features. The first was the carpet in the main prayer hall which is considered to be the largest in the world—and the scope of it was incredible. It was made by the Iran Carpet Company and was designed by Iranian Ali Khaliqi. The carpet, which consists of 70% wool and 30% cotton, is 5,700 square meters (60,546 square feet), weighs 12 tons, and took two years for 1,200-1300 artisans to complete. It also features 2.2 billion hand-tied, individual rug knots. The most prominent color of the rug is green, which was not only a favorite color of Sheikh Zayed’s but also, one of the colors in the UAE flag and it is considered to represent desert life. The perimeter of the rug is yellow/beige which was chosen to represent sand.
As our work requires world traveling and submersion into societies much different than our own, we have opportunities to learn about the rich cultures and beliefs of those with whom we work. Furthermore, for me personally, because words do not write themselves, additional research is always required. As a result, I would like to share an Islamic belief as it related to our visit. In the Qur’an, Allah uses many names and attributes to describe himself. There are 100 names, minus one, and therefore 99. Islamic belief teaches the importance of memorizing these names and living by their meanings. They are known as “Asmaa Allah al-Husna”, which translates to “The Most Beautiful Names of Allah”. Each name relates to a particular attribute of Allah and is believed to make Him easier to understand and relatable. Some examples include: “As-Salam” means “the Perfection and Giver of Peace”; Al-Lateef” means “The Subtle One or The Most Gentle”; and Al-Qawiyy” means “The All-Strong”.
Also within the main prayer hall of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, on the Qibla, which is the wall in the mosque facing Mecca, are featured the 99 names of Allah. The beautiful and organic artwork was done by a prominent UAE calligrapher named Mohammed Mandi. It was done in Kufic script, which is the oldest form of Arabic script, originating from the city of Kufa in Iraq. As a side note, it is believed that the first copies of the Qur’an were written in this script as well. In the large display, each name is enclosed within a design. However, of the designs, there are 100. The 100th one remains blank to symbolize Allah, which is the combination of all the names and the one that Allah kept for himself.
On Sunday, March 27th, after the AGM, we were invited to tour Qasr Al-Watan. Qasr Al-Watan, whose name translates to “Palace of the Nation”, is the Presidential Palace of the United Arab Emirates and is located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is the home to the formal offices of the UAE President, Vice President, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Its construction began in 2010 and was completed in 2017 and is 380,000 square meters (4,090,285 sq ft) in size. Originally it was used only for official purposes such as hosting foreign state leaders, and meetings by the country’s Supreme Council and the Federal Cabinet. However, on March 11, 2019, it was opened to the public. In 2020, Qasr Al Watan was nominated for the World Travel Awards as the main cultural tourist attraction in the Middle East.
To say the very least, Qasr Al Watan is SPECTACULAR. Its construction consists primarily of white granite and Limestone, which were chosen so it could last centuries and reflect heat, with intricate and sublime designs throughout. Its ornamentation is both grand and exquisite, and arranged for a perfect effect and/or meaning. In what is referred to as The Great Hall, there is a chandelier with 350,000 pieces of crystal—the chandelier is so large that it was shipped in pieces and had to be assembled on-site. It also has spaces inside which are large enough for a person to perform repairs. The Great Hall has a 900-person capacity.
Although I enjoyed my time at the Qasr Al-Watan immensely, there was a personal added benefit to my experience. It has been years since I enjoyed photography outside of my work at Arabian horse shows. In fact, I rarely touch my camera in between events, other than to prepare it for an upcoming job. There had been many times in my life when I photographed everything, just for the sheer joy of the challenge, as well as the results of my labor. But over time, my passion became only work and I lost interest in photographing anything other than horses. I was not asked to work on this excursion, but I wanted to give something back—so I took my big camera. Although I primarily used it to document our time together, I did take a few reference shots as I loved the designs in the tiles. When I returned to the hotel, I felt impressed with the quality of these images, as opposed to that of cell phones which most of us use for casual memory photos. Upon seeing these images, I immediately wished that I had used more energy to properly photograph a few more of the amazing sites within this structure. But all the same, it did awaken within me a passion, that has long been asleep—and I am grateful.
EXPO 2020 Dubai
Expos are international gatherings created to encourage solutions to fundamental challenges facing humanity by creating a platform for a global dialogue to encourage progress and cooperation. They are hosted, organized, and facilitated by governments with the purpose of bringing together countries and/or international organizations to participate in a chosen theme or themes through engaging in immersive activities. Under the patronage of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), there are four types: World, Specialized, Horticultural, and Triennale di Milano.
World Expos, formally known as International Registered Exhibitions, are the largest and most elaborate of the four types. They are allowed to occur once every five years and can last up to six months. Participants include countries, international organizations, civil societies, and corporations. The themes are created to address universal challenges facing humanity. All international participants design and build their own pavilions with the purpose of cultural education in accordance with the designated theme. World expos are massive in scale, sometimes covering 300-400 hectares (741-988 acres). Participating countries and organizations can also set up huge pavilions, sometimes between 5000 and ten thousand square feet. The first World Expo was in London in 1851, since that time, there have been thirty-four, with the most recent being Expo 2020 Dubai. The Expo 2020 Dubai covered a land space of 438 hectares (1080 acres/4.3 million square meters), hosted 200 pavilions and 191 participating countries, and welcomed 24 million visitors.
On the morning of March 28th, two luxury buses left Abu Dhabi filled with EAHS international guests for a day on the last week of the Expo 2020 Dubai. Travel time was about an hour and a half and was pleasantly spent with colleagues with whom conversations are normally shared in between classes and exhausted over dinners after full days in the ring. Upon arrival, we were given a special tour with the purpose of teaching us the layout and sharing recommendations on options to enjoy the day. It was adamantly expressed that it would be impossible to see everything, so we were advised to study the map and pick out a few attractions which could be reasonably experienced within our time frame.
As a large group, we first toured the beautiful UAE pavilion. Then, after a group photo, we broke off into smaller sets to enjoy the Expo at leisure. Without any planning, six of us found our way together and experienced a most enjoyable day. Our group consisted of Renata Schibler and Sinan Odok from Switzerland, Zuzana Slavikova from the Czech Republic, Elizabeth Chat from Austria, and Alain Chatton from France. The day was warm and as it was the last weekend, it was crowded and the lines to enter the pavilions were long. However, thanks to an early lucky discovery, we learned that a passport to a country’s pavilion got visitors in immediately and thus lines could be avoided. Therefore, as none of us had any interest in spending the day waiting, we decided to visit the pavilions of each other’s countries, for which there was enough time to comfortably accomplish. We finalized our time together in a nice little restaurant in the New Zealand Pavilion where we ordered Kiwi burgers and sweet potato fries. Although I enjoyed our ongoing discussions in which subject matters were fluid, I felt a sense of enrichment hearing everyone’s opinions regarding different cultural observations and opinions. In all, the day was one of learning and of forming new friendships which can build as we continue to have opportunities to work together.
I would like to close this coverage with a very special experience. I was to depart for home on the evening of Friday, April 1. Although a driver was scheduled to pick me up at a certain time, there was confusion and, as a result, no one arrived to take me to the airport. Of course, this was just an error, but all the same, after a period I began to get anxious about making my flight. Ebrahim Basheer, one of the young, energetic, and enthusiastic members of the EAHS team, arrived at the hotel. As the Senior Relations and Communication Officer, he was present for an entirely different purpose. However, when he realized that my transportation had not arrived, he loaded my luggage into his vehicle and took me himself to the Dubai airport—an hour and a half from where we were in Abu Dhabi. If that were it—I would have to share that it was more than enough as transport was not his responsibility. However, as we traveled, it was our discussion that, once again, validated the outstanding dedication this team has to their work.
As a side note, I would like to comment on the fact that I have no idea when anyone who was working with-or-for EAHS slept. The weeks previous had been spent completely immersed in the planning and organization of three events—to executing them. Throughout the events, they were present and working—the first to arrive and the last to leave. Then throughout the nights, it was common to receive messages regarding details such as the schedule, statistics, and the up-to-the-minute promotion which was constantly being developed and sent with instructions to post—and often in both English and Arabic. So, it would be a fair assumption that Ebrahim was sleep-deprived and exhausted when he volunteered to ensure my departure.
After a few moments of silence, and as my anxiety began to subside, we began to chat. Ebrahim and I had not spent time together before, so our initial conversation was just light chit-chat. But then as our comfort level grew, so did the content of our conversation. Despite his exhaustion, Ebrahim was still so excited by their accomplishments of the previous two weeks. The AGM was a huge international success, and everyone knew it. Ebriham spoke with great passion about the preparations and the work that went into hosting such an event which included detailed logistics for numerous guests from all over the world. But then he wanted to know how I felt and what I thought—and waited patiently to enjoy the sincere praise I felt for all their efforts and endeavors. Our conversation moved to the shows and even the Expo, but throughout, his joy at knowing how happy everyone had been was priceless. As a professional in the business of Arabian horses, I am proud to work with such a dedicated group of people who are committed to high achievement—and success.
For a FULL-SIZED gallery of Images of the Emirates Arabian Horse Breeders Championship by Lisa Abraham:
For a FULL-SIZED gallery of Images of the 2022 ECAHO AGM in Abu Dhabi by Lisa Abraham:
For Arabian Essence TV show coverage and results:
Suaad Al Sawaidi is the first Emirate and Arabic female wildlife photographer. Her work has been featured in National Geographic and is admired internationally.
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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.