The Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses: 2016


by Lisa Abraham
April 3rd, 2016

In 2015, Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani, of Al Rayyan Farm, arrived at the US Egyptian Event, in Lexington, Kentucky, with a string of beautiful, world class straight Egyptian competitors. That year, not only did he sweep up all the ribbons, but also, after time away from the competition ring, he won the hearts of the American Egyptian community. It was also at this show where he and I struck up both a friendship and working relationship.

When Sheikh Hamad invited me to attend the 2016 Qatar International Arabian Horse Show and the Al Rayyan presentation of horses, I was thrilled with the opportunity to make a contribution. As my research began, I found that much like the Arab culture, the history of Al Rayyan Farm was far better known through the people who had been associated with it as opposed to formal references. However, with gratitude to Judith Forbis who enjoyed, from the very beginning, a close relationship with Al Rayyan, I was able to obtain a pamphlet that she had written with the former owner, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalid Al Thani, as promotional piece for the farm. It contained the following:


Al Rayyan Farm was established to preserve the pure Arabian horse and to continually enhance its beauty and quality as praised by the Arab poets and breeders of the past. To me, the Arabian horse is a symbol of beauty and strength. The Farm is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha, the capital of the State of Qatar which lies in the Arabian Gulf east of Saudi Arabia and close to Bahrain and the Emirates.

I established this farm in 1987 with one horse. For ten years I have been personally selecting superior stock from around the world. Today I have about sixty horses. All are straight Egyptians. They descend from the horses of Arabia acquired in the 19th century by Egypt’s H.R.H. Mohammed Ali, Ibrahhim Pasha and Viceroy Abbas Pasha I, the great breeder who called the world’s attention to these horses. We, the Qataris, have been intent on returning the best of these bloodlines to our country. I believe we are a jump ahead of the rest of the Arab World in recapturing this heritage.

I am satisfied with the level I have reached with my collection so far. Like all true breeders, I am continually seeking ways to improve quality and achieve even greater heights. The three most important factors I consider in breeding Arabians are: purity, beauty and type. The Arabian horse is part of the Arab world’s history and tradition, Qatar’s in particular. I consider it is the Arab’s duty and responsibility to preserve the breed and improve its beauty as well as to further its importance worldwide.

~Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalid Al Tahani, 1998


The 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses

By Lisa Abraham


On Monday, March 13th at 9:30 in the morning a very international community gathered to enjoy a presentation of one of the most important straight Egyptian herds in the world—and it was spectacular!  Attendance was not only outstanding, but it was also an appropriate tribute to the host of the presentation, a person whose work as a breeder and as a community member has made one of the most influential contributions to the modern Arabian horse, both in the show ring and in breeding barns throughout the world: Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani.

Upon my initial arrival to Al Rayyan, I was honored to be personally escorted by Sheihk Hamad around the farm—moments I will never forget. Without a doubt, Sheihk Hamad is one of the most respected breeders in the world. But as a newer journalist, I felt my words could not qualify to give him justice. So I invited two far more appropriate individuals to share their feelings:


Great friendships endure tests and time.  That can be said of my friendship with Sheikh Hamad.  Through all the ups and downs, sickness and health, distance and  time apart, my friendship and bond with Sheikh Hamad has remained and is unbreakable.  He has such dignity and humility.  I asked him once his secret to his joy in life and he told me he recognized how none of it was due only to his effort, he was just plain lucky.  He expanded that to his life, his country and his horses — he really felt each were unusually blessed and took nothing for granted.  Our shared love of so many things brought out a connection where instinctively we knew the other was on to something.  So many of the horses we have been a part of were due in part to that instinct. The mares we bought, the breedingSheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thanis done--so much was based on a trusted friendship.  Like him, I feel blessed.  To have been part of Al Shaqab with him and now for him to ask me to be part of Al Rayyan is the continuation of a privilege. And lastly, it is not only me that is fortunate to have a friend like Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani, the world has been better because of him.

Michael Byatt, Michael Byatt Arabians (USA)


Whenever I think of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani I have to smile.  His smile is the first thing that comes to my mind - he is always smiling and laughing - a true free spirit.  His enjoyment of life is contagious. When we first met in the early 90's, the Emir of Qatar had just created his new Arabian horse farm, Al Shaqab, and Sheikh Hamad was busily acquiring the finest Arabian horses to begin the program.  When he attended the Egyptian Event along with several of his friends, his presence was immediately known.  He was everywhere at once.  Steering his golf cart with Qatari Flag flying  - he went zooming all over the Kentucky Horse Park and stopping to greet people along the way and visiting all the stalls to see the horses.  Nobody who attended those Events will ever forget him.  As time wore on, his keen eye for a show horse as well as breeding stock brought Al Shaqab to the forefront with unprecedented speed. Whenever an Al Shaqab horse won, he took the lead from the trainer (usually Michael Byatt) and ran the victory lap.  He loves his horses and has always been a good horseman and showman. He is also a bit of a prankster too.  I have always admired - and still do - his indefatigable energy and dedication to the horses under his management.  In the early years of our friendship he often came to the Ansata farm in Arkansas with his friends and we shared fun and good times.  Many things have changed in the Arabian horse world since then.  I hadn't seen him for a while, but last year when Cynthia Culbertson and I were in the Doha airport I heard a loud - "Hi Judi!"  There was Sheikh Hamad - smiling away - running to greet us - an airport cart waiting nearby to whizz him to his gate!  I prayed he would not be driving it.  The Arabian horse world is blessed with certain unique individuals who have made a difference and major contribution to the breed.  Sheikh Hamad is one of those who has made a "really big difference" indeed. 

Judith Forbis, Ansata Arabian Stud (USA)


The Farm

Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani is leading Al Rayyan into a new era of breeding and competition in the world of Arabian horses. Al Rayyan Stud is not only one of the most famous Straight Egyptian farms in the world, but it is also one of the oldest breeding farms in Doha, Qatar. At this time, Al Rayyan is home to 103 straight Egyptians: 47 mares--34 of which are confirmed in foal; and four stallions--one of which is on lease from Al Shaqab Stud. Additionally, Sheikh Hamad is wasting no time in building a beautiful new facility both for the horses and for those who tend to them, while at the same time, maintaining a strong breeding regime. It was amazing to hear the rate of construction within the last six months, let alone the enhancements that were being made on a daily basis, right before our very eyes—an impressive accomplishment!


The People

Al Rayyan functions by the cooperative efforts of a close knit team. The farm employs just under fifty hard working individuals and is managed by Santi Fornieles, from Argentina; while Alessio Scaramello, from Italy, is the head trainer. Michael Byatt and Luca Oberti, whose names are both well known, complete this team with years of competition and training experience at the highest levels internationally. Additionally, when not working together in Doha, Luca represents Al Rayyan in Europe, while Michael represents Al Rayyan in North America.


The 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses The 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses The 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses


The Presentation

The presentation took place in a gorgeous outdoor arena with near white footing that had literally just been constructed within weeks--to days--of the event. Due to the well thought out design, viewing was outstanding from any position. On one side of the arena, guests sat luxuriously in Havana style covered booths, while others enjoyed viewing from elevated positons. In a tapas style, several courses of fruits and traditional foods and drinks were served to the comfort and enjoyment of all.

In attendance were several of our most influential breeders such as HH Sheikh Nawaf bin Nasser Al Thani, of Al Nasser Stud; Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, of Al Waab Farm; and Mr. Mohammed J. Al Marzouk & Mr. Mahmoud Al Zubaid, both of Bait Al Arab, the Kuwait State Stud. Furthermore, important international Medias were present as well, such as the Arabian Horse World/ (USA) and Tutto Arabi (Italy). The Pyramid Society (USA) was also represented by Anna Bishop, its Executive Director.

The presentation began with Bart van Buggenhout at the helm. Bart, who is currently the farm manager for Aljassmiya (Qatar/USA), has a long history with Al Rayyan. Bart began, “Al Rayyan Farm is a program of world class straight Egyptian horses. It was founded thirty years ago by Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalid Al Thani, a cousin of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.  Just like many of us, Sheikh Abdulaziz loved horses from the time he was a child. He began by buying horses, slowly--here and there an individual.  Although it is not well known, his first horses where not straight, but of mixed blood lines. It was over the course of a few years and a visit to Egypt that he realized he wanted to be a breeder of straight Egyptian Arabians. Over a twenty year period he bought and imported close to 130 horses for Al Rayyan; while over a thirty year period, he bred close to 400 horses. 

“Although Sheikh Abdulaziz has since retired from his breeding program, he wanted to keep the herd intact so as to not see his work fall to pieces. In 2014, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani bought the collection and in 2015, placed it under the management of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani--whom we all know from his great success at Al Shaqab as the breeder of the great stallions: Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab.”

The horses were presented by strain, beginning with the Saklawi family, followed by representatives of the Hadban Enzahi family, the Abeyyan family, and finally, the Dahman Shahwan family. The mares and babies were presented first. We saw daughters of Ansata Nile Pasha, Gad Allah, Sinan Al Rayyan, El Thay Shah Mabrouk, Ansata Selman, Safir Al Rayyan, NK Hafid Jamil, Ansata Nile Echo, Ansata Almurtajiz, Ansata Sokar, Al Adeed Al Shaqab, Ansata Hejazi and Fares Al Rayyan. However, most prominent and special were the many beautiful daughters sired by the great Ashhal Al Rayyan, who just passed away in 2015. The legacy this stallion left through the quality of his daughters has insured that his memory and genetic power will always be synonymous with Al Rayyan. The stallions followed which completed a morning that will be remembered by many for years to come.

Bart concluded, “For fourteen years, I worked at Al Rayyan Farm, first as trainer and later as the stable manager. It was here that I learned about straight Egyptian horses and horse breeding in general. Without question, Sheikh Abdulaziz is my hero and mentor in horse breeding. I hope you all enjoyed this wonderful presentation of horses and see how Al Rayyan is continuing its program as one of the finest Straight Egyptian programs in the world. There are not that many left so I hope you all appreciate the effort of those who continue to produce and keep it a reality.”



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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 as a Premier Contributor and Representative. She is also a breeder of Straight Egyptian Arabians.