Signs of purity in Arabians

By Yassine Jamali

Posted on February 23rd, 2018 in General

A lot has been said about “secret” signs, which Bedouins used to recognize and evaluate the purity of a horse. Rszewuski mentioned them, claiming that he possessed an empirical knowledge of these signs, shared by his Bedouin friends. Nothing about these was found in  his personal archives after his death.

Was he boasting ? Is this all a matter of tradition and superstition without any scientific basis? Or do we have lost an irreplaceable treasure thousands years old? Can we find and collect some of this knowledge, if not all of it , and use it to select and improve the asil Arabian and perhaps other horse breeds ?

There is very little I can bring to that topic, and most of it is about the sloughi, the North African sighthound. A lot of signs exist in this breed, constituting a real and valid standard. For example, the prominent occipital bulge, the terminal ring of the tail, the marks on the metatarsal bones, the amount of fur in some places of the face … Some of these signs are very useful clues aboupt stamina, speed and the general quality of the sighthound.

Back to horses, I met a renowned horseman in Goundam (Mali), who knew a lot about horses. He was able to say if a horse was a sprinter or a long distance runner after a quick examination. He was able to determine the arrival order of a pack of horses in a 15 km race . Now what does remain of such knowledge? Did Lady Stanhope or Carl Raswan or other pioneers collect it from oral to written? And what can we do to save this treasure ?

El Sud El Aaly – 1957 Egyptian stallion in Morocco.

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 22nd, 2018 in General

Two rare photos of Egyptian stallion El Sud El Aaly (Nazeer x Lateefa), born in 1957 at the Egyptian Agricultural Organization and gifted to the King Mohamed V of Morocco in 1960. Original post from the Facebook group Straight Egyptian Arabian horses in Morocco through Sheila Cone and Olivier Wibihal. A full brother to Hansi’s Serenity Ibn Nazeer (aka Lateef).


Shibam on my mind

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 21st, 2018 in General

My favorite city in the entire world: Shibam, in Yemen, the “Manhattan of the desert”, and it’s six-centuries old mud skyscrapers. One day, I will go back there, and give back to Yemen and its wonderful civilization and people a sliver of what it has given me.

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Imru’ al-Qays on crested necks 1,500 years ago

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 15th, 2018 in General

“And a crest like a tall frankincense tree set on fire by an offender”

(“wa-saalifatun ka-sahuuqi al-Labaani adrama fihi al-ghawiyyu al-su’uru”)

The vision of a blazing frankincense tree is fitting for a chestnut horse.



Below, a frankincense tree:

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A 1935 aerial view of Damascus, Syria 

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 13th, 2018 in General

To the upper right is Bab Tuma, one of Damascus’ Christian neighborhoods, with the Armenian Catholic church standing out. In the upper left is the neighborhood of al-‘Amarah. In the lower right is the Jewish quarter, ‘hayy al-Yahud’. Note the inner courtyards of many of the houses. In the center, the Mariamite church; in the center left is the prestigious Maktab ‘Anbar, which at the time the photo was taken was school for the Damascus elite, and before that the house of one of the city’s Jewish notables, ‘Anbar.

Below, the women’s courtyard of Maktab Anbar as it stands today.

The Arabian´s head: part 2

By Matthias Oster

Posted on February 10th, 2018 in General

The striking difference of the two stallions Dhahmaan Hoobeishi and Montasar demonstrate the large range of heads of the Arabian breed. The “modern” “dished” face with a pronounced jibha stands in opposistion with the more konvex profile of a “desert bred” stallion. There are many statements that the Bedouins did not favour horses with a dished profile, because it hinders air flow and results in horses not fit for speed and endurance. In order to investigate this further, I made an x-ray of Montasar´s head, that clearly shows, that this kind of profile of the head does not interfere with airflow at all. Montasar, by the way, was a fast and never tiring riding horse. There are also descriptions of the head of the Arabian by Upton and Raswan, indicating that a head with pronounced jibha was favoured for by the Bedouins.

More on this topic can be found in the following PDF (an excerpt from my book BEDOUIN HERITAGE – The World of the Arabian Horse)

The Arabian´s Head

The head of the Arabian horse – a controversial topic

By Matthias Oster

Posted on February 10th, 2018 in General

In order to start a discussion on the controversial topic of the Arabian´s head two photos of very different stallions of the Dahman Shahwan strain follow: the dark bay Dhahmaan Hoobeishi (Kuheilaan Umm Zorayr Al Dheleem X Dhahma Umm Wajnah) 1998 from the Royal Stud of Bahrain:

Grey straight Egyptian stallion Montasar (Madkour X Maymoonah) 1981 – 2009, breeder and owner the Seidlitz family, Germany:


Shuwaiman Al Rais, Bahraini stallion

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 9th, 2018 in General

This spring Wadha’s mate will be the Bahraini stallion Shuwaiman Al Rais, thanks to Jenny Lees. He is seen here competing in endurance at Windsor, UK.

Other recent photos that show the breadth of his chest, the length of his neck and that of his forelocks, the depth of his ribcage, the length of his hip, and his good disposition.

Subanet Jabbar SDA, 2007 Saqlawi Jadran stallion in Idaho

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 9th, 2018 in General

This spring will be the time to breed my Ginger, who is now at Bev Davison’s in Idaho. A strong contender is Bev’s junior stallion, Subanet Jabbar SDA (Summer Sonnet SDA x Bint Bint Subani by Ibn Saafaddan), a tail female Gulida, and an even blend of old Doyle and Babson bloodlines.

I find it almost miraculous that this female line of Saqlawis to Ghazieh has more survived 170 years outside the desert first in Egypt, then in England then in the United States, uninterrupted, in asil form.

Another Syrian stallion in Tiaret, Algeria

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 8th, 2018 in Algeria

Another stallion imported from Arabia to Tiaret. Click to enlarge.


Stunning “Syrian Stallion” from Tiaret, Algeria

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 8th, 2018 in Algeria

An absolutely superb male specimen of a Desert Arabian horse, in Algeria. The legend says “syrian stallion”, yet so far I was not able to match with him with any of the grey stallions the French imported to Algeria from the East.

Not Bango, not El Nil, not Sidi Gaber, not Aziz.  If you know him, let me know. Photo courtesy of Farid Chaoui, of Algeria.

A Lysander granddaughter

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 8th, 2018 in General

Those Lysander grand-daughters look like they came straight out of Arabia. So special. So stylish. They age well, too. It also helps that this one, Wotans Windancer (Wotan x Danceuse CF by Lysander) is a Wotan daughter. Note the fine mane and muzzle. I love the straight profile.

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Ears and Forelocks

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 8th, 2018 in General

The first picture features Dixie Cup (Prince Hal x Dixie), which must have had one of the nicest set of ears on an Arabian of Davenport bloodlines. Abu ‘Ubaydah’s “Book of Horses”, written ca. 803 AD, has more than eighteen description of horses’ ears, and of features Arabs appreciated in them, long, upright, pricked, finally shaped, with soft fur inside, like Dixie Cup’s.

The second photo is of Viola (Prince Hal x Cressida), and shows her beautiful flowing forelocks. Forelocks were really important to Arabs, and Abu ‘Ubaydah’s “Book of Horses” has no less than twelve descriptions for them. Ancient Arabs composed and recited poetry about forelocks, which they liked to be long, smooth, abundant and covering horse’s foreheads and even eyes, like Viola’s.

Dixie Cup



The entrance of the palace of Guzana

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 5th, 2018 in General

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These 1929 photo depict the entrance gate of the royal palace of Guzana (modern Tall-Halaf, in Northeastern Syria), capital of the Aramaean kingdom of Bit Bahiani. King Gabara of Guzana built the palace in the Xth century BC (so three thousand years ago).

The palace was discovered by Max Von Oppenheim (of “Die Beduinen” fame, for Arabian horse enthusiasts) in 1911, who dismantled it and took it to Berlin with other artifcats (below) where they was displayed in a museum especially dedicated to Tell Halaf.

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In 1943, a British warplane dropped a phosphorus bomb on the museum, which burnt down to the ground. The royal gate and all the other artifacts were smashed into dozens of thousands of pieces, some of which were stored away, awaiting their reconstitution.

Before leaving Syria, Oppenheim had casts made of the entrance gate of the palace (and some of its sculptures), which now form the entrance of the Aleppo Museum. I saw it there several times (below). The casts are a poor, plain copy of the originals.

Between 2001 and 2010, some 30 sculptures were painstakingly reconstructed from 27,000 fragments. The reconstruction of the palace gate will be completed in 2025. That’s 92 years after its destruction, 114 years after its discovery, and some 3,000 years after its building.

And below, a hunting scene from Tell Halaf, with a horse — just to stay on topic ;).


Hansi’s horses and her legacy

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 20th, 2018 in General

For several years, Hansi ran the same ad about Serenity Arabian Farms in the Khamsat magazine, featuring some of the several hundred horses she and her first and second husbands Bradford Heck and William Melnyk bred over the course of more than four decades.

I recall being in awe of three stallions in particular (photos from this ad below): Serenity Sharaf, with a depth of girth like no other stallion; his brother Serenity Lamir, who was an ode to balance, and above all, racehorse champion Serenity Mamlouk, whose photo below exudes power, balance, perfection of conformation, nobility and … these staring sparkling eyes.

Hansi was indeed a master breeder (and master breeders in this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand), with an eye to functional conformation like no one else’s. As a race horse trainer and an owner of horses that have excelled in halter, flat racing and endurance alike, she knew what makes a superior, athletic performance horse, and even more so, she knew how to breed one, working with a closed pool of Egyptian lines.

I am particularly worried about the fate of her immense and immensely precious collection of photos, letters, documents and books, in particular amidst persistent rumors of horse breeders foraging around her house and home office in Florida. I hope it is and it remains in safe and trustworthy hands, and that someone will eventually catalog it and archive it.

al-Quds, 1920

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 19th, 2018 in General

Farewell, Hansi

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 17th, 2018 in General

From an Al Khamsa news bulletin:

“The Arabian Horse community worldwide lost a fierce advocate this morning. Hanna Luise Heck-Melnyk, known to all as Hansi, passed away at 11:43am EST, Sunday January 14, 2018, at her farm in Hawthorne, Florida, at the age of 86. Founder of Serenity Arabians, Hansi has been a long time supporter of Al Khamsa, Inc. The summer 2018 issue of the Khamsat will feature Hansi, her breeding program, and her accomplishments.”

Hansi introduced me to western Arabian horse breeding and breeders, and instilled in me the passion of defending asil bloodlines. We met in 1994 and remained friends since. This page is a tribute to Hansi, her horses, her legacy, and her achievements.

Ten years of Daughters of the Wind

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 16th, 2018 in General

Ten years already. I can hardly believe it.

I feel so blessed for the old friends it has allowed me to keep in touch with, and the new friends it has allowed me to make, from around the world. Above all, I feel blessed for the collective knowledge and memory gathered here.

One day we will all meet face to face, from Germany and the USA and France and the UK and Chile and Hungary and Canada and Croatia and Tunisia and South Africa and Australia and Spain and Pakistan and Belgium and Morocco and Egypt and Lebanon and Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Iran and Israel and Palestine and many, many other places around the world.

And we can all already tell what will be on the menu of discussions.

Handsome Shueyman Redjem in France

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 2nd, 2018 in General

Don’t you love that strong, powerful neck and broad chest. Shueyman Redjem exudes power, and is reminiscent of his sire Murad Dahman (Ahshwan x Murad Hadiya by Ourki x Hamada) whom I rode across the fields and trails of Burgundy in the summer of 2010, with Jean-Claude Rajot. I also rode his dam Shueymah Sabbah (Mokhtar x Murad Haouda by Cherif x Hamada).


Ma’naqiyah, Bint Mach’al

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 29th, 2017 in General, Lebanon, Syria

Another daughter of Mach’al, this time a Ma’naqiyah named Cha’lah, also from an old strain of the Dandashi lords of Tal Kalakh. Sire of dam: al-Jazzar, a Kuhaylan Nawwaq; sire of granddam: Ghazwan, a Kuhaylan al-Kharas; pictured with a foal by a partbred stallion. Photographed by my father somewhere in Western Syria, most likely in Tal Kalakh in the late 1970s, and pedigree in his handwriting on the back of the photo.

How much I would give for just one of those mares now. There numbered in the low hundreds at the height of the Lebanese national program, before the civil war of 1975-1990. In 1991, there were only 25 mares left, most born between 1965 and 1975. Today, zero left in asil form.

Saqlawiyah, Bint Mach’al

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 29th, 2017 in Syria

An asil Saqlawiyah, daughter of Mach’al (and hence paternal sister of the stallion Achhal, the sire of the tree mares in the previous entries), from an old strain of the Dandashis (perhaps the Saqlawi Ibn Zubaynah strain tracing to Umm al-Tubul), photographed by my father in Tal Kalakh, Syria, in the late 1970s.

She was exported to Qatar during the Lebanese civil war. Many of the best asil Lebanese mares were sent to the Gulf countries, where they were wasted.

Nawwakiat Akkar, yet another Achhal daughter from Lebanon

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 28th, 2017 in Lebanon

This is Nawakiat ‘Akkar, a Kuhaylah Nawwaqiyah, and yet another Achhal daughter, born in 1976. She was the most valuable mare my father owned, and had established a dynasty of (part-bred) race winners of her own. She was a gift from Henri Pharaon at three years old, and was sold in 1992 to Henri’s cousin, Pierre Pharaon, along with Zenobia and a third mare (part-bred).

This was when my father was transitioning to “purebred Arab” horses of international lines, which he then felt were equally “asil”, and had just acquired two mares of predominantly Crabbet lines from Jordan, Ziba (Dancing Magic x Shazla) and Shela (El Batal x Siva).



Another daughter of Achhal from Lebanon

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 28th, 2017 in Lebanon

This mare, also a ‘Ubayyah, and also a daughter of Achhal, was the last two “asil” Lebanese mares. She was owned by Abd al-Hamid al-Halabi, who bred her to French stallions (non-asil) that my father had selected for Lebanon in 1992. She left no “asil” progeny as a result.

Like most everyone in the Middle East at the time (and until today), he had no idea at the time that the notion of “asil” and the Western notion of a “purebred Arab” registered in a studbook were not the same. Years after that, we eventually understood that not all “purebred Arabs” traced to Bedouin-bred horses in all their lines, but it was too late for the Lebanese breeding from an “asil” perspective. When the Lebanese studbook was accepted by WAHO, it already consisted of 25 or so elderly mares, and one gelding racehorse. Stallions had to be imported from aboard. This mare was one of the youngest, born in 1980 I believe. I think her name was Chahla, but I am not sure.

Zenobia, Ubayyah Sharrakiyah from Lebanon, 1991

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 28th, 2017 in Lebanon

Zenobia, born in 1977, was one of the prettiest asil mare in Lebanon, my father’s favorite horse, and a notoriously difficult producer. A ‘Ubayyah Sharrakiyah tracing to the marbat of Ibn Thamdan of the Sba’ah, with a regal pedigree that was linebred to Mach’al, the foundation stallion of Lebanese asil breeding. She left no asil progeny, and my father sold her in 1992 at the age of 15.

Sire: Achhal, a son of Mach’al; dam: Bint Su’ad; sire of dam: Wazzal, another son of Mach’al; dam of dam: Su’ad; sire of granddam: al-Jazzar; dam of granddam: Mash’al’s sister, a daughter of Shaykh al-Arab.

Desert bred horses in Syria, 1985-86

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 28th, 2017 in Syria

While scanning old photos this morning, I happened on these two photos. There is a story to them.

One evening in 1985 or 1986, a Lebanese visitor came to see my father in Beirut, and left the two photos behind. He spoke emphatically about his trip to the Syrian Jazirah (Upper Mesopotomia in North Eastern Syria today) and the desert-bred horses he had seen there. I was seven or eight years old, I did not catch much of the conversation but the photos made a lasting impression on me.

It was in the middle of the Lebanese civil war, communications between Syria and the part of Lebanon we lived in were infrequent and difficult, and most Lebanese horsemen involved in the Lebanese horse racing scene, including my father, were convinced that no more good, authentic, pure desert-bred horses were left in the Syrian desert, because of the degenerescence of the breed and its contamination by  part-bred Arabs from Iraq. “You will only find leftovers there”, my father was once told.

These photos and the visitor’s description showed otherwise, just at a time when the Syrian breeders were launching a large-scale effort to register all the horses of the Bedouins. Indeed, there were good desert-bred horses left, and that was the start of my interest in desert-bred Arabians.

I know nothing about the horse, his rider, or the exact place the photo was taken. I am not even sure if the photos show two separate horses, or just one.