By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on May 11th, 2008 in Saudi
It was already two in the afternoon when our van stopped at the house of Faddan Ibn ‘Ufaytan, the owner of the marbat of Ma’naghi Hadraji I had heard so much about.
We had spent the entire morning looking at the horses of the Sherabiyin, in the villages of Tall al-‘Arab al-Gharbi and Tall al-‘Arab al-Sharqi, formerly Kurdish villages of North-Eastern Syria, now settled by a majority of Arab sheep-herders turned farmers. The modern-day Sherabiyin constitute a loose tribal grouping of Bedouins of humble descent and disparate origins, with a solid reputation as cattle thieves and petty robbers. Bedouins from more noble tribes do not typically hold them in high esteem as a group, and jokes about the Sharabiyin’s dubious sense of truth abound.
Our host, Dahir al-Salih was a Sharabi from Tall al-‘Arab al-Gharbi, which everyone called by its more common Kurdish name: Garhok. Dahir’s sons and his extended family made a living by training horses for long distance racing. The traditional sport was quickly transforming into a profitable industry, fueled by rising demand for endurance horses from Damascus and the Gulf countries. Dahir was making good money, and his horses were fat.
Our party included two friends from Aleppo, both horsebreeders, Radwan Shabareq and Kamal Abd al-Khaliq, in addition to Hazaim and I. Radwan and Kamal boarded their horses at Dahir’s, and visited them every once in a while. Hazaim and I were visiting Dahir for the first time.
Dahir proposed to take us to see the horses of Ibn ‘Ufaytan, about an hour drive from his place. The evening before, I had been struck by a young bay colt from Ibn ‘Ufaytan at Dahir’s, probably the best Asil stallion I had seen over the course of this trip to the Upper Jezireh, the Mesopotamian steppe. The yearling was returning from evening training, as the sun was setting on the hilltpos of nearby Turkey, and his sight as he drew near us, prancing and dancing, his head and tail set so high that they almost touched his rider, had on me the effect of a vision…
[to be continued, and a photo of young Hakim coming soon]