By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on June 22nd, 2010 in General
One more issue of Joe’s inisghftul articles about Egyptian foundation horses in the Arabian Essence magazine, this time about the matriarch El Dahma of Ali Pasha Sharif, her ever growing worldwide influence through some of her most famous descendents.
Joe, in the spirit of discussing your article here, I am intrigued about your statement on ”the rule book standard of an ideal Arabian horse”. I am sure you are not talking about how you personally view these horses, but rather about how the lay Western eye tends to see them — and in that case, indeed I would entirely agree with you.
It is thrice disheartening to realize that (a) that such a rule book standard even exists in the Western eye; (b) that a single group of horses — the descendents of El Dahma — is generally perceived as embodying it ; (c) to see the extent to which the Western eye has succeeded in defining what an Arabian horse ‘ought to’ look like.
In the 1980s, the late Edward Said, of Columbia University, and one of the most influential Arab intellectuals of his generation, developed the concept of “Orientalism’: a theoretical construct with practical applications, referring to the West’s produding its own knowledge about the East — in this case, about what ideal Arabian horses ought to look like — and then mainstreaming it as the Easterners’s own standard knowledge, soemtimes even imposing it on them, thus creating another reality.
As a wise Syrian horsebreeder, who will go unnamed — once told me, when showing me his 150-plus herd of mares, all unique: “Westerners think there is only one ideal Arabian horse type, and are desperately after mass-producing this one type. I think there are 150 ideal types”.
Years ago, I once visited a stud that breeds some of the most valued Arabians alive today. Wonderful, magical animals. Glorious cookie cutters. I was genuinely unable to differentiate one from the other. Homogenized perfection. I remember crying on the way back.