Muhammad Eid Al-Rawwaf, Consul of Najd and Hijaz in Damascus and the Albert Harris imports: a new find

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 20th, 2015 in Saudi

This fascinating article (in Arabic) reveals that King Abd al-Aziz Aal Saud, upon founding the Kingdom of Najd, Hijaz and its dependencies (which in 1932 became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) entrusted the responsibility of representing his Kingdom before other Arab countries to members of the Agheylat corporation (see below about them). This makes a lot of sense since the Agheylat had developed deep commercial ties with many of these countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, where they maintained trading offices.

Sheykh Fawzan al-Sabiq, the King’s first ambassador to Egypt (in 1926), appears as the most famous of these early Agheylat diplomats, according to the article. His brother Abd al-Aziz was indeed a horse merchant established in Egypt. Other early Saudi diplomats from the Agheylat include Mansur al-Rumayh, Hamoud al-Barrak, al-Rabdi and al-‘Usaymi.

The most pleasant surprise, and one that will enable us to shed further light on the history of several desert-bred Arabians imported to the USA, is the inclusion of the name of Muhammad Eid al-Rawwaf among these diplomats hailing from Agheylat families. He appears as the governor of Jeddah in the 1930s, before being appointed as the Saudi representative to Baghdad. He belonged to an influential family of Agheylat from Buraydah.

Arabian horse historians will remember a “Mohamed Ed El Rouaf”, Consul of the Sultanate of Hijaz and Najd as the signatory of the export papers of the four imports of Albert Harris, *Nufoud, *Dahma, *Tairah, and *Samirah, in 1932, and as the registered breeder of *Sunshine. I was able to find his trace online, in several places. This newspaper article identifies members of the Rawwaf family as the King’s agents in “Sham” (Greater Syria), meaning Lebanon and Syria. This article references a book which contains a picture of the members of the first Saudi study-abroad group of students, and it includes Muhammad Eid Al-Rawwaf. Finally, a Wikipedia entry identifies Muhammad Eid al-Rawwaf as the King’s Consul in Damascus (there was no embassy then since Syria was not an independent country but a French protectorate), but does not provide dates. Finally, I found the gold prize: the Arabic text of a letter, published in Amin Rihani’s book “Correspondence between King Abd al-Aziz Aal Saud and Amin Rihani” (Dar Amwaaj, Beirut, 2001). Here is the text of the letter (quick English translation mine):

In the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate

To the dearest friend, the honorable Mr. Amin Effendi Al-Rihani

Salutations and respects; after which, I extend to you wishes of health, strength and prosperity, and send you the attached three certificates concerning the mares Samirah, Dahna, and Nufoud, after I finalized them and sealed them; the reason for my delay in sending them to you stems from the difficulty of getting the French Consulate to stamp them. I am also returning to you the four certificates that came from the High Diwan in your name. Please send my regards to Mr. Yussef Effendi, and to his son the writer, and to the family, and I conclude my message by thanking you for your brotherly feelings, please accept the expression of my utmost respect.

Muhammad Eid Al-Rawwaf

Damascus, 18 Jumada al-Awwal 1351 H, corresponding to 18 September 1932.

I wonder where the actual certificates are. I would not be surprised if they were among his family papers in Rihani’s museum in the village of Freikeh, Lebanon. Below, a picture of Muhammad Eid Al-Rawwaf (in Arab dress), surrounded by Consuls of Spain, Italy, Austria and Belgium in Damascus, at the reception held by the French High Commissioner in Damascus (who is the military man in white, to the right) on the occasion of the French National Holiday, July 14th, 1930. The picture is from the Emirati newspaper Al-Bayan.



21 Responses to “Muhammad Eid Al-Rawwaf, Consul of Najd and Hijaz in Damascus and the Albert Harris imports: a new find”

  1. I am off to getting that Amin Rihani correspondence book. I can’t wait any longer.

  2. What a gift! THANK YOU, Edouard!

  3. (The placement of my reply sounds like I am thanking Edouard for the book. Not so! I am thanking him for finding out this wonderful information about the Consuls, and the Harris horses. Definitely adding to the provenance of these Saudi horses!)

  4. Realizing all have done and do, you tour to Egypt has given much to you, and to the Asil. As always, thank for your abilities.
    Jackson Hensley / Bedouin Arabians

  5. Thanks once again, the Asil Arabian is all the better for your efforts!

  6. My analysis of the letter Rawwaf wrote to Amin Rihani is the following:

    It appears that Rihani acquired four mares from Ibn Saud, either for himself or Albert Harris, and that the mares had their certificates issued by Ibn Saud’s “office” (the High Diwan). It looks like the mares were sent from what was not the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia yet (and still the Sultanate of Najd and Hijaz) to Syria/Lebanon (then both under French authority), across the Arabian desert.

    They must have been sent to Syria/Lebanon without export papers, the entire border area between Nejd, Iraq, Syria and Trans-jordan then being one large track of desert land, freely crossed by tribes from all sides. From Syria/Lebanon, they were sent to the USA (probably through the port of Beirut). The US authorities seemed to have asked for the mares’ export documents out of Syria/Lebanon, and Rihani’s Saudi certificates clearly did not do the job. It appears then that Rihani wrote to the Saudi Consul in Syria asking for bona fide export papers, using Rihani’s certificates as reference. The Saudi Consul seemed to have struggled to provide export papers, because the French (the power ruling Syria) would not stamp or approve them, the horses having entered Syria unofficially/informally.

  7. and this amazing, Hollywood-worthy story of a father and son from the Rawwaf family (in English):

  8. The letter to Rihani clearly states that the four Harris imports had certificates/hujaj from the High Diwan.

  9. The book of correspondence between Rihani and the Saudi monarchy did not yield anything new. I did find the text of the above letter, but there are no hujaj or further documents appended to it. Either the original hujaj from the High Diwan were separated from the letter, and could not be reproduced, or the editor, who appears to Rihani’s nephew, did not opt to publish the hujaj, in view of their limited interest to the general reader. In the latter case, they must be among Rihani’s papers in his home-turned-museum in the mountains of Lebanon.

  10. Thanks Edouard for this fascinating thread. Much to learn here.

    As to the travel path of the Albert Harris horses from the King of Hedjaz and Nejd, in his book “The Blood of the Arab, The World’s Greatest War Horse”, Albert Harris writes:

    “…three mares and a colt came to us from King Ibn Saud of the Kingdom of Hedjaz and Nejd in Arabia. These mares were shipped by boat from Jedda on the Red Sea to the Bay of Akaba, ridden across Syria, and shipped from Beirut to New York and they reached in Wisconsin after this long, tedious journey with as clean limbs and as bright eyes as through they had just walked across the road.”

  11. Thanks for providing this extra information on their path Joe. I was not aware that Jedda was the point of departure. I wonder why, since the direct desert route is overland. Perhaps it was the northern borders were not secure then (the Harris horses were exported towards the end of the Ikhwan revolt, where large sections of the Mutayr, the Ataybah and the Ajman were still not subdued, at least Sultan ibn Bijad had not surrendered yet); perhaps because the Harris imports did not come from the royal studs of Najd but rather from that of Taif (near Jeddah). Perhaps they were even a part of the Sharif Husayn stud in Mecca, which had been conquered by Ibn Saud in 1925.

  12. Hi there,
    Just a thought of suggestion regarding the shipping logs and where may the additional information on the horses be located for international importation; it seems the White Star Line & Red Star Lines were the International Mercantile Marine Lines of the times- would the preservation of these logs (ie: maritime); include these horses as “cargo”? Just a thought.
    I do have information of all their “ports” in the late/mid 20’s, of which seems to include many of the locations that would reasonably bring these animals from the east to the west (yes, from NY then to WI as well)

  13. …further has anyone reviewed these, not sure if the information may be included although may bring consideration:

    Horse of the Desert, W.R. Brown

  14. Did anyone ever have access to the Harris imports export documents?

  15. Hi, this is completely off topic from your post, but I was trying to find the post that you wrote ages ago, on the Kuhaylan Wati stallion that was sold to Iraq for meat.
    We are trying to know more about this, but hardly anything is official in the middle east.


  17. Thank you, is there any way that we could get information as to where these slaughterhouses are, so any of these horses could be rescued ?
    Thank you

  18. From what I understood, that was next to the old US base in Tall Afar.

  19. Thank you for that, but unfortunatley not much can be done, as Tall Afar is in Mosul, which has been invaded by ISIS. Its devastating what these people have done to everything precious to the Arabs, there homes, their families. And even their Asil horses. Mr Al Dahdah, if your contacts still have horses they cannot keep, there are people in Iraq who can give them the best of homes, well know breeders who breed only the rarest and most pure of horses. One of them is a breeder of Kuhaylat om arqub.
    Thank you

  20. This is nice to hear. But where in Iraq? around Baghdad or in the South?

  21. About 2 hours from Baghdad, near Kut, in Al Hayy.

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