Ode to the black lady — twenty years on

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on October 20th, 2015 in General

I was unpacking today and I found my negatives’ scanner in a box I had not opened in years. I also came across some old negatives from the days of our travels to Syria, my father and I, to see desert Arabian horses, so I scanned them. These times did not feel particularly blessed back then, just normal days off from high school or university. If only I knew how fleeting these moments were..

During one of these trips in the mid to late 1990s, veteran Alepine horse merchant Abdel Qadir Hammami took Radwan Shabareq, my father and I on a drive a couple hours outside Aleppo — now a lawless area infested with ISIS thugs — to see three mares that had just arrived from the desert. This was our chance to see something new and different from the stud farms of our breeder friends. Hammami had brought the three mares for an Alepine man, the owner of an ice cream store who did not know much about horses, but Hammami — then in his nineties — knew what he was getting him. It did not take long for the old man to admit that he had the mares smuggled from the other side of the border, from Iraq, in the hopes of having them registered them in the addendum to the Syrian Studbook. Back then there was already some talk of reopening the Syrian Arabian Horse studbook to desert-bred horses that had not been registered the first time, which was in the mid-nineteen eighties.

All three mares were first class, but one little black mare with a young colt by her side was in a league of her own. My knees started shaking under me as she was led outside her dark stall, an intense and rare feeling so well described by Bogdan Zietarksi upon seeing Kuhailan Haifi Or. Ar. near al-Jawf in 1931:

Finally I hear a neigh, they guide the stallions… they lead the bay Kuhailan Haifi. My legs buckled under me, it is just the horse I am looking for. Not large, dry, on splendid legs without any trace of cow hocks. A long neck, a noble head, although not very small, with distended, thin and moveable nostrils; a splendid high carried tail. I feel, the first time in my life, that during the purchase of a horse I am fainting…

I had not seen anything like this out of the desert before. I frantically pressed my father to purchase her on the spot. We asked how much the ice cream man wanted for her. “Five thousand dollars”, was his answer. He had no doubt taken note of my youthful excitement and spiked up the price accordingly. Five thousand dollars for an unregistered mare! I was advised to drop the matter and wait until the ice cream man needed money, “to let him simmer”, in local parlance.

Here she is. The black Kuhaylat Krush al-Baida of ‘Atallah al-Nassar al-Jarbah, a Sheykh of the Northern Shammar (but from a minor branch of the Jarbah leading clan), a strain he had received from his cousin and Shammar leader Mayzar Abdul Muhsin al-Jarbah, who in turn had gotten it from Ibn Rashid of the Shammar of Hail, who famously obtained it from the Mutayr Bedouins. She was the daughter of al-Asda’, the dark-bay Kuhaylan ‘Ajuz ibn Jlaidan (a Najd strain, originally from the Sharif of Makkah) of ‘Ali al-Basha, son of Basha al-‘Awasi, also a Jarbah Sheykh, who had received the strain from Bardan ibn Jlaidan. Her colt was by the Kuhaylan al-Sharif of Dawwas al-Saadi, another strain tracing back to the Sharif of Makkah. Old Hammami knew what he was getting. She was the essence of asil. The mother of all things asil.

She was eventually registered in the second batch of the Syrian studbook. Then she died. I don’t know what became of the colt, nor if she had other progeny. The human-like, passionate, soulful expression of her eyes still haunts me twenty years after, and I still feel I want to dive into them. She could start talking and I would not be surprised. How much I would give today to be owned by her.

Click on the photos to enlarge them. Her owner is in the second photo, and my father in the third, holding the rope.

kuhaylah al-krush of ice cream seller

kuhaylah al-krush of ice cream seller 2

kuhaylah al-krush of ice cream seller 3

kuhaylah al-krush of ice cream seller 4



7 Responses to “Ode to the black lady — twenty years on”

  1. Absolutely beautiful, Edouard. How sad to not know what happened to her and her colt and have descendants today.

  2. You are right. That top photo haunts me.

  3. oh, what eyes!! What a gift that you got to see her when you did.

  4. Her registered name is Sabhet Kaakah, born in 1982, by Al Asda’ (the Kuhaylan ibn Jlaydah of Basha Al Awassi) out of Al Dahmah, a 1972 black Kuhaylah Krush, herself by the Ma’naqi Hadraji of Al Ufaytan out of a K. Krush of Al Nassar Al-Jarbah.

    A desert bred pedigree from Syria does not get better than that.

  5. Dear Edouard, I just got round to checking the Syrian studbooks I have to hand, thought you might like to know that Sabhet Ka’kah registration number A02458 had a grey filly in 2003 called Maymounah, registered in volume 9 A03003, by Marzouq Al Thani (Shared/Esraa’), owner Mahmood Kaakah – Aleppo.
    She then had a chestnut colt in 2006 called Malak Al Zaman, registered in Volume 11 A04218, by Falah (Obayan Seheili/Malak), owner Mhd. Ratib Qentar, Damascus. I dont have the later volumes as yet.

  6. Oh, thank you, thank you!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your poignant story. It was so heartwarming to read. I hope you will find her offspring. I think it is so important to preserve the old Arabian horse, as it was originally meant to be. The modern Arabian horse type is gradually coming to look like an entirely different breed, perhaps not always to the benefit of the horse itself.

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