The young colt of Ibn Ghurab

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on November 19th, 2008 in Syria

I first saw Mubarak in 1989 when an old truck disembarked a batch of three horses at the farm of Hisham Ghurayyib in Damascus, Syria.  I was told that the truck had just come from the desert area of al-Jazirah, “Upper Mesopotomia”. It was my first encounter with Arabian horses born and raised in the desert. I was 11. 

My father was breeding Asil Arabians back then and I was familiar with the first generation offspring of desertbred horses, or horses born on the fringes of the desert, but I had never seen the “real thing”. My very first reaction was one of disappointment.  Not only were the three horses – a black Kuhaylat al-‘Armush mare, a fleebitten Kuhaylat ibn Mizhir mare, and a chestnut Hamdani Ibn Ghurab stallion – tiny, they were worn out, and extremely thin. They feet were badly damaged, and the hooves were so overgrown that the poor horses could badly walk. Were these the “horses of the desert” (khayl sahraa)? 

My father had given me his Nikon and asked me to take photos of all the horses, while he was checking them out and asking about their origins. I took a rapid photo shot of the Hamdani colt, then two years old, partly for the record, and partly because of his shiny chesnut coat, and a twinkle in the eye. There was something about these wet and shiny eyes that I couldn’t quite get: either the horse was in pain and about to cry (I was only 11, okay?) or it was the expression of a contained determination bordering on anger. I was in awe and kept a respectable distance between the two of us. 

Two years later, I saw the same horse at Basil Jad’aan’s farm outside Damascus. He had bought the horse from this Shammar Bedouin breeder, and had him carried to Damascus in the same truck as the two Ghurayyib mares. The horse was scheduled to stay at the Ghurayyib farm for a few weeks when I first saw him.

Meanwhile two years of good care and attention had elapsed, and the horse was transformed. But he still had that twinkle in the eye, and then 13 year-old me finally got it: the look was the expression of pride. The young colt was now a stallion. I took a photo (below). 

The name of Basil’s chestnut stallion was Mubarak (“the blessed one”). He was his herd sire, and Basil was justifiably proud of him. He was a Hamdani Simri from the marbat of Abd al-‘Iyadah al-Dar’aan al-Ghurab (“Ibn Ghurab” for short), the shaykh of the Bhayman section of the Shammar tribe. This strain is perhaps one of the two or three most prestigious strains of the Shammar of Mesopotamia. [I’d put it on par with ‘Ubayyan Suhayli and Kuhaylan al-Wati, but that’s a question of personal preference].  

The strain was so well known among the Shammar and other Bedouins that it was simply referred to as Hamdani Ibn Ghurab. It will be the subject of a future entry in the “Strain of the Week” series (future entries are piling up in this series, and i am getting concerned). 

Years later, I visited Mubarak’s breeder, Ibn Ghurab, in Upper Mesopotamia, with friends Radwane Shabareq, Kamal Abdul Khaliq, and Hazaim al-Wair. I took this photo of him, one of dozen photos of his horses and family that I will post on this blog in due course. Ibn Ghurab passed away last year, and his eldest son is now in charge of the herd.   

13 Responses to “The young colt of Ibn Ghurab”

  1. Hello! is a good story !
    I have a question?Is his son bred horses to?
    What do you think how many horses live in the desert now(Syria)Bedouins bred?
    Thank you!

  2. Yes his son also breeds horses. The older horses are better than the young ones. I will show photos soon.

    I think there are around 300 Bedouin bred horses in the desert today. That number doesn’t include horses born in the towns, or sold to the towns. And not all 300 horses are Asil, in my opinion.

  3. Mister Edouard !Thank you
    Sorry another question .What is in your opinion a good Bedouin rider.Because I see alot of rider, but you know what I mean!what is the classic Bedouin Horsemanship? Regards

  4. Edouard have you any photo of radwan’s huge Hamdani Ibn Ghorab stallion (el Aawar)?I was so impressed by him when I first saw him in 1992.Radwan told me that this horse was used to hunt Falcons ,not to kill them but to take them alive,and the horse used to follow the falcon for 30 or 40 km.
    That’s why in endurance races the Jezirah horses are nearly umbeatable ,they are roughly ridden when they are 2, the one who can still run arriving to the age of 6,the legal age for endurance races,are running machines .In 1995 I watched in the desert near ancient Palmyra a 12 km race ,along the oil pipe line coming for Kirkuk to the sea,the guys were spriting the hole distance, in the desert whith unshoded horses ,riding without saddle and with a bridle only.it was more looking like a 2000m race in a race track than a 12 km.10 horses arrived to the finish with no more than 20 meters between the first and the tenth.Oh! I forgot the riders where barefooted,the horse coming from Damascus to compete could not stand the rythm imposed and had to stop.

    to Joksimovic: this way of riding is till used in the Jezirah ,I see bedouin lads in the neighboring stables, they prefer riding without stirups but they are using ,in Damascus,the classical bridles.

  5. Of course I have photos of him, but i am preparing a special entry on al-Aawar. This horse is royalty. Jean-Claude Rajot loved him too.

  6. I have a question for you

    What is the Ibn Ghurab and What his tribe

    What is Kahilan Mezher

    my Answer Comes after your comments

  7. Dear Edouard, It makes my heart sing to read wonderful renditions such as the above! For some reason, many admirers here in the US seem to think that horse breeding has died out in the Arabian’s original homeland. This simply is not the case. Your stories and wonderful photos are greatly appreciated by myself, as well as a large number of others I would suspect. You are indeed one lucky fellow to have been raised in your environment! Your father sounds like a great man.

    On another note, I have a photo of an Egyptian stallion who actually was here in Mississippi that looked a great deal like this fellow. I will look it up and e-mail to you for your records…

    Thanks again!

  8. He personally reminds me of the stallion Plantagenet, which had the same rich chestnut color. I suspect this color comes from Jedah, the Hamdaniat Ibn Ghurab imported by Homer Davenport to the USA in 1906.

  9. Ibn Ghurab is one of the leaders of the clan (fakhdh) of al-Buhayman which is from the section (batn) of al-Brayk which is from the tribe (qabilah) of al-Khrisah which is one the tribes that compose the Shammar. They left Najd a long time ago, and now they area settled in al-Rumaylan on the border between Syria and Iraq, where the oil fields are.

    Ibn Mizhir is a man from al-Jawwalah section (batn) of the tribe of Sunbus, originally a branch of the big tribe of Tayy, but now called Tayy (min bab tasmiyat al-juz’ bi ism al-kull).

    Your turn, pure man.

  10. My information are
    Khrossa /Shammars:
    Who’s supreme Sheikh is Hmeidi Daham el Hadi in Syria
    4 fractions

    – Fraction Aleyan who’s Sheikh is Hassan Ibn Daess

    – Fraction El Breitch who are divided in sub/fractions
    — the Ibn Ghorab who’s Sheikh is Ogueid Ibn Ghorab.
    –the Bheiman who’s Sheikh is Sebah el Bheiman
    .
    – Fraction El Hadba who’s Sheikh is Berdan Ibn Jleidan.

    -Fraction El Ghechem who’s Sheikh is Adham el Ghechem

  11. I know, this information About Ibn Ghurab and Mezher

    Someone told me Kahilan Mezher is Kurush -Krush

    Poland man his Named Haddad he Visit Syria and Shammar Before 100 years ago
    and Said Shammar 400 Horses and the pure asil Horses Only 40 Horses

  12. We believe the Bedouin. It is their horse that we are passionate about.

  13. Yes it is said that Kuhaylan Ibn Mizhir is originally Kuhaylan al-Krush, but I dont know why the name was changed

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