Who was El Dahma of Ali Pasha Sharif?

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on April 20th, 2010 in Egypt

El Dahma is the foundation mare of the most prized tail female line of Arabian horses worldwide. Yet she remains shrouded in mystery. She was a mare from the Stud of Ali Pasha Sharif of Egypt, born around 1880, no color given, and was known only by her strain name as “The Dahma”. The little we know about this elusive yet extremely influential matriarch is summarized here. The information in this link comes from three sources:

  • first, the book known as the “RAS History” (page 33), which is the official name of Volume I of the Egyptian Agricultural Organization (EAO) studbook, published in 1948;
  • second, an early herd book of Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfiq of Egypt, which mentions that this mare, “the Dahma”, was a gift from Ali Pasha Sharif to the Khedive (the viceroy of Egypt, then Khedive Tewfiq the father of Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfiq and of the next Khedive Abbas Hilmi II).
  • third, Carl Raswan’s Index. However, given that Raswan’s was not a primary source, and that he did not mention his primary sources, I will take the liberty of discarding it for the purposes of this discussion.

El Dahma seems to have produced at least four horses at both Khedive Tewfiq and his son Khedive Abbas Hilmi II, who took over his father’s stud upon accessing the throne in 1892: Nadra El Kebira, Obeya, Gazza, and Saklawi II (Farhan). But what was her name, her color, her sire and dam’s name?


Here is where two more sources come to the rescue. One is Lady Anne Blunt’s Sheykh Obey’d Studbook, which is reproduced by Colin Pearson at the end of his book, “the Arabian Horse Families of Egypt”. Page 143 of this book lists entry #30 of the Sheykh Obeyd Studbook, Mezna, who was Lady Anne’s favorite riding mare in the later years of her life. I am reproducing the relevant parts of Mezna’s entry below:

No. 30 — MEZNA

A dark chestnut mare, Dahmeh Shahwanieh, foaled in 1903. Sire Antar (ibn Muniet el Nefous), dam Meshura. Acquired from Bedr Mohamed in Nov. 26, 1909, exchange for Sabah (No. 27).”

Then follows the breeding record of this mare, which was essentially barren to a number of Lady Anne’s Sheykh Obeyd stallions, before producing a filly in 1915. Mezna was still at Sheykh Obeyd when Lady Anne died in December 1917. Her fate is not known. Entry No. 27 in the same herdbook, Sabah, which was exchanged for Mezna reads as follows:

“No. 27 — SABAH

A bay mare, Kehilet Ajuz of the Mimrieh strain […]. Sabah was exchanged on Nov. 26, 1909, without having been covered, for a chestnut Dahmeh Shahwanieh, bred by H.H. The Khedive Abbas Pasha Hilmi II (See Mezna, no. 30)”.

The other source, Lady Anne Blunt’s Journal & Correspondence. In an entry from XXX 1916, Mezna is listed as being 3/4 Abbas Pasha/APS stock, “her sire being a son of the Hamdanieh Muniet El Nefous of Abbas descent”. The non-Abbas Pasha/APS stock comes from Mezna’s paternal grand sire, a desert bred Koheilan el Mossen. This means that Mezna’s dam, a mare named Meshura was 100% Abbas Pasha/APS stock.

Could El Dahma (“the Dahma”), the unnamed mare of 100% Ali Pasha Sharif bloodlines at the Khedive, been this Meshura at the Khedive’s?


11 Responses to “Who was El Dahma of Ali Pasha Sharif?”

  1. Edouard: Lady Anne’s 1917 Sheykh Obeyd catalogue gives additional pedigree for Meshura, the dam of Mezna. The entry for Mezna reads: “Mezna, Dark Chestnut, foaled 1903, bred by H.H. The Khedive. Dam Meshura, her dam daughter of the Dahmeh Shahwanieh given to H.H. by Ali Pasha Sherif, her sire the old White Seglawi Jedran Prince Ahmed had from Ali Pasha Sherif, which passed afterwards to H.H. Sire Antar, Chestnut Hamdani Simri, bred by Ahmed Bey Sennari, whose dam was Muniet el Nefus, Bay Hamdanieh Simrieh, from Abbas Pasha I.’s stud, and whose sire was the Grey Kehilan Mesenneh, brought from Arabia by the well-known Fahad.”

    Thus Meshura was apparently a granddaughter of El Dahma?

  2. Fascinating theory Edouard. It is possible. Perhaps R.J.s speculation is more probable since the “Meshura/El Dahma” would have been 23 years old when she foaled Menza. Not impossible, but rare. At 23 El Dahma could likely be a grandmother instead. According to AKA III El Dahma’s first foal of record is in 1891 and last the last foal that book shows is 1896, making a period of 7 years between El Dahma’s son Saklawi II and the speculated Menza in 1903, El Dahma then being approximately 23. If Menza is a granddaughter, then her dam Meshura was likely born before 1891, or between 1891 and 1894, or after 1896, all possibilities.

    This study also reminds us that we can only know about that which is recorded somewhere. Breeders back then were not beholding to any sort of registry, and some horses could have existed who were enjoyed but did not leave recorded progeny, so they would not be known today. Either way, Edouard’s theory is interesting, and if accepted provides a color for El Dahma though we are still wanting for a specific foaling date for El Dahma.

    What ever her identity, the association with Dahman Shahwan remains. Her role in Egyptian breeding is most celebrated in her female line for its popularity but let’s not forget that El Dahma’s son Saklawi II is the sire line of Nazeer and El Dahma’s daughter Nadra El Kebira produced Ibn Nadra a grandsire of Ibn Rabdan. The result is that El Dahma comes forward in a variety of ways. The most famous Egyptian Saqlawi Jidran stallion Morafic actually has more crosses to El Dahma than the most famous Egyptian Dahman Shahwan stallion Ansata Ibn Halima. Another interesting observation is that the current internationally popular sire Marwan Al Shaqab (a blend of Egyptian, Polish, and American lines) has 69 crosses to El Dahma.

  3. RJ, that makes more sense. Since that Meshura was the daughter of the horse we now refer to as Saklawi I, then she can’t have been El Dahma (The Dahma) herself, because El Dahma was bred to Saklawi I to procude Saklawi II/Farhan, and inbreeding was not practiced at the time. Plus the dates make it unlikely, as Joe says.

    That said, there is a chance that El Dahma might be Meshura’s dam (rather than her grand-dam), i.e., the “daughter of the Dahmeh Shahwanieh given to HH by APS, if you consider that (1) there is a record of El Dahma being bred to Saklawi I to produce Saklawi II, and (2) Meshura’s dam was also of 100% Ali Pasha Sharif breeding, but apparently bred at the Khedive’s, and I don’t know of another stallion of 100% Ali Pasha Sharif breeding at the Khedive other than Saklawi I, so it is possible that wither (a) both Meshura’s dam and her grand-dam came from APS together, or (b) El Dahma was the daughter of the mare from APS, bred at the Khedive but still of 100% APS blood.

    This is getting complicated, but I am sure you managed to follow the train of thought.

  4. Joe, you’re correct. Somehow I now feel more confident about El Dahma after knowing that Lady Anne Blunt owned, bred and enjoyed some of her descendents. My own bias towards trusting LAB above all else.

  5. Another ancillary point on the sire of Mezna (this chestnut horse “Antar” by Koheilan El Mossen out of Muniet el Nefous). If Mezna was bred the Khedive, then her sire was there in 1902.

    In 1902, at the Khedive’s stables, there was a chestnut stallion by the name of Senari, Sennari, Sinary or El Sennari, who was recorded as the sire of Gamila (1900), Freiha (1902), and Ibn Nadra (1905).

    Did the Khedive own two full brothers which he was using for breeding at the same time? or was Antar/Mezna’s sire the same horses as this El Sennari? The right answer is the second one IMO.

  6. Edouard, so can you tie this to Colin Pearson’s assertion (p. 128) that Bint Karima (1935) is the grandaughter of “Obeya”: “Her sire was Lady Anee Blnt’s Rasheed (JamilZareefa) and her dam Karima, recorded as the daughter of Dahman and Obeya. Bint Karima was purchased by Inshass from the Kafr Ibrash Farm (date ote given) and sold…. No strain is given for her.”

    You know Bint Karima has been a bit of a mystery.

    We are doing the Bint Karima mtDNA, too. So that may help.


  7. Anita the trouble with a name like obeya is that is can be a strain name as much as a first name. The obeya of the ras was dahmah shahwan and the grand dam of obeya can be from that mare or she can be random mare of the ubayyan strain

  8. An interesting sideline on this subject is that the Heirloom Research group lists “El Dahma” as being of Abbas Pasha origin. The reason for this is explained in the book Heirloom Egyptian Arabian Horses 1840-2000 by John Fippen et. al. I am only paraphrasing here but the supposition is based on repeated instances in Lady Anne Blunt’s writing that gives the impression that “…the Abbas Pasha stock flows seamlessly into and through the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif.” Perhaps those more familiar with this subject from that book could comment here?

  9. Everyone probably remembers reading this diary entry of Wilfrid Blunt’s:

    “11th Jan. [1896] — Took Anne and Judith to Koubbah to see the Khedive. He received us with great empressement… and showed us his stud. He has got together some nice mares, but nothing quire first class, except two of Ali Pasha Sherif’s, one of which is our horse Mesaoud’s dam, a very splendid mare, with the finest head in the world. He has bred some promising colts and altogether the thing is well done.”

    Do you suppose the other first class mare from Ali Pasha Sherif was El Dahma?

  10. I have been going through my notes from Lady Anne Blunt’s published Journals, and came across the following. This is my paraphrase.

    11/27/1909: LAB speaking of Mezna, acquired 11/26/1909 from Bedr Mohammed, the dam, grey was Meshura, seen w/Battla many years ago – the sire ch Hamdani Simri seen as a colt at Sennari’s, parents were the bay H.S. (Muniet el Nefus) and the grey Keh. Mesenneh, well known horses brought by E… from the desert to Sennari.”

    Parents of Meshura: the old white S.J. Prince Ahmed got from APS which the Khedive got and now has pensioned off at Boulak and the Dahmeh called Ghezala, daughter of the Dahmeh given to the Khedive by APS, an AP strain.

    My comments: I could not find a reference where a mare named Meshura was seen with Battla (Bottla or Batila, from Ahmed Bey Sennari). Maybe I just haven’t put it together yet.

    So Meshura was a grey mare, apparently bred by the Khedive, by the old Saklawi out of Ghezala, a daughter of the Dahmeh given to the Khedive by APS.

    In December 1907, Prince Mohamed Aly is telling LAB that the Khedive has two Dahmeh mares “from APS,” that he has been unable to buy. Within weeks, PMA has obtained Nadra from the Khedive, and a year later, Gazza, both mares out of El Dahma. What if Gazza and Ghezala are the same mare, or full sisters?

    This is such confusing fun!

  11. Khedive Abbas Pasha Hilmi II. son Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim married with the Ottoman Princess Fatma Nesli?ah Sultan Osmano?lu ang got a son Prince Sultanzade Abbas Hilmi and this got a son too Prince Nabil Daoud Abdelmoneim Hilmi Bey …This are the real Heirs of the Horses of Abbas Pasha Hilmi II. of Egypt.


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