Zayd al-Mutayri on buying horses from the Bedouin

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on September 27th, 2017 in General

From Rehan Ud Din Baber on Facebook:

“Here is a story about how “Azrek” was acquired by “Zeyd” — the Bedouin horse master of Lord Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Zeyd was from the Muteyr tribe in Nejd). Zeyd says:

“I will tell you how I bought the Seglawi [this was the stallion ‘Azrek’]. I did not, of course, tell them the truth, that I was the servant of the Bey (Lord Blunt). There is no shame in this. It is policy (siasa). I am a master of policy. I made a deceit. I said to them that I was of the Agheylat, looking for horses for India, horses from the north and tall ones, for those are the horses that bring most price in India. What did I want with the pure bred? I wanted to make money. And so I went to the Sebaa. I alighted at Ibn ed Derri’s tent, as it were by accident. But I made a mistake. It was not the tent of Mishlab Ibn ed Derri, but of his brother Fulan (the name Fulan is used as we say So-and-So). There are four brothers. Fulan and Fulan and Fulan and Mishlab. Mishlab was the owner of the Seglawi. I stayed there for three days, without speaking of the Seglawi. The horse was at pasture and I did not see him.

On the fourth day came Mishlab to breakfast with his brother, and they killed a lamb — and behold the Seglawi was with him — he did not bring him to sell, but, as the custom is with strangers, that I might see him. He stood tethered outside the tent, but I did not even turn his way. Only lifting up my eyes stealthily, I saw him, and the sight of his forehead and of his eyes gave me joy. For you know the Seglawi’s face is of those which, if a man, a sorrowful man, sees, he needs must rejoice. Only it made my heart beat terribly, and I said to myself, ‘ Zeyd must never more return to the Bey — he must die — if he do not obtain that horse.’

Then, after we had eaten, I arose as one who wishes to go outside for a private purpose; and I walked past the Seglawi with my face to the ground as though I did not see him, and hardly putting one foot before the other, like a thief. And when I returned Mishlab was alone with his son Sakr in the tent, and we talked of the buying of horses. And I told them of my desire of “tall horses for the Indian market. And after a while I said to the father that I had something that I should wish to speak to him of in private — for I knew that his son would not consent to the sale, seeing that it was he who received the money of the Arabs when their mares were served, and I knew, too, that the father was displeased at this.

All that is customary is that those who bring mares should also bring flour for the stallion, and it may be a kiswah (a complimentary robe), but not money. But Sakr had taken money, to his father’s displeasure. So I said to the young man, when we had gone outside, ‘ On Salameh, stay you here on one side, for I have something to speak of with your father. And you may watch us, and, if you see me strike your father, then come to his assistance, but if I do not raise my hand to him, then wait till we have finished, for it is not necessary you should hear.’

And to my friend who was with me, I told him to take his spear, and sent him on another errand to fetch my dromedary. “Then when we were alone, I said to Mishlab: ‘ O Mishlab, it is time I went on my business, for I am engaged in the purchase of horses. But before I go I would see your horse. I cannot buy him, for I am looking only for horses from the North at a low price, but yours, the Seglawi, would I see. For I am of the Muteyr and you are of the Sebaa, and I am a master of fortune (sahib el bukht), and you are a master of fortune, and it would be a shame that I did not name a price or put a value on him, for otherwise, you might think that I did not know his worth.’ And Mishlab said, ‘ So be it.’

And I named £100, as if it were a great price. And when I had named it, I saw that Mishlab put his hand under his kefiyeh to scratch his head and stroke his beard. And at last he spoke: ‘Nay, it would be a sin.’ And I pressed him, for I saw by his manner that he was in doubt, and I could hardly believe in my fortune that there should be a hope of his consenting. And again my heart beat so that you might hear it. And at last I said, as if rising to go, ‘ There shall be another ten added to the hundred.’ And I gave him my hand, and he gave me his hand. And I said, ‘ O Mishlab, listen. The Seglawi is the Seglawi, and the men of the tribe send their mares to you on his account. But he is but flesh and blood, and a shot might destroy him, and then where would be the £110?

‘And he said, ‘If it were not for my son’s ill doing, I would not do it. And I do not want money, for God has blessed me with many camels and I have all I need. But I fear that Sakr will bring disgrace on me, for he takes money for the mares, which thing is forbidden; and I fear lest my good fortune should fail me.’ “And so it was settled in that one talking, and immediately I called for my delul, and having given him the advance money (arbun), I begged him to send his son with me to Aleppo to receive the full price. And I mounted in haste, fearing that the rest would return and would make him change his mind.”

My diaries; being a personal narrative of events, 1888-1914.

~Wilfrid Scawen, Blunt”

5 Responses to “Zayd al-Mutayri on buying horses from the Bedouin”

  1. dear mr dahdah, i’m so glad to have discovered your blog, because we’re preparing a book and DVD to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beirut hippodrome, and it’s great to see a fan of the arabian horse writing actively about the subject. by ‘we’, i mean the association for the protection of the lebanese heritage. would you be interested to be updated about our media book once it’s available? also, forgive the intrusiveness, but if you happen to have any historical pics of the old days of the beirut hippodrome you’d like to share, kindly let me know. you’ll be credited for any help. thanks and regards!

  2. Well, that would be Mr. Blunt, or Mr. W.S. Blunt, etc., but not Lord Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, and not Lord Blunt. His wife, Lady Anne Blunt, had the courtesy title “Lady” because she was the daughter of an earl. But Mr. Blunt was just Mr. Blunt.

  3. Do some Bedouin still sell or breed horses to this day?

  4. Yes, a handful still do.

  5. That’s marvelous. I assumed that most stopped since it seems everyone lends more towards SE than Desert bred. Great to know that there’s still a chance to acquire an DB one.

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