PRESENTING THE PERSONALITIES
Nasr Marei by Jeff Wallace with Theresa Cardamone
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PRESENTING THE PERSONALTIES
You represent three generations and 80 years of breeding Arabian horses at Albadeia, and carry the slogan, “Bright Past ‒ Brighter Future.” Who will continue to guide the Albadeia program forward? To be very frank with you, I worry about Albadeia‘s future. Unfortunately, I never got married and have no children to take over, like my father and I did from our parents. My late brother, Hassan, who passed away three years ago and was eight years younger than myself, was my hope to be in charge of Albadeia. He also loved horses and cared about continuing the breeding program. His two sons are willing to carry it on, but they have not yet developed enough passion for, or understanding of, breeding horses like I do. I am schooling them now, and hopefully, they will develop more interest and build up their love of horses enough to be able to continue. This year marks the 80th anniversary of Albadeia and I am full of hope that it will continue after me, for a 4th generation in the family. Can you share one or two of your most memorable childhood experiences with us? I grew up loving horses. My childhood, until I had to go to school, was spent on our farm 50 km north of Cairo. My father was a farmer and managed our agricultural land and
plantation. He already had horses on the farm and I used to spend most of the day around horses. As a family, we moved to Cairo because of schools. Our relationship with our original farm was kept, and we used to spend holidays there. It was then that I started riding horses and my bond with them went up another level. I must say, that I have great memories growing up. I had the most loving and caring parents. Me, my sister and brother, were so lucky to be brought up by them. They, as well as the rest of our larger deeply rooted aristocratic family, had western education in Egypt, England, France and Switzerland. We had a great life. Over the course of time, the city of Cairo has encircled Albadeia in a warm embrace. In what ways has that influenced the development of the farm? I am not so sure about your suggestion of a “warm embrace.” Albadeia today is an oasis in the midst of a concrete jungle. My father bought the property that would become Albadeia in the early 1950’s. There was nothing but agricultural land and some farmhouses around. West of the property were the Great Pyramids of Giza. I used to ride my horses among fields or just cross the road to go to the Pyramids plateau. Urbanization was catastrophic to the area, which should have been Volume 46, No. 6 | 385
kept building-free to respect and honor the Pyramids. Like Albadeia, these amazing edifices are hidden behind ugly buildings. After my father passed away in 1993, I thought of moving my farm to a more suitable place away from the city. However, it was not easy just to leave the family house with all its history and memories. I remodeled the home, stables, landscape, and the horse paddocks, and now I live with my horses in this little oasis. Being a talented photographer, as well as a breeder and judge, what are two or three of the most meaningful photos that you have taken? Photography has been my passion since childhood. So was horse riding, hunting, shooting, and later on, scuba diving. My parents were great supporters and provided me with whatever I needed. My father bought me cameras and warmblood horses for jumping since I was very active in show jumping and dressage. My mother was a great art connoisseur. She taught me the appreciation of
A 2-year-old Nasr.
At 8 years old, hunting and shooting were a favorite of Nasr’s.
Nasr schooling his warmblood mare.
Nasr with his professors at UC-Davis.
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art and everything that is beautiful. My photographic experience has gotten polished over the years. I had several subjects that I favored. I have many photos of my parents, family, and friends. I also did, and still do, a lot of landscape and underwater photography. Of course, Arabian horses are one of my favorite subjects. Your understanding and knowledge of the breed has been accumulating for such a long time, and is so deep. Who are two or three people who you enjoy communicating with on that level? In my early years of learning breeding, it was my father and Dr. Mohammed Al Marsafy who were my mentors. I learned a great deal from their experience and vision. Since then, I have communicated and am still learning from scores of breeders from the U.S. and Europe. I never stop learning and enjoy talking and sharing with other breeders. My assumption is that “tourism is up” at Albadeia, meaning you have a lot of visitors that come through
PRESENTING THE PERSONALTIES
knowledge. I learn from their experience and insight. I profit from visits by creating new friendships and renewing and strengthening old ones. Visits do not take away anything from me—they actually add to my life. You have received so many awards and acknowledgements in the course of your life, for example the very first Milestone Award presented by the Pyramid Society in its 46 years. What do those honorariums mean to you, and why? I was also honored by AHBA in receiving their Lifetime Achievement Award in Las Vegas during the World The Pyramid Society honoring Dr. Marei with the Milestone Award.
your gates for many different reasons. Have there been any visits that surprised you … meaning unexpected guests, unexpected like-mindedness, or an unexpected outcome? I am blessed to be continuously visited by breeders and horse lovers from all over the world. It is a great and gratifying feeling to be a center of interest by fellow breeders. I recall one special visit. I was attending Scottsdale in 1985 and had the pleasure of being invited by Dr. LaCroix to Lasma Arabians. At that time, he was a legend and his programs in Kentucky and Arizona were very ambitious based on Polish horses. We had a conversation and he expressed his wish to acquire one stallion from Albadeia. I was taken by surprise since he had never been interested in straight Egyptians. I invited him to come anytime to see what we had. He called me in December of the same year and said that he would come within 48 hours and would stay two nights only to choose the stallion. Sure enough, he arrived with his son and trainer on his private plane. He spent the following day at Albadeia and flew out the morning of his second day. He picked up a yearling colt rather than a mature stallion. His choice was Farid Albadeia who turned out to be the most beautiful and influential stallion that Albadeia ever had. The market for Arabians had collapsed after the tax law changes in the U.S. in 1986, and Dr. LaCroix understandably did not proceed with his plan, but this visit has to be the most surprising visit I ever had. What does having so many visitors add to your life, and what does it take away? Visitors enrich my
Also in 2015, receiving the AHBA World Cup Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Cup in 2013. I am glad and proud to say that I am the only one so far to receive these two distinguished awards. Nothing is more rewarding than being acknowledged by fellow breeders and one’s peers. These are merits that I will always cherish.
feelings may have disappeared over time? To tell you the truth, I used to be somewhat nervous at the beginning of my judging career around 25 years ago, when entering the show ring to judge. I was still building up my experience and wanted to do
NASR MAREI You have judged over 300 Arabian horse shows in your amazing career. After all these years, when you step out into the arena to judge a show, what feelings come up for you every time, and what
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a “perfect” job. I knew horses well enough and was capable of assessing and evaluating horses, but doing this in a show and being scrutinized by horse owners, fellow judges, show organizers and the public, was
PRESENTING THE PERSONALTIES
very stressful. Later on, I was confident enough not to worry. Stepping into the ring, I would be full of trust and anticipation. I do enjoy judging. Besides travelling to places that normally I would not have gone to, seeing some of the best horses around and socializing with other breeders is great motivation to continue doing so. I have no fear anymore and I am very confident, although I feel the stressful lifestyle of a judge more. Whether we like it or not, show results affect the future of the breed. Judges bear great responsibility. I am still being invited to numerous shows, but have started to slow down and now only accept the most important shows. Â You have announced that you are retiring from judging at the end of 2016. So should I assume that you might be taking up yachting in a landlocked city, or finger-painting a masterpiece?
What lies ahead? Arabian horses have opened my life. I will always be around them and participating in all related functions, such as seminars and workshops. I will continue breeding and traveling. I am blessed that I have many hobbies like photography, scuba diving, and sport shooting, in addition to reading and music; so I am always engaged in some activities. Reducing my judging-related trips will allow me to dedicate more time to my other hobbies. Â Since you have stated that it is important to you to always remain a student and therefore remain in a rendered teachable state, will retiring from judging make room for the pursuit of knowledge in other areas of life? If yes, what might those be? Yes, as mentioned above. Judging is not a full time job, so seeking more experience and knowledge will always be my goal.
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Nasr’s other passion outside of Arabians: fishing and scuba diving.
The Arabian horse business has been evolving into a much more global enterprise than it was when Albadeia was founded. What does that mean for you? This is a very serious question and may need more space to expand on the topic. In summary, globalization of the Arabian horse world has left its mark on the breed. In the past, we had different bloodlines, Egyptian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, American, etc. They were kept apart to a great extent. Now, breeders are using all bloodlines to create their own version of the horse. I call this new version the “Universal Horse.” By doing so, they have enlarged, expanded, and enriched the gene pool which makes
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improvement and selection easier and faster. This process has been facilitated by the modern world and globalization. The world has become smaller and communications easier. Freezing, exporting, and exchanging semen made it easier for breeders. So did embryo transfer and horse leasing. Will globalization affect the future of the breed? We will have to wait and see. One alarming example is having two or three stallions’ bloodlines dominating the show scene today. If this continues, differences between the original bloodlines will disappear and we will have only ONE TYPE of Arabian horse! What are your favorite foods? I love Italian and Mexican. I am not a big meat eater, but love cheese and fish. Did you see the world dominance of the Nazeer sire line coming, or were you surprised by it? I was certain it would be Bask that would dominate, yet it is without question, the several branches of the Nazeer sire line. Would you agree? I do agree. Nazeer’s dominance as a sire line will live forever. Many other horses are also to be considered as landmarks, like Bask, El Shaklan, and more recently, Marwan Al Sahqab and WH Justice. I must say, that pioneer breeders of Egyptian horses in the U.S. have helped in creating the legend of Nazeer. Ansata, Bentwood, Gleannloch, Imperial, St. Clair, Ramses, and many others, have introduced the Nazeer bloodline to the U.S. and then to the rest of the world. Nasr, due to your depth of knowledge and passion, as well as your many years of experience, do you have a burning desire to expound upon any topic that I have not touched upon? I am somewhat concerned about where the breed will go. Many owners of Arabians now, are not true breeders as defined in the past. Many of them are collectors. Others are show oriented and want only to win, and this desire leads them to buy new horses all the time instead of breeding their own champions. Breeding is a lifetime commitment. It takes decades, and great dedication and financial sacrifices. Not too many do that now, unfortunately. n