b y D e n i s e H e a r s t · p h o t o s b y G l e n n J a c o b s
ollow along the Nile canals heading south from the Giza Pyramids toward Dahshur. As the miles click by you’ll leave the noisy traffic of Cairo far behind and feel as though
you’ve entered another era — there’s the water buffalo yoked to the waterwheel, an egret perched on his back, flood-irrigated fields of berseem and barley, onions growing in the shade of the date palms heavy with fruit, mud brick houses, and donkey carts.
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Look west toward the empty desert and find serenity and solitude among the little-known pyramids and temples. Here at the desert’s edge, the Dahshur Pyramids a short gallop away, is the home of Philippe Paraskevas’s breeding program, where the Arabians, too, bear an ancient and distinctive stamp. There is an earthy beauty to these horses, bred in unbroken lines from select EAO sources, and with an appreciation for such qualities as heart, character, soundness, and fertility. In this way, Philippe believes they remain close to the form and spirit of the Arabian horse of the desert.
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Heavy wooden gates open from the desert into the tranquil gardens where mares and foals enjoy turnout time in shady pens. Stallions, fresh from their exercise in the desert, return, quieter now, to their stables at an adjoining farm. Philippe has been breeding Arabians for nearly 30 years, with 70 horses (some five generations of his breeding) and 15 foals coming in 2012, yet few in Arabian horse breeding circles outside Egypt have heard about his horses. Partly because, as he says, “I do not show my horses at halter, this is not what I do.” His lack of exposure as a breeder also stems from the fact that he rarely sells his horses. “We sometimes let go of fillies and young mares, with the understanding that their siblings may be adequate replacements,” Philippe explains. “Not so for stallions. Our long-standing policy is to keep most of our colts to full maturity to see how they develop over time and to see how they perform in the desert under the saddle. Often enough, the wait is worth the effort, if only because of the lessons learned.” 4 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
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“Ghallab traces back to our foundation stallion Shams El Assil Ateya through our very own Rizkallah. We acquired Ateya from Shams el Assil as a weanling. Ateya was a double Hadban Enzahi by Misk out of an Alifa granddaughter. Ateya was chosen some 25 years ago on a primary consideration, inner beauty and typical masculine Arabian character: ‘full of fire, but free of malice’. In return, as a present, the aptly named Ateya, ‘The Gift,’ gave us Rizkallah, a heavily Sameh-influenced stallion out of Haneyat, an old-style EAO mare tracing back to Rawayeh EAO. In turn, Rizkallah sired Ghallab for us, out of Shameya EAO, a mare carrying (and displaying) predominant Gassir and Sameh characteristics. Shameya is a bay of a pronounced Kohailan type. As a result, Ghallab passes on strong Ibn Rabdan characteristics including wide chests, high arching but masculine necks, bold powerful movement and obvious masculinity. This trend is kept well within the limits we would like by virtue of his tail female line, Moniet el Nefous. 6 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
“Ghallab has now given us 10 males from very different strains and we are keeping them all to full maturity. Some of them are of breeding age and are pictured on the following pages together with their foals. Of course, as soon as they come of age, they are ridden in demanding conditions and are tested for what we value the most: courage and adaptation to the desert.”
Chances are most Egyptian Arabian breeders are far more familiar with Philippe’s first book published last year, The Egyptian Alternative, which stirred controversy for some of the hot-button topics covered in its pages. “I will address the so-called controversy that accompanied the publication of Volume I, and that will surely be amplified with Volume II, due out soon,” says Philippe. “My books were never meant to be descriptive and deferential to the status quo, but analytical and critical. Such thinking can lead to novel proposals for a better future for the Egyptian Arabian. In the conclusion to my book, I called for riding ability to be elevated to equal status with other criteria in any evaluation of our horses. This is not in the least a maverick opinion; it happens to be the silent majority’s opinion as well, as witnessed by the feedback I have received from readers. I also called for better preservation of every single EAO bloodline away from the ‘New-Look Arabian,’ and I encouraged breeders to develop families of Arabians of their own.”
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Philippe’s appreciation for riding, and for the breed, began to form when he was just a six-year-old boy growing up in Cairo. “I started riding in Nadi el Ferousseya in the Gezira area, a formal riding school that normally turns out show jumpers, but I soon veered toward the desert, and the Arabian. My first riding instructor was Ibrahim Abdullah el Salamoni; he was of an army background, a throwback to times past. My parents were not horse people, but I owe them a debt of gratitude for encouraging my enjoyment of horses. The club used to rent out horses by the month. I rode all sorts of horses before I noticed the inner qualities that define the Arabian. On the basis of the intangibles of the breed, I decided there and then that the Arabian was for me and never looked back. The Arabian horse has given me so much joy over the years that I came to feel that I owed the breed something in exchange. My books are all about ‘giving back’ to the noble breed.”
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Ghallab, top right, and eight of his sons pictured in the desert, above.
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Above: “Diwan El Arab by Ghallab out of Bedaya EAO is a dream come true. An Obayan of the Wasfeya family, we think that he carries the genes that may prove to sire bays and blacks. As for the rest, his attitude under the saddle at age three gives us hope indeed. His first foal is a double Obayan Om Greiss, Qualb El Leil, ‘The Heart of the Night,’ left, pictured at the age of four days in his first venture outside, and we hope he will be bay.” Facing page: Four Ghallab sons under saddle.
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Like many horse lovers before him, Philippe started breeding horses without a clear vision of where it would lead. “Very quickly though, I distanced myself from the prevailing modus operandi and from showrings,” he says. “It took me a long time to develop an alternative to the mainstream. I looked long and hard for the best specimens of some neglected bloodlines and experimented with those, and I am proud of the result. Our horses reflect our philosophy; we strive to live by our credos. I am not a commercial breeder, but a preservation breeder and a passionate practitioner of 30 years devoted to the conservation of rare and precious bloodlines. “First and foremost, we have developed a family of horses of our own, horses bred out of a combination of EAO bloodlines that are becoming hard to find. Caring for a large number of horses is no easy task, and it would not have been possible without the dedication of my stud manager Hammad Rabei and that of his family. In the past week, we were thrilled to get our latest foals, including a black Krusheya filly that we named Eitr el Leil — she is the ninety-sixth foal that we have bred (all conceived via natural cover, I might add). In order to care for our horses in the way they deserve, we employ a little army of grooms and riders; 20 people full time and six part time.”
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Philippe’s wife, an accomplished artist, plays an important role as well. “My wife has a unique eye for all things beautiful,” he says. “In addition to her perceptive suggestions on stallion choices, her role (and it is a central role) is in selecting the names of our foals, always in Arabic. We strive to choose meaningful names, and the names of the foals are almost always related to that of either sire or dam, not an easy proposition. Sometimes, at foaling, the choice of the name is influenced by outside events.” Currently Philippe’s program includes 30-plus males representing most Egyptian strains, ranging from foals to mature stallions. “We keep just two sire lines, however: Anter, tracing back to Gamil el Kebir through Rabdan el Azrak, and Akhtal tracing back to El Deree through Sid Abouhom. These are our favorites. The rationale behind sire line selections is that there are in my opinion enough Saklawi I stallions in this world, probably too many. Whereas the Anter and Akhtal sire lines are underestimated to the point of unconscionability.
Above, right, and facing page, top: “This is an eponymous Ateya, bred by us, a double S.E.A. Ateya, and therefore also a double Anter. This stallion straightens out any unbalanced mares and he is very refined considering his Ibn Rabdan origins. A five-year-old double Hadban, he is destined to be bred to Saklaweyat.” Facing page, bottom: “In true Kawkab El Shark (Um Kulthum) spirit, this is El Sit, the legendary singer’s nickname. We expect her to be a lady. She is tail female Moniet El Nefous, the result of breeding a double Anter (Ateya) to a double Akhtal mare, Kawkab El Shark (Gabbar to Rashdane daughter).”
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“The Anters, we believe, provide superior rear-motor skills, and they are ideally suited to harmonize with the Sid Abouhom/Akhtal mares that are lighter in the hindquarters, and frequently more angular, as racehorses often are. Anters certainly also improve on character and disposition of the Akhtals, not the easiest horses to raise. Our breeding program (on the male side) consists of breeding Anters to Akhtals and vice versa. Occasionally, we double the blood of Anter, and that of Akhtal as well, with pleasing results. That is not to say that our herd does not carry Nazeer influence; it does, since we own many EAO mares that were sired by some Morafic or Alaa el Dine descendants. Still, these mares are bred to one or the other of our wide variety of Anter or Akhtal stallions, depending on the direction we want to take any given mare. The ill effects of inbreeding are avoided by the use of a wide variety of mares, from most, if not all, EAO strains.
Facing page, top: “The first Ghallab male progeny, Rafik El Oumr is a Krushan stallion tracing back to Rowaida EAO through Rassayel EAO. He is large and imposing … a handful. He was given the name Rafik El Oumr, ‘Companion of a Lifetime,’ just to make extra sure that he would never be sold. His biomechanics are very good, and we turn to him for that. In the head he resembles Ghallab. We expect him to come into his own late in life, perhaps at age eight.” Facing page, bottom: “Badr El Doga is double Inshass, of one of our favorite combinations of strains: Krushan and Obayan. As such, we see him as a good outcross. We are waiting to see whether he carries more the imprimatur of the sire (the Kohailan Krush stallion Rafik El Oumr) or the dam Wedd (an Obayan Om Greiss mare). So far, the sire is prevailing, but this may change.” Left: “Misk el Leil, meaning ‘The Nightime Musk Fragrance,’ out of a Gabbar daughter, our Quareat el Fingale, ‘The Fortune Teller,’ a Saklawi Gidran tracing back to Moniet el Nefous. We hope for him to become a prime example of what Anter, Akhtal, Sameh, and Gassir can do together.” 15 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
“I have a favorite Anter and Akhtal of almost every strain, according to what I believe Anter and Akhtal stand for, each woven on the truss of their very different tail female lines, and according to my understanding of the very different strains. I have no less than 20 horses that approach my ideal, to various degrees, naturally. I do not have a single favorite stallion or mare. “In anticipation of the future, we have recently acquired a young Gassir male and another of a Royal Bahraini sire line; Bahrain, of course, being an impeccable source of Arabian blood.” Philippe sees to it that all his horses of riding age, stallions and mares, are ridden in the desert regularly, no small task. “We employ six riders from outside our stud who take turns spending a week on the premises and whose sole occupation is just that: riding the horses in the desert,” he says. “In addition, our own people ride daily, and the extended family of our stud manager and master of the horses rides as well, since childhood. I personally ride only occasionally — time does not allow me to indulge nearly often enough. My son and daughter ride as often as they can, and I am counting on them to continue the preservation of this heritage into the future.
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Facing page, top: “‘The Reciter of Poems,’ Shadi El Alhan, is a third Ghallab chestnut, this time a Dahman Shahwan Bukra. We plan to breed him to several mares in his first year at stud. We are very happy with his type and conformation (even though not perfect), and we love the way he took to being ridden in the desert. Refined but not overrefined, he definitely has his uses.” Facing page, bottom, above, and top inset: “Hafez El Ahd — ‘The Keeper of the Tradition.’ When I think of Shahloul, I think of Hafez El Ahd. This is another Kohailan Krush, tracing back to Rowayda, but this time through Atbara EAO. We turn to him anytime we are unsure what to do, and he never disappoints. A true gentleman.” Right: “Nasheed El Amal, ‘The Poem of Hope,’ a young colt by Hafez El Ahd, is special — he hardly ever appears without his tail flipped over his back, without prodding (or God forbid, gingering).”
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“Apart from conformation and soundness, the most important criteria for a riding horse are character, heart, and willingness to please,” continues Philippe. “These are the sine qua non characteristics of a true Arabian of the desert, and I will only ride such horses. My favorite horse will not only gladly obey me in any circumstance, he will also anticipate my wishes and be my full partner in the desert. I confess to liking horses with power and ample reserves of endurance. I like a horse that will come back fresh and still prancing after a threehour trek in the desert. Our terrain varies between deep sandy dunes, excessively strenuous to climb, and rocky plateaus, which are treacherous and trying for any horse. In my estimate, an hour in the desert is more demanding than two hours in any other terrain.” When contemplating horses not owned by him, and breeding programs that have impressed him, Philippe says, “Generally speaking, what impresses me the most is a purposeful breeding program. Behind any impressive horse, I like to see the hand of a breeder, using bloodlines of his own. I am never impressed by look-alikes, or by modern-day inbred horses, no matter how pretty they may be.
Facing page and top inset: “A Hadban Enzahi stallion sired by Ghallab, the young Quaher El Dhalam is used for his well-laid-back shoulder, and when we want Saklawi ‘stretch,’ with not too much length in the back. Of course, he is not Saklawi in everything, the muzzle is square, and he is notably robust. Quaher El Dhalam means ‘The Piercer of Darkness.’” Facing page, bottom left: “Adventurous in her first steps, Eitr El Leil (Quaher El Dhalam x Razane EAO) is a black Krusheya filly. We expect her to grow into a good mover. Her dam, a bay, never gave us a progeny that disappointed us, and this is her second black.” Right top and bottom: “Faress El Ahlam is a full brother to Ateya. He is a year younger, very different in build, wider in the chest and perhaps stronger. We are waiting to see how he develops before deciding on his use. He’s a work in progress.” 19 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
“Of course I admire the horses of the EAO — they are of great importance to the breed ‘such as it once was.’ To this day, the EAO remains the fountainhead, the most important stud farm in the world. I say this even as I am convinced that times call for its restructuring, refoundation, and the rebirth of the true desert horse. This is why I believe that a sovereign-driven EAO is crucial to the future of the Egyptian Arabian, and the reason I have been compelled to write my books. If I have to name my favorites, I will mention, in Egypt, the EAO’s Maher, Akhtal, and Sonbol who were, to my eye, the most interesting available from their respective sire lines. In private hands, looking at three of our historical breeders, Bilal I was impossible to ignore, Farid Albadia was a joy to behold, and Ezz, the bay Safinaz son, was a stallion of true timber. In Volume II, soon to be published, I give my own reading of the history of the EAO bloodlines, as these evolved through time.”
Left: “Ataa is our last S.E.A. Ateya daughter, and one of our best broodmares. Her tail female is Hamdan Stables’ Bint Yosreia, and we love to breed her to the Ateya-Anter sire line.” Facing page, top: “Saja El Leil, ‘Tranquil Arrival of the Night,’ by Ghallab out of Bedaya EAO, is a young black mare, just bred to Gabbar, himself sired by the black stallion Sajed. We are thankful for her typical Obayan Wasfeya movement and tail carriage, in addition to the fact that she is the snorty kind.” Facing page, bottom: “Leilet El Eid, by Ghallab out of our Tasahil, an Obayan Om Greiss mare.” 20 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
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We asked Philippe for his thoughts about international breeding programs that impress him, and he was quick to point to the way the Polish state studs are run. “Our own state stud could do worse than to study their methods,” he says. “I admire the preservation breeders in the West (and the handful of them in Egypt) — those small breeders who
Above: “Representing the Akhtal sire line, Sajed is 19 years old. We bought his sire at auction from the EAO, a Dahman Shahwan Bint El Bahrein Ibn Akhtal son carrying both Sameh and Seif blood.”
strive to do the right thing at great personal cost. “I admire all the outspoken critics of the showring and the proponents of usefulness and
Facing page: “A Kumait with a wide eye and very Kohailan in type, Goubrane, by Sajed and out of Shameya EAO, is still drying out. We go to him for specific qualities.”
continued utility of our horses. Usefulness and beauty are not antinomic, but if breeders focus primarily on beauty, usefulness is lost, with no return. Keep the horse sound and functional, and beauty will surely come, and it can easily be added on, if necessary. Such is my opinion. I admire those who are trying to rescue from extinction precious desert Arabian bloodlines such as that of Turfa. I admire the societies that were set up abroad for educational purposes, rather than marketing.” 23 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
Right: “At age 13, Gabbar (Sajed x Haneyat EAO) is one of our prolific sires. Many of his fillies have been sold locally, and we treasure his daughters for their broodmare qualities. This is an Akhtal with Sameh influence from both his sire and dam.”
In Philippe’s 30-year quest to build his unique “family of horses” there have certainly been lighter moments. “Here is tragicomedy, one that thankfully ended up in laughter,” he says. “One day, a Krusheya mare (a stubborn character who does not stand the slightest ill-treatment) was to be palpated by our vet; he was a bit clumsy about it and she would not stand still. The vet then gave her a double dose of tranquilizer, the kind of dose that would put an ox to sleep for an hour. At that point, I warned him to nevertheless keep the hobbles on her and not to underestimate her dislike of him — but he just laughed. Well, he didn’t laugh for long, for, somehow, from her deep slumber, the mare aimed such a powerful kick at his head that he would have been shattered to pieces had she not missed him, by an inch.” 24 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
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Right and below: “The tail female Moniet El Nefous stallion Zay El Hawa (Gabbar x Aneeda EAO), ‘Just Like Love,’ is not yet five but has already won the heart of our stud manager. A full brother to Kawkab El Shark (double Akhtal), we are expecting his first foals this month. He will have to measure up to his sire, grandsire, and great-grandsire.”
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Of course, what breeder in the world can glance at the past without having a few regrets? Philippe shares his, “There once was a wonderful Saklaweya (a Zakeya or an Ohoud daughter if my memory holds) that I was trying to buy at auction at the EAO. After some other bidders went to exaggerated heights, I stepped back. Later, I learned that the winning bidder almost immediately resold the filly for a profit. After that occurrence, I never let any trader outbid me in an auction. On the other hand, if I know true breeders who may be pursuing a filly that I also like, I occasionally defer to them. I must explain here that I like to choose all my stock as yearlings or two-year-olds. This holds all the more true for males. I would never buy or lease anyone else’s stallion. I chose our foundation stallion S.E.A. Ateya as a weanling, on character. The only case where I would envision an exception would be if the EAO were to sell at auction a stallion of historical significance that I would be able to integrate in my program.” 27 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
Speaking of his own preservation efforts, Philippe notes that twice in the past he almost lost sire lines after losing head stallions without a sufficient number of colts to replace them. “Having stared into the depths of that dismal abyss twice in my life, I vowed never to expose myself again,” he says. “This is in part why I expanded the number of my broodmares in the last fifteen years and why I hardly ever sell males. “With the benefit of hindsight, I also deeply regret that in the first ten years of my breeding I was under the impression that a ‘dish’ was the prime criterion for selection of our Arabians. This lack of understanding made me pass on several males of unique caliber that I could have acquired at that time.”
Top left and right: “Robaeyat El Khayyam is a special filly to us as she was born the night before we listened to Robaeyat El Khayyam (by Um Kulthoum) in concert. She is a Kohailan Rodan daughter sired by Khafif EAO, the Dahman Shahwan Faragallah son and out of Tabashir EAO. She will turn three next May.” Bottom left: “Khafif El Dhil represents another branch of the Akhtal line in our program. His sire Khafif is a very old EAO stallion, about 25, and is not pictured as we are only featuring our own breeding on these pages. A rare double Dahman Shahwan Bukra colt, he is from the sire line Akhtal through Faragallah, out of a mare we acquired from Shams El Assil, having chosen beforehand the stallion for her.” Facing page: “Kawkab El Shark is a Gabbar daughter and out of Aneeda EAO, double Akhtal, and perhaps our most feminine mare at the present time. We breed her to stallions of the Anter sire line, away from her Moniet tail female line.” 28 ▪ PARASKEVAS ▪ WORLD
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Above: “Dihket El Karawan, ‘The Song of the Nightingale,’ is a line from a famous Um Kulthum song we were listening to as she was foaled. A Krusheya, sired by the Akhtal stallion Khafif EAO, she will be bred by one of our Anters. Bottom left: Amirat El Shark, ‘The Princess of the East,’ another filly sired by Khafif EAO. Bottom right: “Rissalet El Shark, ‘The Message of the East,’ is the fourth filly in a row given to us by our Krusheya EAO mare Rouchane. She is sired by a Khafif son.”
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Late in the afternoon, as Egypt’s famous lemony light softens the edges of the day, Philippe reflects on the breed that has shaped his life and touched his soul. “To me the Arabian horse is the highest form of expression of a centuries-old culture. At the height of its expression, the Arabian is to Arabia what the Louvre is to Paris and La Scala to Milan, nothing less. “Looking forward I hope to be thought of as a breeder who had a hand in saving two seminal sire lines from extinction, along with several underestimated tail female lines of central importance to the breed, keeping them as they once were. As an author, I hope that my books will inspire the next generation of breeders to open a new page in the history of the modern Egyptian Arabian. So help me God.”
“Garet El Kamar, sired by a black Gabbar son, Kamel el Awsaaf (sold since into a caring and beautiful home), out of Tasahil, an Obayana Om Greiss, is a chestnut Obayana mare and will be bred soon. We are debating between a Krush or an Obayan stallion.”
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Right: Stud manager Hammad Rabei, with his grandson, Ziad.
Zay El Hawa
Note: â€œAll the horses pictured in these pages were bred by us, some are fifth generation of our breeding, and in many cases, we bred both sire and dam. Our foundation stock and acquisitions (mainly from the EAO and some from highly respected private farms) were not pictured as we wanted to show only those we bred. None of the horses have been clipped, oiled, or artificially enhanced, as we prefer their natural beauty. And of course, all the photos are unretouched.â€?
www.PhilippeParaskevas.com El At e y a Ara b i a n s a n d Hoor el Eyoune Arabians Dahshur, Giza, Eg ypt
Tel: 0020 1003888003
D e s i g n e d a n d p r o d u c e d b y A r a b i a n H o r s e Wo r l d · 1 1 / 1 1
From the November 2011 issue of Arabian Horse World: Arabian Horse World takes you on an exclusive visit to the farm of Philippe Paraskevas,...