An Oasis of Tranquility

In fond memory of Dr. Nasr Marei, who passed away on 17th October, we re-publish an extract of an article, which first appeared in the German/English magazine ARABER JOURNAL / ARABIAN HORSE EUROPE 03/2004.

Hard to believe that in the midst of apartment blocks, just off Pyramids road at Giza, there is a stud with some 60 horses. But entering the gate of Albadeia is like entering a different world: Forgotten is the hustle-bustle of Cairo’s traffic, the noise, the smell – this place is like an oasis of tranquillity and peace in the midst of the chaos of a 16 million city – and one feels at home immediately as Dr. Nasr Marei is one of the most generous hosts I’ve ever met.
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What was a barren piece of desert some 50 years ago is today a lush green garden to which Nasr Marei extends great care. But his garden is only his third love, first are the horses and his shepherd dogs who accompany him everywhere on the premises. “I have been with horses most of my life”, explains Nasr, “and as a kid, my favourite place was always in the stable.”

Horse Breeding In Difficult Times

But the Marei’s involvement with horses goes further than his childhood days and dates back to 1935, when Ahmed Marei, Nasr Marei’s grandfather, purchased two mares from the Royal Agricultural Society, which were kept at the family village near the town of Banha some 50 km outside of Cairo. However, to understand the difficulties and the ups and downs of horse breeding in Egypt in former days, one has to take a glimpse at Egypt’s recent history. Nasr Marei’s father, Sayed Marei, has always been involved in politics and in the 1940s was a Member of Parliament under King Farouk. When in the Revolution of 1952 King Farouk was overthrown, Sayed Marei became head of the Agrarian Reform, later Minister of Agriculture, Vice Prime Minister and Assistant to the President, holding many other national and international official posts during the 36 years of his political career. However, in 1954 Gamal Abdel Nasser became president and called for the social revolution. While the socialist system was established, it was illegal to own any assets such as horses. Actually, the horses of the former Royal studs, which were collected in the EAO (Egyptian Agricultural Organisation), were even prone to be dispersed. It was then that Sayed Marei intervened and put his political career at stake when persuading President Nasser to leave the horses with the EAO to breed – which he did.

Over 50 Years of Albadeia Breeding

It is easy to imagine that these times were not the best preconditions for horse breeding. However, it was in 1951 when Sayed Marei bought a property – later called Albadeia – near the pyramids in Giza to keep his horses. His aim was to breed the purest and most classical Egyptian Arabian horses for which he bought the foundation stock at the RAS before 1952 and later from the EAO and some private stud farms, of which – in these days – there were only about four.
Due to his job and overseas commitments, Nasr Marei’s direct involvement in breeding started in the early 80s when he was managing the herd. With time, his father Sayed Marei left most of the breeding decisions to him and by his death in 1993 his son took over the full responsibility.

Gelgelah – The Ambassador of Albadeia

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Most people associate the stud name Albadeia with the World Champion mare Gelgaelah Albadeia. She has been without any doubt the best ambassador for the stud for many years, if not in its history. With her victory at the European and World Championships and after winning several championships in Europe, a dream came true for Nasr Marei – but it was a long and arduous way. And it was a tough decision to part with her and sell her to Halsdon Arabians in Great Britain. Of course, Gelgelah’s success in the showring brought great publicity for the stud and its breeding program. “I see the showring as a test,” explains Nasr. “Putting horses in the ring and in competition and have them judged by a panel of experienced judges is the ultimate test that will prove whether you are on the right track or not. Some breeders are too shy to go through that test or they believe that they breed the best horses anyway and don’t need an evaluation. I believe that they are wrong.”
Publicity is essential for any breeder, especially in times where the market is low. In the past, i.e. in the 1960s to 80s, Albadeia horses were mainly exported to the US, followed by Germany and other European countries. In the 90s that shifted slightly, the US became a minor market and more horses were exported to Europe and the Middle East. “The local market”, says Nasr, “absorbs a lot of horses that their breeders feel will not be of importance to their own breeding program. But we all know that only very few breeders, if any, make a profit with their horses. My goal is to look at my balance sheet every five years and to see that I have covered my expenses. So, we old-time breeders are in for the love of the horse and to preserve the noble breed.”

The Legacy Continues

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Breeding means continuous development towards an ideal – which may never be reached. “However, I am glad and proud to say, that I was able to improve the quality of my horses significantly through the last decades”, explains Nasr. “But like in any other breeding program, there is always room for improvement. Recognizing problems is the first step towards correcting them.
When I took over, I had some weak points like in the croup which was somehow short and low. I also had short necks, or at least shorter than I would have liked to see them. On the other hand I had good heads, eyes, body balance and movement. What I believe I did, and that has been confirmed by experts that have seen Albadeia horses several times and many of them know them for the last forty years, is to put emphasis on a more chiselled head, planting a longer neck and longer and better levelled croup. But at the same time, I kept the good balance of the body and enhanced the movement. I am not claiming that I am totally satisfied and I am always working on the refinement and enhancement of type and correctness.”
Private studs often come and go; few leave an impact in the world of the Arabian horse. To keep a stud going in the third (human) generation is the exception. That it is prospering, even more so. To breed horses in fifth and sixth generation and reaching the culmination of success by breeding a World Champion shows the true breeder. “I think that keeping Albadeia going on and preserving the legacy as a third generation breeder was a great challenge”, explains Nasr. “If at the end of my days, people will remember me for leaving behind a good horse and for contributing a solid block for the good of the Straight Egyptian horse, this will be my greatest achievement.”
Gudrun Waiditschka

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Anhar Albadeia Farid Albadeia
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Hikayet Albadeia Rihan Albadeia