- Title: ALGERIA: Traditional horse show returns to Algeria's Atlas mountains
- Date: 9th June 2008
- Summary: AUDIENCE
- Embargoed: 24th June 2008 13:00
- Location: Algeria
- Country: Algeria
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA12VYNMG4GN1EDHGRB0WL9JEDG
- Story Text: Algeria's National Horse Show, a gathering that combines tradition, business, sport, social interaction and racing, takes place in Tiaret in the Atlas Mountains, known as Algeria's horse capital, for the first time in 12 years. The horses include pure Arab breeds that are of great interest to buyers from Arab Gulf countries.
Algeria's festive National Horse Show has returned to Tiaret in the Atlas mountains after being suspended for 12 years due to political violence.
A two-day festival which served as a platform for horses of different breeds and traditional Algerian horsemanship attracted thousands of spectators.
The Seventh National Horse Show began on Wednesday (June 4) in Tiaret, 300km south-west of the capital Algiers, with a parade through the city's main boulevard. Some 700 horsemen, including members of the traditional "fantasia" -- a group of horsemen who perform equestrian feats and fire rifles into the air -- marched in file with their horses through the city, to the accompaniments of musical and folk dance bands and cheering crowds.
"We haven't celebrate this event for 12 years because the security situation didn't permit it," said 75 year old al-Hadja, a local resident of Tiaret.
Up to 200,000 people have been killed in Algeria since 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped parliamentary elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.
Al-Qaeda-aligned rebels have carried out a string of deadly bombings in the past two years, further spiralling political violence in the oil and gas exporting country.
Overall, the violence has subsided in recent years but some bloodshed continues, mainly in regions east of the capital.
The city of Tiaret is known as Algeria's horse capital.
"Tiaret is the cradle of horsemanship. In this region, every tribe has its own cavalry, and it tries to preserve its authenticity. Even the women contribute, together with the men, in the making of the saddles," said Hadj al-Daoud, President of Tiaret's Horsemanship League.
He pointed out one specific breed that Algerians are especially proud of.
"Regarding our horse, the Arab-African horse, it is a horse which possesses special abilities and characteristics. For example, an important French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, said, 'If I had possessed an Algerian horse, a Barb horse, I could have won the battle of Waterloo,' because this battle took place in the winter with snow and cold. The problem of the other horse breeds is their inability to resist, but the Barb can," al-Daoud said.
The Barb is native to north Africa and is known for its speed, strength and stamina. It is believed to have originally been bred during the 8th century, when Islamic Arab conquerors arrived in the region.
The modern Barb is popular in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The World Organisation of the Barb Horse in 1987 was founded in Algeria in 1987 in a bid to prevent the extinction of the pure Barb horse, but due to economical and political constraints, the organisation's work has come to a halt.
Many still consider horsemanship, and horse shows like that of Tiaret, an integral part of Algerian heritage.
"We participate in order to preserve our traditions, to teach our children and the children of our children, to engrave it in history, as we did with the revolution," said Mouilleh Mohammed, an owner of an Arabian horse participating in the show.
The festival contained various displays of traditional horsemanship, "fantasia" performances, hurdle races and running races.
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