In Libya, despite years of violence and rebellion, a national love of horses remains unabated.
A May 2022 horse show in Misrata attracted Libyans from every corner of the country, and, over the course of three days, 96 of about 150 horses changed hands.
“There were horses from the west, the east and the south — from every city in the country,” said Hussein Shaka, one of the organizers.
Equestrianism has a prominent place in Libya as in other parts of the Arab world, with weekly horse races, shows and parades. Libyan horse enthusiasts have kept their traditions alive, including the crafts of making saddles and tack — and breeding pedigree chargers.
“I present you with Labaris,” an auctioneer said as a carefully groomed brown stallion was led around the show pen.
Prospective buyers in the all-male audience held up numbered wooden plaques to place their bids. The highest price of $8,000 went to an off-white mare that, according to the auctioneer, “has run in 21 races in France, taking first, second and third places.”
Dozens of buyers sat on white plastic chairs around the sun-drenched show pen as the auctioneer extolled the virtues of the horses on show from a small stage.
The first day was devoted to ponies and foals, the second to mares and the last to stallions. The auction’s catalogue included English pedigrees and purebred Arabians, famous for their beauty, speed and stamina.
“Auctions should be encouraged in Libya to improve European horse breeds as well as local breeding,” said breeder Ali al-Himaidi.