The Eternal Fascinators: Ali Pasha Sherif, Lady Anne Blunt, and Sheykh Obeyd Garden

Revised January 1998
Copyright by R.J.Cadranell
Used by permission of RJ Cadranell

Digging For Gold In The Raswan Index

Most Arabian horses descend to greater or lesser extent from the Arabian horse collection of Ali Pasha Sherif (d. 1897) of Egypt. Writers treat this collection of horses with awe and respect. The best of the horses still stand as examples of classic Arabians.

Crabbet Stud co-founder Lady Anne Blunt (1837-1917) seems to have made the greatest effort to acquire representatives of Ali Pasha breeding as his collection began to disperse in the last decade of the nineteenth century. On March 26, 1897 she and her 24 year old daughter Judith (later Lady Wentworth) attended the collection’s second and final auction sale. Also with Lady Anne was her sais, Mutlak, a former employee of Ali Pasha’s. Her published Journals describe the event:

“With Judith 7. 50 train, and Mutlak to sale of remnant of A.P.S. stud at the Serai. Did not begin till long after 9, the hour on bills, Aziz brought out first only Lb bid taken back. Then 2 year filly B.B. Azz grey fetched LBE 29. Ibn Johara 32, Ibn Zarifa Saghir 27, do Kebir 26, Ibn Bint Nura Saghir 56, do Kebir 43, Ibn B. Jellabieh Feysul 55, Ibn Bint Nura es Shakra 44, Ibn Makbula 63, Ibn Aziz Saghir 60). Johara B. Helwa (Seglawieh) 80, B. Horra and foal 125, B. Nura es Shakra 106. B. Makbula 255. Of these I bid for the grey 3 yr. Ibn Johara 31 – splendid colt but has been ill, severe cold (regret I did not go to 35). I bought B. Horra and foal and B. Nura es Shakra (regret I did not buy for 55 the ch. Ibn B. Jell. Feysul 4 years very beautiful—feared to add to number of stallions as we have enough). Sent Mutlak home with the 2 mares and foal, am delighted with them…”

Many of these horses were lost to Arabian horse breeding. Egypt’s first published stud book did not appear for more than fifty years after this sale, so details of these lost horses are available to us through scattered notes in Lady Anne Blunt’s Journals and stud books and also The Raswan Index. While the Index material on the Ali Pasha pedigrees is often difficult to follow and seems to come from secondary and tertiary sources, the Index is in general surprisingly clear about the horses going through this sale. Raswan’s information includes colors, foaling dates, and parents of the sale horses.

Internal evidence suggests that Raswan saw one of the bills which Lady Anne Blunt mentions as having been issued prior to the sale. He might have seen one during the time he spent with Lady Wentworth in 1926. He might have found one in Egypt, perhaps as part of the library of Prince Mohammed Ali to which Raswan also had access. The Index contains a number of alternative spellings of the names of the horses going through the sale. These transliterations use a system entirely different from those Raswan and Lady Anne Blunt used. They are consistent with themselves, suggesting that Raswan drew them from a single source. Certain spellings suggest that the original writer spoke French. For example, the name “Helwa” (“sweet” in Arabic) is rendered “Heloua,” the use of “oua” for “w” being typically French. “Shakra” (Arabic for “chestnut”) appears as “Chakra,” also a French spelling.

Raswan’s information about the horses going through the sale is in general agreement with Lady Anne Blunt’s. Using the two sources, it is possible to reconstruct a sale catalog:

  • 1. Aziz was a chestnut Dahman Shahwan stallion Lady Anne Blunt first saw as a four-year-old in November of 1880, making Aziz about 21 at the time of the sale. He was a principal sire for Ali Pasha, and Lady Anne Blunt came to own many of his get: Mesaoud GSB, Antar, Jamil, Johara GSB, Bint Helwa GSB, Bint Nura GSB, Bint Bint Jamila el Kebira, Bint Fereya, Badia GSB, Bint Horra, Kerima, Aziza (1900), and Khatila GSB. (1) Aziz died in 1889. (Blunt quoted in Pearson/Mol p. 137).
  • 2. Bint Bint Azz eventually found her way to Lady Anne Blunt’s stables at Sheykh Obeyd Garden near Cairo. She was entered as No. 23 in the Sheykh Obeyd Stud Book, renamed “Azz,” and described there as a white Dahmah Shahwaniyah mare foaled in 1895 or 96, by Ibn Nura and out of Bint Azz. Index entries 1415 and 1067 give variant spelling of her name “Bent Bent Ezz.” Entered in GSB as “Azz.”
  • 3. Ibn Johara is described in Index entry 3998 as an 1894 grey stallion out of Johara (q.v.) and by “Ibn Mahroussa I.” Entry 4005 explains that “Ibn Mahroussa I” is the grey stallion more often known as Mahruss. The variant name and numerical designation appear to be Raswan’s own. Lady Anne’s Journal entry for January 22, 1902 mentions “the grey horse (now 7 years old) by Mahruss out of Johara” then owned by Ahmed Fathi and his son Mohammed Fathi. This is apparently Ibn Johara.
  • 4. and 5. Ibn Zarifa Saghir and Ibn Zarifa Kebir appear to be the sons of a mare named Zarifa (“the graceful”), as their names imply (“the younger son of the graceful mare” and “the elder son of the graceful mare” respectively). Index entries 4040 and 4041, as well as 11242 and 11243, interpret the names to mean “the son of the younger Zarifa” and “the son of the elder Zarifa,” which is an unlikely interpretation since the words kebir and saghir take the masculine form and therefore seem to apply to the sons. Raswan says the sons were foaled in 1887 and 1888, were both grey, and both by Aziz.
  • 6. and 7. Ibn Bint Nura Saghir and Ibn Bint Nura Kebir Raswan describes as chestnut stallions foaled 1892 and 1889, by Aziz and out of Bint Nura (index 3964, 3962). Entry 3964 gives variant spelling “Ebn Bent Noura El-Saghir.” Raswan’s attempt to determine which Bint Nura produced these stallions is similar to his treatment of the two Zarifa sons. These two sons of “Bint Nura” were probably out of the same mare. Ali Pasha owned numerous mares known as “Bint Nura” (see below for another). These two easily could have been full brothers to Bint Nura GSB.
  • 8. Ibn Bint Jellabieh Feysul is in the Index ( 3957) as an 1893 chestnut son of Ibn Nura out of Bint Jellabieh Feysul. Date, name, and color agree with the Journal entry describing the auction. Raswan seems to have been unaware that this horse was Feysul GSB. Lady Anne Blunt acquired him “from Seyyid Mohammed Fathi December 7 1898. Mohammed Fathi had bought him from Saleh Bey Sherif, his purchaser at the 2nd Auction held in March 1897 (Lady Anne Blunt quoted in A,P & C, p. 97). The facsimile page of the Sheykh Obeyd stud book reproduced in Upton shows that Lady Anne Blunt originally entered Feysul as the son of “Bint Jellabiet Feysul,” noting that Feysul’s dam was also known as “the lame” (El Argaa) from having broken a front leg. She later changed El Argaa’s other name to read “Bint Bint Jellabiet Feysul,” implying that one of the “Bints” had been left out originally.
  • 9. Ibn Nura es Shakra is in the Index ( 3963) as an 1890 grey stallion by Ibn Sherara (also spelled “Charara”) and out of Bint Nura es Shakra (Bint Nura GSB; see below). Sheykh Obeyd records state that Ibn Bint Nura es Shakra was bred to Johara in 1897. At that time Lady Anne Blunt described him as “Ibn Bint Nura es Shakra (white about 7 years) by Ibn Sherara…” (Pearson/Mol p. 139). In later years a grey stallion named Kaukab from the Ali Pasha collection was active in Egypt. He was the sire of Sahab, the grandsire of the Babson import *Bint Serra. *Bint Serra’s original pedigree, issued in Egypt, describes “Kawkab” as a white son of Ibn Sherara and “Bint Nura.” Lady Anne Blunt owned Sahab and knew his sire. In December of 1907 she referred to Kaukab as “a beautiful white horse about 15 years old” belonging to Ali Pasha’s son Yusef Bey (J&C p. 325). On February 19, 1914 she had a visit from Ibrahim Bey Sherif, another of Ali Pasha’s sons: “he says he has ‘taken’ Kaukab (sire of Sahab) from his brother (Yusef) and will bring that beautiful old horse to show me tomorrow.” The next day “Ibrahim Bey Sherif conducted by Ali the syce appeared on Kaukab, true to promise. That horse is indeed beautiful, light of bone as they say and pasterns rather too long, but what style, the quarter splendid (I wish Sahab had inherited that)…” Kaukab was apparently out of Lady Anne’s own Bint Nura GSB (shot in 1912). One might suspect that Kaukab and Ibn Bint Nura es Shakra were the same horse. However, notes of Lady Anne’s quoted in A, P&C ( p. 113) in connection with Sahab state that Yusef Bey Sherif had Kaukab “given to him by his father before the ‘interdict.’ ” This makes it unlikely Kaukab would have been one of the horses in the auction. If Ibn Bint Nura es Shakra and Kaukab are not the same horse, then it seems they were full brothers of roughly the same age.
  • 10. Ibn Makbula is in the Index (4009) as an 1892 grey stallion. Variant spelling “Ebn Makboula.” Beyond this, his Index entry is particularly garbled. He is listed as being by a sire also named “Ibn Makbula” and out of a mare named “Nasrat.” There is no other “Ibn Makbula” in the Index, and the only “Nasrat” in the Index was a bay Ali Pasha stallion by Aziz and out of Bint Azz. Ali Pasha Sherif owned at least two mares named Makbula, and Ibn Makbula’s name implies he was the son of one of them. Index correction 888 changes the sire to Nasrat and the dam to Makbula. Like Raswan, Lady Anne Blunt says that Ali Pasha Sherif bred a bay stallion named Nasr or Nasrat, by Aziz and out of Bint Azz. She further records that “Nasr died of ‘the eye’ i.e. fell dead one day when being ridden out – this happened on a bridge. His only descendants were Kasida, Manokta and a colt ex Mukbula” ( quoted in Upton, p. 116)

    Kasida ( 1891) and Manokta ( 1894) were foundation mares for Lady Anne Blunt, full sisters by Nasr and out of Makbula GSB. It seems that Ibn Makbula was their brother and the third Nasr foal.

    Ibn Makbula appears in the Journals again, entry of November 20, 1909: “To the house of Mahmud Moharrem Rustem purchaser of … the colt by Nasrat out of Makbula … a handsome wreck, eyes sunk in and looks older than his age (16 to 17 years), is very like Kasida is grey, great bone, strange to say not yet white at that age.”

  • 11. Ibn Azz Saghir is not in the Index, but there is an entry for Ibn Bint Azz As-Saghir ( 3954), with the telltale variant spelling “Ebn Bent Ezz El-Saghir.” The Index lists him as an 1893 grey stallion by Ibn Helwa (or “Ebn Heloua”) out of Bint Azz (“Bent Ezz”). It seems unlikely that Azz herself was producing as late as the 1890’s, but a Bint Azz daughter also went through the sale, so this might be another case of a dropped “Bint.” Index entry 3992 implies that Ibn Helwa was full brother to Bint Helwa GSB and Johara GSB.
  • 12. Johara Bint Helwa has variant spelling “Goharra Bent Heloua” in Index entries 3081 and 4550. She is in GSB as Johara, and Crabbet records state she was also known as “Bint Helwa es Shakra” (the chestnut daughter of the sweet mare). Crabbet records further state that Lady Anne Blunt “[p]urchased [her] from Ibrahim Bey Sherif on April 19, 1897 for Lb 120. Ibrahim Bey had bought her at the Auction on March 26, for LbE 80 (quoted in Upton, p. 100). Johara was the daughter of Aziz and Helwa, and was foaled about 1880, making her one of the first Aziz foals.
  • 13. Bint Horra also has a variant spelling in the Index ( 1456): “Bent Horra.” She was one of the three horses Lady Anne bought at the auction. Bint Horra is No. 9 in the Sheykh Obeyd herd book, and is described there as an 1889 grey mare bred by Ali Pasha, got by Aziz, her dam Horra. Bint Horra died at Sheykh Obeyd in September, 1897.
  • 14. Fortunately, Lady Anne had also bought Bint Horra’s foal, a bay filly by Ibn Nura just 22 days old at the time of the auction. She was known as Bint Bint Horra, and Lady Anne Blunt named her Ghazieh. She is No. 15 in the Sheykh Obeyd herd book, and was the dam of ten foals for Lady Anne.
  • 15. Bint Nura es Shakra was the third horse Lady Anne bought at the auction. She is in GSB as Bint Nura. Index entry 1477 has the somewhat predictable variant spelling “Bent Nour [sic] El Chakra.” She was a chestnut mare foaled in 1885, by Aziz, her dam Bint Nura. Lady Anne, with typical fastidiousness, notes that Bint Nura GSB’s name “should be Bint Bint Nura” ( see Upton, p. 108).
  • 16. Bint Makbula brought the most money of any horse in the sale. She is better known as Kasida GSB. A Frenchman bought her at the auction and imported her to France in April, 1897. He brought her back to Egypt that winter, and Lady Anne Blunt was able to buy her from him in March of 1898 (Upton, p. 116). Kasida was originally named Bint Makbula el Shakra. She was an 1891 chestnut full sister to the grey Manokta (Bint Makbula el Saghira), by Nasr and out of Makbula GSB. Index entry 1467 for “Bint Makbula,” an 1891 chestnut Jallabiyah by Nasrat, appears to refer to Kasida GSB.

Lady Anne Blunt eventually owned seven of the horses sold through this auction. They and her other Ali Pasha horses were combined with bloodlines she and her husband Mr. Wilfrid Blunt had selected in Syria, India, and Arabia. This blending produced the famous Crabbet and Sheykh Obeyd Arabians of the Blunts.

Lady Anne Blunt: Preservation Breeder

Among the traditional questions Arabian horse writers debate is, To what extent did the best qualities of the horses the Blunts bred in later years stem from the Ali Pasha collection as opposed to the original “Blunt” desert stock with which Crabbet started?

Lady Anne Blunt herself repeatedly attributed an “indescribable air of distinction” and “style” ( J&C p. 214) to the “unmistakable Ali Pasha Sherif stamp of horse” ( J&C p. 236). Yet the Blunts did not discard the original Crabbet lines and breed only from Ali Pasha blood. Following the importation of Mesaoud, Merzuk, Khatila, Sobha, and Safra to Crabbet in 1891, most foals represented a combination of Blunt desert lines with Ali Pasha blood. Nejran (Azrek x Nefisa), sold to Australia in 1904, was the last “straight Blunt” (meaning, in this article, a horse tracing only to the Blunt acquisitions bred in the desert) stallion to stand at Crabbet, but the GSB does not record that he covered any straight Blunt mares. Crabbet’s last straight Blunt foal listed in GSB was Bozra’s 1901 effort by Ahmar. This foal died young.

Although Crabbet ceased to produce straight Blunt horses, it did maintain a small pool of unmixed Ali Pasha stock. The 1917 Crabbet catalog (prepared about a year before Lady Anne Blunt’s death) lists three remaining mares (Kantara, *Kerbela, and Hamasa) and three stallions (Feysul, Ibn Yashmak, and Zeydan). In 1916 *Kerbela was bred to Zeydan, Hamasa to Feysul, and Kantara to Ibn Yashmak. The latter was the only productive mating, responsible for the 1917 filly Kesratain. She was Crabbet’s last foal of unmixed Ali Pasha blood and the first since her full sister *Kerbela in 1911. Feysul was destroyed in 1917 and Hamasa (Mesaoud x Bint Helwa) was sold at about the same time. Clearly the production of straight Ali Pasha horses was neither a primary project at Crabbet nor one with the prospect of continuing much longer. Wilfrid Blunt sold *Kerbela to America in 1918, but Lady Wentworth was able to repurchase Kibla (Mesaoud x Makbula GSB). Though scarcely a saint, Lady Wentworth does not deserve the chiding she has received for Crabbet’s not preserving the Ali Pasha Sherif bloodlines in any straight form. ( 2)

At the time the 1916 Crabbet catalog was prepared the situation of the Ali Pasha stock at Sheykh Obeyd was not much better. There, Lady Anne Blunt had two pure Ali Pasha stallions, five broodmares, and three fillies. They are listed in the accompanying box. Journal entry for July 12th, 1916:

Stud notice. Jemla to Sahab. Zarifa to Jamil. N.B. If this fails it will be best to take Saadun for both of them. I try with Sahab & Jamil because the authorities here are so very keen about unmixed Abbas Pasha descent, as to which I know from experience that results are uneven. (J&C p. 377)

The sudden outbreak of straight Ali Pasha breedings in England during the 1916 season is likely not coincidental. The last phrase of the entry is perhaps the best indication of why Lady Anne Blunt did not pursue straight Ali Pasha breeding more vigorously. Despite the qualities which the best of the Ali Pasha horses exhibited, Lady Anne Blunt found the bloodline easier to manage as a breeding influence when outcrossed. In this way the Ali Pasha horses and the Blunt desert lines were able to improve one another.


All of these horses were bred at Sheykh Obeyd with the exception of the three oldest. Jamil was bred by Ali Pasha Sherif. Sahab was bred by a son of Ali Pasha’s. Kerima was bred by Ali Pasha and purchased in-utero by Lady Anne Blunt. Of the above mares, Kerima had been barren for the past eight years and Lady Anne Blunt sold her in 1917. She also sold Faiza in 1917. Lady Anne presented Ghadia, Jamil, and Jemla to the RAS in 1917. Ghadia had been barren for five years, although Lady Anne believed her to be in foal to Jamil at the time she left Sheykh Obeyd (J&C p. 382). The other five were still at Sheykh Obeyd when Lady Anne died at the end of 1917. Feyda produced in 1917 a filly (dead) by Sahab, and Zarifa produced a 1917 colt by Jamil. Zarifa was rebred to Jamil, though Feyda went to Lady Anne’s desert bred stallion Krush.

Jamil Ch 20 Aziz x Bint Jamila
Sahab gr 13 Kaukab x Azz GSB
Kerima ch 19 Aziz x Makbula GSB
Ghadia gr 12 Feysul GSB x*Ghazala
Jemla gr 10 Jamil x *Ghazala
Feyda bay 6 Jamil x Ghazieh
Zarifa gr 5 Sahab x Ghadia
Serra gr yearling Sahab x Jemla
Faiza bay yearling Sahab x Feyda
Falha gr 1916 foal Sahab x Feyda


(1) The abbreviation “GSB” stands for the General Stud Book, in which the Blunt horses imported to or bred in England were registered. When it follows the name of a horse, it indicates the animal was registered in the GSB under that name. This I have tried to do in places where it might be necessary to distinguish it from horses having the same or similar name but not registered in GSB.

(2) Zeydan (Mesaoud x Kasida) was full brother to Kantara. His photo does not indicate he was one of Crabbet’s better efforts, and the “preservation” breeding to *Kerbela is the only record in GSB of his use at stud. Lady Wentworth sold Zeydan to the Egyptian government in 1920.


A,P&C is Archer, Pearson, and Covey’s The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Its History and Influence, Heriot, Cheltenham, 1978.

J&C is Lady Anne Blunt, Journals and Correspondence 1878-1917, ed. Archer & Fleming, Heriot, Cheltenham, 1986.

Pearson/Mol is notes of Lady Anne Blunt’s published in Pearson and Mol’s The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt, Heriot, Cheltenham, 1988.

Upton is notes of Lady Anne Blunt’s published in Peter Upton’s Desert Heritage, Skilton & Shaw, London, 1980.

Photos originally from the Newbuildings Collection of the late Lady Anne Lytton, provided by Michael Bowling.