The next day I was picked up by Essmat who treated me to a great meal with fish as the main course for lunch. We then went to a very modern mall which had every product in any brand name you would see in North America. This mall was designed for families and had a very nice atmosphere. Essmat helped me select some items for my wife and family and then we were off to the show hall.
The birds were still arriving in the afternoon but the show secretary Eyad AlSaleh and Jaber had everything under control with a computer program developed to input band numbers and exhibitors that printed out coop cards, judging sheets and show results. It was really nice. I was asked how I wanted my judging area set up and before long we had everything organized. In addition to the large showing of Jacobins there were very large classes of LFCL Tumblers with Sean Morrow from England as Judge, Bokhara Trumpeters with Claus Jensen (Denmark) as Judge as well as Neil Pratt of England and Anders Christiansen from Denmark judging many of the other breeds. There were also several other very capable breeders from the region judging. By mid afternoon judging was underway.
It was interesting to see many different styles of birds representing bloodlines from around the world. It was great to see so many breeders attending to watch and learn from not only S.A. but also many surrounding countries like Bahrain and Kuwait. Everyone was polite and I was really impressed with the good sportsmanship and attention given the judging process. I was fortunate to have Najeeb Rafie and Zahed Gulzar who were attending from Bahrain to help translate my comments so I could make my thoughts clear to everyone interested. I made an effort to not only judge the birds fairly but also to act as a teacher and help everyone to understand all the details that make a great Jacobin.
Whites were a good class. The old white cocks were a nice class but nothing really stood out and the best one had a problem with his hood setting. It ended up that a young white hen in great condition with the hardest smoothest feather I could have asked for was best White. She could have used more length of feather but she was very tall and showy with a nice refined body and her hood setting, chain and overall structure was very correct. She was bred and shown by Abu Nasser Al Mohini. This young man really impressed me with his enthusiasm and the quality of the birds he had bred. He told me this young hen was largely of French blood which I found very interesting.
Reds were another good class with lots of birds. I saw more depth of quality in the reds and both the young and old cocks were very strong. Best Red went to the Old cock shown by Faisal Zaid. This was a very powerful bird with good station and big feather that was very well structured and he held up very well. I must also comment that the top three young red cocks were also of very high quality and would compete well anywhere. Yellows had some excellent birds. The winning Yellow was an impressive old cock that had smooth hard feather and was very well balanced. The Young Yellow cock was also very good and had a thick mane and hard feather as well as great color. He could have been a bit taller and had a little more feather length but still a great bird. However the Yellow that impressed me the most was the young hen. This hen was extraordinary. Although she was not as balance as the old cock, she had huge feather and great station but not as much feather wealth and was a bit thin in the mane. However she was one that sticks in my mind. Best Yellow was won by Abu Nawaf Al Harabi.
Blacks were a nice class but not as many birds as I expected. The winning Black was a standout. He was tall and balanced with really good color. This bird was also shown by Abu Nawaf Al Harabi. I was told that this bird was a combination of German and Australian bloodlines and was bred by Ebrahim Yaqoob Youaif. I then remembered seeing this bird as a baby when I was in Bahrain two years earlier.
The A.O.C. class had some nice birds. A Kite y.c. was best. He was tall and had great feather wealth and fit. He was shown by Essmat Al Sadiq and was a very deserving winner.
The Splash class had some very good birds but one that was exceptional. This was a red splash Y.C. shown by Aqeel Thamer from Bahrain. This bird was the best in every respect. He truly took my breath away. His great length of feather and refined style with great station and very correct feather structure made him stand out above all others. I knew as soon as I saw him that he would be the bird to beat at this show.
The Reduced class is one I looked forward to. There were a good number of birds in the color in several different expressions of the color. Although the style, feather length and indeed all the features of a good Jacobin were there, feather quality was not. After talking with the breeders who have been working on this color for longer than any of us it seems that the feather quality is the major issue. It affects the birds to the point that the chains are a mess and the feather has no finish. Many breeders are now starting over with the color to try to inject feather quality above all else rather than feather length and see where that takes them. Najeeb Rafie is more knowledgeable than anyone else I have met when it comes to this color. The winning reduced had the nicest color I have seen on a Jacobin and was a very good bird that just lacked the feather quality we want. This bird was shown by Abu Nasser Al Mohini.
The Opal class was a real pleasure to judge. Here I saw one of the nicest birds in the show. He was an o.c. also shown by Abu Nasser Al Mohini. This bird had excellent feather quality and great structure. He was a really stylish bird and I was totally taken by him and he easily won best Opal. It was interesting to see that certain expressions of Opal closely resemble the reduced colors.
When I brought up the color class winners I narrowed it down to the Red, White and Splash. I then wrote down my choices for Champion and Reserve on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. I then asked the large crowd watching to raise their hands as I pointed to each of the top three birds to see which one they thought should win. This was something I first saw done by my good friend Brian Pogue and it is a good way to get the audience involved. In my mind the Splash was the easy winner and by the show of hands the vast majority agreed. Reserve went to the powerful Red O.C. and again this was the second most popular show of hands among the spectators.
I then had the Yellow young hen brought up to go up against the young White hen for Best Hen in show. I then selected the powerful Yellow for this award.
It was a great show and everyone was very excited with clapping and cheers for the winners. It was a great honor for me to have been asked to judge this great event. My overall impression of the birds shown was good. Although most of the birds needed some work, all the pieces of the puzzle were there with several that were very complete. I saw many young enthusiastic breeders who were several years into their breeding programs and they had some very nice young birds to show for their efforts. I can see the overall quality progressing very fast.
GCC #2 Aqeel with his Champion & Najeeb in the background
Following the show there was an awards banquet and all of the judges were recognized as well as the winning exhibitors. Afterwards we were treated to a very nice meal by Jay. We then went back to the hotel where Neil, Claus, Sean, Anders, Jay, Essmat and I stayed up in the lobby talking pigeons with a world wide perspective until early morning. This became the habit for all of us over the next few days and it was really an educational experience for me to pick the minds of all these great breeders. In the days that followed Essmat and Jay took all of us on many tours of their lofts as well as to visit other breeders and sites. Essmat took us to his home and loft in Safwa where we got to look at his loft set up and we studied the nice group of Jacobins he was breeding from. Afterwards Essmat stopped at a small shop that makes special breads and he treated Claus and I to an amazing pastry deep fried and covered in honey and sesame seeds. On the way back I saw some camels and asked Essmat if they were good to eat. Essmat told me that the young ones are very good. From here we were taken to the loft of Abu Ahmed Al Safwani. It was here that I saw something I never dreamed existed. Mr. Safwani deals in pigeons and he had aprox. 20,000 pairs in every breed and color imaginable. What was just as incredible is that he was breeding from most of them in individual breeding compartments. Needless to say there were people everywhere just looking after them. All of the breeding compartments were made of welded steel and it was one building after another with thousands of pairs. In addition to the fancy birds there were meat pigeons and people were coming as we watched to get fresh squabs. The best quality breeding stock was in a separate place on an upper level and here we saw some nice quality birds in many breeds. It was great to see the breeds that were unique to the Middle East that we would never see anywhere else. In another area men were welding more steel nests boxes and these were being custom made for other breeders who placed orders for them. We could have spent all day just looking at birds here. That evening many plans had been made for us and we visited the bird market on the open street which is held every week. It was stunning to see all the finches, canaries, parrots, chickens and more pigeons than you could imagine for sale on the street that went on for as far as the eye could see. Every breed and color you could imagine. At the local bird shop there were feeds and medications from everywhere in the world. Anything you could ask for or think of.
We then visited the loft of Abu Ameer where we saw a very clean loft arrangement with many outstanding Jacobins and were treated to Arabic coffee. From here we were taken back to the pigeon farm owned by Mr. Safwani for a special supper. My comments about eating camel had not gone unnoticed and a wonderful meal had been prepared by Abu Ameer of roast Camel on steamed rice followed by fresh goat yogurt. It was fantastic and it is something I will always remember as will the rest of the guys from Europe I am sure. After the great feast we went upstairs where Sean and I were each to give clinics on judging, breeding and anything else we could share about Jacobins and LFCL Tumblers. It was great fun and we were able to answer many good questions.
After this we went to Jay's loft where Sean gave us all lessons on LFCL tumblers as Jay displayed his fine group of birds for us to look at. It was here that Jay gave me a traditional dress and burka that his wife had selected to send to my wife. This was very special as this is something my wife had asked for. It was a great, long day but we enjoyed every minute of it. Essmat was so skilled at keeping us on time and he was never late but never rushed us.
I must say the Saudi breeders are first class. I have nothing but fond memories of both the people and the country. It was great to see the mix of cutting edge technology in harmony with traditional values. It was truly an honor to be invited to judge and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I recall my experiences in Saudi Arabia with friends and family almost every day. I feel rich with the friends I have made and again the world is a better place because our pigeons have brought us closer together.
I especially want to thank Essmat and Jay for taking such good care of me and making sure I was looked after. It can be difficult travelling to a new place and culture alone when you are not sure of yourself but these two did everything possible to make me feel completely at ease.
Thank you again for your friendship.