December 26th, 2010:

A Tripoli Rodeo with Camels & Brahma Bulls

The Libyan Uaddan, a variety of Ram

Sidi Misari, on the outskirts of Tripoli, was an experimental farm run by Americans to show the Libyans better ways of farming and raising animals. Since it was close to Garden City, where I lived, I would frequently visit there with friends. A pretty garden area planted liberally with ice plant, a flowering succulent and typical local plant, welcomed visitors. Besides the ordinary chickens, turkeys, pheasants, rabbits and guinea pigs, there were pens with a few Libyan animals – the tiny gazelle as in the famous Fountain of the Gazelle, and the uaddan, a ram with huge horns, so massive that the animal had to sleep leaning on them. They kept Angus cattle, Brahma bulls and lots of horses as well.

The experimental farm gave Americans the unique idea of holding a rodeo. Sidi Misari would provide the Brahma bulls and some of the other animals, and it was another way to foster understanding between our two countries. Plenty of U.S. airmen knew something about riding horses and bulls. Everybody wanted to get into the act, and one of my high school classmates, Claudia Sobczak, was appointed Queen of the Rodeo. It was set up on the grounds of the Libyan Riding School, whose members would perform with their Arabian steeds. Besides the usual riding and roping, this rodeo would feature a camel-riding event.

A line-up of Arabian horses for the Tripoli Rodeo

All of Tripoli was invited with poorer Libyans treated to special ticket prices. The grandstands were filled with an international audience, most of whom had never seen a rodeo. Libyan Police putting their horses through their paces opened the day, followed by Arab sheiks in traditional headdress proudly parading their Arabian horses. After all the traditional events came the much-touted highlight—riding a camel—which turned into an amusing anticlimax.  The camel’s cinch belt was not tight enough to inspire him, for this normally cantankerous beast refused to oblige with enthusiastic bucking, and the rider easily mastered him.

The riders above are local Libyan sheiks showing off their beautiful Arabian horses at the Rodeo.

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