WAHO Memoriam

Dr. Abu Bakre El Arifi died in his sleep on 3rd November 2002, in Doha, Qatar. As he was only 51 years old and in apparent good health, his sudden death came as a great shock and a tragic loss for his wife and family in England, and immensely sad news for all his many friends in WAHO.

Abu Bakre first appeared on the WAHO scene at the 1988 Conference in London, as a delegate for The United Arab Emirates, then an Applying Member. Bilingual in English and Arabic, he was well qualified by background and training to get actively and responsibly involved in many spheres of Arabian horse activities. Born in The Sudan, he trained and practiced there as a veterinary surgeon. He then gained his Ph.D. at Aberdeen University in the U.K., where he met and married his wife Karen. When the Royal Stables in Abu Dhabi had a vacancy in their veterinary section, Abu Bakre was chosen personally by His Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, because he combined professional and scientific qualifications in English with the essential Arabic cultural and language background. He very soon rose to become the senior Veterinarian at the Royal Stables, and became instrumental in setting up the framework for the registration of Arabian horses in the U.A.E. He was the first Registrar of the Emirates Arabian Horse Society which in 1990 published the first volume of their Stud Book. The U.A.E. was accepted in the same year as a full Member of WAHO. For several years, Abu Bakre was the Registrar and Manager of the busy EAHS office in Abu Dhabi, fully equipped with all the latest computer systems – another particular interest of his – and in close contact with equestrian, veterinarian and other scientific bodies worldwide.

His lively intelligence, open mind, sense of humour, talent for making friends in any company, enthusiasm and drive, integrity and total professional commitment marked him as a special person. In 1994, Jay Stream persuaded him to join the WAHO Executive Committee. With his full grasp of the international role of WAHO, he played a vital and highly appreciated role, in particular he showed great sensitivity in balancing “Western” and “Middle Eastern” cultural and historical differences. Abu Bakre’s organizational talents came brilliantly to the fore during the 1996 WAHO Conference in Abu Dhabi. He was the co-ordinator of this extraordinarily successful and unforgettable event, which was so generously hosted by the Emirates Arabian Horse Society and the ruling families of the U.A.E.

In 2000, after nearly 20 years in Abu Dhabi, he relinquished his post there, returning to England with his family, planning a more relaxed way of life as he pursued some new business interests. However, the call of the Arabian horse world remained strong, and when he was offered a contract as Registrar and Consultant to the Qatar Arabian Horse Registry Office in Doha, he did not hesitate to accept. During the summer of 2002, once again his particular skills were utilized to the full by WAHO. He was a member of the Inspection and Investigation Committee which visited Syria to look into the provenance of a number of additional horses for which WAHO acceptance had been requested. Abu Bakre made a significant contribution to the report, which was discussed at length and the horses were accepted by majority vote at the 2002 WAHO Conference in Istanbul. Abu Bakre’s enthusiasm at this decision was undisguised and exuberant. It was the last time WAHO members were to see him.

It is a great loss for all the family of WAHO that this vibrant, intelligent man, so full of vitality and ‘joie de vivre’ has passed away so suddenly at such a young age. However, the tragedy is most cruel for his family, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his wife Karen and his children Naji, Saara and Sally, and to his family in Sudan and overseas. Karen has asked us to thank all his many friends around the world who wrote so many wonderful and heartwarming messages to her at the time of his death. We will both miss him as a great personal friend who opened up new horizons for us.

Pesi and Elisabeth Gazder.