Houston, Texas – January 28th, 2020: The Qatar America Institute (QAI) hosted their Expressions Expert talk, “The Arabian Horse: Lore and Legends,” featuring Houstonian and renowned Arabian breeder, Michael Byatt, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science today. The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) is an independent cultural and educational nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue, research, and exchange between Qatar and the United States.
Byatt, of Michael Byatt Arabians, is an internationally known Arabian horse breeder and rider who helped develop the incomparable Arabians at Qatar’s Al Shaqab Equestrian Center, which has influenced breeding world-wide. Established in 1992, Al Shaqab has bred seven World Champion stallions, who have flown regularly be-tween Qatar, Europe, and the United States, living for many years in New Ulm, Texas.
Today, champion offspring of these stallions enhance the pedigrees of Arabian horses around the world. Byatt noted that “Arabians have been the mounts of choice for leaders from Alexander the Great to Napoleon and in America from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. In fact, these versatile horses find favor as sport horses, polo ponies, and backyard friends, beloved for their athleticism, beauty and innate sensitivity to human interaction.”
The program, moderated by Diana Untermeyer, author of “Qatar: Sand, Sea, and Sky” and cultural advisor to the Qatar-America Institute (QAI), is part of QAI’s Expressions Artist Talk series. Expressions is a community event featuring American personalities, artists, and creatives who have lived or worked in Qatar and who have been inspired by Qatari culture. The speakers share their expertise, stories, and perspectives about Qatar followed by an audience Q & A to enhance community and cultural understanding between the two nations. Qatar National Tourism Council provided funding for the Expressions series, which is free and open to the public.
Past Expressions speakers have included: architectural author Phillip Jodidio for a talk centered around contemporary architecture in Qatar; the former chair of the Fashion Design department of Virginia Commonwealth University – Qatar (VCU-Q), Sandra Bell Wilkins, for a discussion on the history of fashion in the Middle East; chef and author Anissa Helou who spoke about the history and influences of Middle Eastern cuisine; and novelist Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar whose recent books focus on life in Qatar.
Fatima Al-Dosari, QAI’s Executive Director, said: “QAI conducts cultural exchanges, educational programs, and storytelling forums to foster mutual understanding between communities in the United States and Qatar; and today’s talk on Arabian horses in Houston is the perfect opportunity to display the cultural commonalities and intersections between the American and Qatari people.”
“Both Doha, Qatar, and Houston, Texas, share a thriving equestrian scene that is rooted in each cities’ culture and traditions,” said Diana Untermeyer. “Houston and Qatar interact beyond the petroleum industry with the Arabian horse playing a central role. Many Qatari horses, including three-time world champion Marwan Al Shaq-ab, have lived in Texas. Artificial insemination allows the sought-after Al Shaqab pedigree to be shared worldwide. Frozen semen is FedExed from Texas to regional breeding centers. In the tradition of royal and diplomat gift-giving, these breedings build ties of friendship between individuals and nations that treasure the Arabian horse.”
Last November, Byatt took Marwan’s son Hariry Al Shaqab into the show ring at the prestigious Salon Du Chevalier de Paris winning the title of World Platinum Champion. Hariry then made the transatlantic flight back to the United States in a container specially designed for equine air transport.
“The links between Qatar and Houston also include communities centered around sustainability and sports. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed November 19, 2019, as “Qatar Day in Houston” in appreciation for its support after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. From the $30 million Qatar Harvey Fund – which supports a variety of Houston area community development projects – $3.3 million was donated to Harris County to build eight new soccer fields in Precincts 1 and 4 that also will serve as flood mitigation basins. In its growing role as a sports hub in the MENA region and gearing up for its hosting duties for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar recognizes the important role of sports as a global unifier, from horse-riding to soccer” Untermeyer concluded.