In the shade of the pines and eucalyptus trees, a young rider wraps himself in his “jard”, a large white sheet, before mounting a horse for racing.
In Zawiya, a city located 45 kilometers west of Tripoli, horse racing plays a central part in the lives of the people here.
These races are held every Friday, which is a non-working day in the country .
The horse races allows Libyans to forget the daily violence and chaos associated with the country all be it for a couple of hours.
Hussein al-Marmouri, horse rider
“I like the traditional riding, it has been my passion since childhood. This sport was practiced by our parents and grandparents. I hope that the general public will practice it too. “
Ali al-Hadi, horse rider
“Horseback riding is in our blood, our children and the whole family love it.”
Their passion for the sport defies the insecurity and the risks involved in travelling hundreds of kilometers with their horses.
The atmosphere at the racing ground is very evident which attracts the young and old.
These horsemen mount their horses in shiny dresses adorned with shimmering ornaments, including traditional Libyan saddles.
The popularity of these races have helped to boost the local craft industry that manufactures the saddles and adorable ornaments, a feat in a country where violence has shut down many businesses.
“In the past, they were used by our ancestors during the Italian invasion, they fought on horseback and had special stools. Then, the stools evolved and were used in celebrations, events and parties. “ Ibrahim Sueidan, manufacturer of traditional saddles
Combining leather, velvet and felt, these “jewels” of Libyan craftsmanship are embroidered with silver plates.
The price of a saddle also depends on the percentage of silver used for decoration, artisans use more and more copper and aluminum in an attempt to limit costs.
Despite this surge in prices, demand for these stools has not weakened.