There are some activities in Cairo that out-of-town visitors always want to try, and horseback riding at the pyramids is definitely one of them. Sure, there are plenty of stables to choose from, but many of the horses in Giza tend to be overworked, underfed and just plain sad. So, Cairo 360 decided to search for greener pastures, and we found ourselves at Al Sorat Farm in Sakarra.
Al Sorat Farm is the personal sanctuary and retirement project of veteran horse trainer Maryanne Stroud. Maryanne is the ringleader of a circus of sorts. The first thing you’ll notice at the farm is that there are animals everywhere. With seventeen dogs, a dozen or so horses and a few mules, the animals outnumber humans by far. If dogs make you nervous, this is not the right place for you. The dogs are friendly but very energetic.
For those that sincerely care about the treatment and well-being of horses in Cairo, the horses at Al Sorat are very well taken care of and obviously loved. All of the horses are Arab-baladi mixes, and they look very healthy and strong. Riders need not worry about saddle differences; both English and American saddles are available.
The stable encourages safety by wearing helmets and making the group ride at the skill level of the least experienced rider. Experienced riders should not venture to Al Sorat Farm in a group with lesser experienced riders; unless they don’t mind not being able to gallop or jump.
There are far less people riding in the Sakarra area, so riders get the sense that they are alone in the scenic Sakarra sands. The ride started out relaxing and the landscape was gorgeous. After about twenty minutes of slow walking, however, one of the horses snapped and started a very swift gallop. Following the horse’s lead, two other horses began to gallop into the desert.
The good news is that when the horses started to gallop, the more experienced rider in our group enjoyed the gallop of a horse called Gameela, who never made the rider feel out of control. Gameela is a real treat for an expert rider who misses riding on a well-trained horse.
The bad news is that the horse that snapped was being led by a less experienced rider, who could not control the horse’s rigorous gallop. Not long after, the rider fell off the horse and came very close to being badly injured. Although the stable seemed to enforce some safety precautions, it was surprising that more thought was not put into properly matching riders’ skills to horses. Additionally, inexperienced riders were also never taught how to dismount a horse during an emergency.
The whole experience just goes to show that the horses at the farm are a bit of a motley crew with various pasts. Many of the animals are simply given to the farm and a few of the horses are rescued cart horses and former racehorses; so if that scares you, don’t take that risk.
The farm is better suited for the experienced rider that can handle the occasional horse outburst. Although the horses are getting lots of love now, it doesn’t mean that they always have.
Although we still feel that the Al Sorat staff could have better prepared the less experienced riders among us for a possible outburst, Al Sorat offers a different experience for anyone sick of the old riding-around-the-pyramids routine.
Cairo 360 Tip: Al Sorat Farm offers a variety of rides, including hour-long rides, slightly longer rides for about three hours and longer distance trips, including a one-day trip to Dahshour that includes lunch. Al Sorat works by appointment only.