“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Ahmed & Omar Al Hamli of Dubai (ALHAMLI TEAM).
I first became aware on the two brothers, Ahmed and Omar Al Hamli of the United Arab Emirates, through my association with the Ponderosa UK Stud in Weymouth and they have had great success racing the Ponderosa bloodline for many years. They race in partnership as ‘ALHAMLI TEAM’ and their lofts are at their home in Dubai. The 2016 season had seen them win 1st and 9th open Alshaheed 520klm (final race) One Point Race with 100% Ponderosa UK Stud Verkerk / Gaston Van De Wouwer pigeons. They live near the sea, so swimming and fishing were their main hobbies when they were very young. The Brother’s late father was a pigeon keeper and Omar told me, ‘Keith, he only kept them as pets, but treated them so amazingly and I think his way with the birds was the main factor that made us so keen on the pigeons. He kept pigeons and we were there watching him, and gradually we got involved. We got our first racing pigeons in the late 1980’s, when my brother came across some racing birds offered for sale in the market and they were a pair with ‘NL’ rings on. He purchased them, but of course we were not sure what to do with them, except breed from them. My brother, Ahmad, was eager to know more about racing pigeons after he purchased the Dutch pair of pigeons. He started to search for any information on racing pigeons and actually came across an old Arabic book called, ‘The Animal’ (Kitab al-Hayawan). It was written sometime in the 9th century by an Arab professor named, Al-Jahiz, and he covered a chapter on racing pigeons during that time, and how valuable these birds used to be. He wrote that a pigeon was worth 1,000 Dinar (currency used at that time) and compared to 30 or 40 Dinar for a cow’.
Ahmed and Omar got their first racing stock birds in the 1900’s, when they met Dr. Ashraf Jaber, coincidently in the market, and he was a racing pigeon fancier from Egypt working in Dubai. It all started there for the Al Hamli brothers, with his help they obtained their first batch of racing birds from fanciers in Egypt and these were mostly long distance strains, including: Cattrysse, Desmet-Matthys and Andre Vermote. When they started up 30 years ago there was no internet or social media, so information about the pigeon racing sport was not available, especially in their part of the world. However, Ahmed said, ‘the great Janssen pigeons were very famous and we knew about them’. They started with pigeon brought in from Egypt and as previously stated, they were long distance, but they also raced them in short distance races (150klm to 400klm) with some good success. They raced only shorter distances races up to 400klm as this is the furthest point they can reach to the border with Saudi Arabia and could go beyond that, but it requires a complicated procedure and documents, plus a long waiting queue to pass the border. All these problems have forced their pigeon racing from day one to stay within the United Arab Emirates jurisdiction.
The brothers were the founder members, with three other fanciers, of the first racing pigeon club in Dubai and that was in 1990. It is called the Dubai Racing Pigeon Club and Ahmed and Omar still race in that club today. Their first loft, built in 1989, was a three section set up for the sliding door method. When I asked the brothers about their mistakes in the early days they told me that the biggest was and it is something they still really regret doing today, is sending pigeons to the races that were not 100% fit to do the job and sometimes loosing good birds with bad judgment. Another mistake was being fooled by what they called the ‘secret stuff’, which is commercial products and in fact what you need to win races is good quality and healthy pigeon. This is what all novices need to look for; no product in the world can help you win races if your birds are not healthy and top quality.
The Al Hamli brothers have won countless premier positions through their many years racing pigeons, including winning in the One Point Lofts, which has been a great thrill for Ahmed and Omar, seeing their name at the top of the result sheet many times. The most memorable thing of all time was being top winner in the One Point Loft of Riyadh, KSA, three years on the trot in the 1998, 1999 and 2000 seasons. Fanciers from everywhere participate in these events, including the Gulf countries, Belgium, Holland, United Kingdom and Spain, and the brothers are proud to say they were the only fancier to score in the ten open positions three years in a row. They won: 1998 2nd open, 1999 5th and 6th open, 2000 8th open and all the winners were brothers and sisters bred from their champion Meulemans sock cock, ‘King’, which was obtained from the Ponderosa UK Stud in Weymouth. A wonderful performance! In recent seasons the Al Hamli brothers have won a long list of premier positions in One Point Loft races including: 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 5th, 5th, 5th, 6th open and so on. The 2016 season saw their champion blue chequer cock, ‘343’, win 1st open final race Alshaheed (520klm) One Point Loft Kuwait with a velocity of 980 mpm. They also recorded 9th open and both pigeons were 100% Ponderosa UK Stud Verkerk / Gaston Van Wouwer pigeons.
The brother’s current loft in Dubai is 32ft long and 10ft wide, which houses both racers and breeders. The racing loft is 22ft long, with a corridor and four sections for widowhood racers and stock pigeons. The brothers maintain the most important fact in good loft design is ventilation, especially with the weather in that part of the world. Because of the very high temperature and humidity in Dubai, the best thing to use in the loft is grilled floors, as it keeps the droppings away from the inmates, which helps and keeps things dry. They race their old birds on the ‘roundabout’ system, which they maintain is easy to operate and is less stress on the birds. Ahmed and Omar race both cocks and hens on the system and usually start the season with about 100 old and young birds. When I asked Ahmed about their racing system he said, ‘the system works like this: we separate the cocks and hens and we exercise each group alone for one hour every day, with no afternoon flying out. Once they are fit for road work they are trained up to 80klm (50 miles) every day alternately and the cocks don’t see the hens until the last couple of training tosses. The first race is 160klm (100 miles). On these last training tosses, they see their mate on arrival home for about 15 minutes and next day vice a versa Three days before the first race, no more road work, just an hour of exercise around the loft every day. On basketing day we don’t let them see one another and on their arrival home from the race they stay together for half an hour, but this depends on the race conditions and distance’. All the team race right through the program until the last race, providing they are fit and well to do the business and after the fourth race the hens are encouraged to mate together, which the brothers say might sound strange. The truth is if they mate together, they are hard to beat on the race day. They open the nest boxes and introduce the nest bowls on marking night for motivation and are very successful on a weekly basis up to 450klm (280 miles). Regarding feeding, the brothers use the same mixture all the year around, with no change and it is the same for the stock bird, old bird and young bird racers. They feed ‘Mariman’ mixture (breeding super power) and have tried break down in the past, and say feeding the same mixture all the year around, they notice the birds become healthier and in better shape. The brothers maintain that moulting is a natural thing that happens to pigeons and is part of their life cycle, and it is a big mistake to interfere with that. However you need to give the pigeons the rest more than anything else during the moulting time. They use the same corn mixture all the around and add brewer’s yeast twice a week, moist the corn with sedochol, one day with multi-vitamin in the water and plenty of grit and minerals.
Ahmed and Oma have 25 stock pairs and due to the weather conditions in the United Arab Emirates they start breeding in October and November every year. When bringing in new stock they take their time and observe the fancier, which might be over a three year period, just to make sure of his consistence of performance. Omar said, ‘this is what happened with Heremans-Ceusters back in 2003 and 2004. They were just about to come into view and we obtained our first successful Heremans-Ceusters stock birds’. Their birds are a mixture of short / middle distance families, which we have introduced over many years after they tried the long distance birds from Egypt. The brothers came across a book catalogue for the Ponderosa UK Stud in Weymouth and ordered some Meulemans and Janssen stock birds, and that was the start of a long and good relationship with Tony and Mary. That was in 1994 and in 1996 they introduced their Ponderosa Van Loon stock birds. The 1998 season saw Ahmed and Omar bring in ten late breds direct from Staf Van Reet of Belgium and these included two brothers of the famous ‘Den Don’ and ‘Favorie’. Then in 2004 they introduced the Heremans-Ceusters and Ad Schaerlaeckens stock birds and their latest introductions in 2012 were: Gaston Van Wouwer, Luc Mechlen and Johan Donkers. The Al Hamli brothers breed three rounds of youngsters every season, which total about 120 birds and they are trained hard, so normally starting the racing season with about 100 youngsters. They race every week, through the program up to the last race at 400klm. Feeding the young bird racers is the same as the old birds and are race the same, on the roundabout system. If they want to pair up they are allowed to do so, with the eggs being replaced with dummy eggs.
Ahmed and Omar both hold senior positions in the government sentor and with the massive pressure on their time because of their work, they sometimes find it hard to race their pigeons as would like. They now adapt their programs as per the time available and it has worked well so far. Their families are not 100% involved with the pigeons, but will help out when they are needed. Due to the limited distance of their country borders, 400klm is the maximum they can fly, which is to the border of Saudi Arabia, but the brothers tell me, in general the fanciers prefer shorter distance racing. When I asked Omar about his opinion on the eye sign theory he said, ‘in the beginning, yes we studied all the theories, eye sign, wings, body and tried to apply it, but these little creatures keep surprising us every time and mostly are against the theories. In the end we apply one theory, breed winner to winner, test the product by racing them and then keep the best’. In the beginning when the pigeon club became established in 1994, the brothers were very active with committee work, but in recent times they have had to take a step back because of the pressure on their time with work commitments. When advising novices they say the most important factor in successful pigeon racing is the management, but of course you need good birds. Pigeon racing is an art in its self and the only way to learn this art is to practice it and learn from your mistakes. Try, try and try again, until you have your own successful management!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)