Al Saheel is an equestrian show (the very essence of the circus) based in Dubai—the first show of its genre to have its roots in the Middle East. The name "saheel" is the Arabic word to describe a horse’s whinny. The show was conceived, created, and is produced by Eileen Verdieck.
The idea of having a permanent equestrian show originally came to Eileen back in the 1980’s. It was initially planned to be in Egypt, performed before the backdrop of the Pyramids. The plan was to use the excess horses from the Egyptian Arabian breeding programs, and put together a show that was steeped in a historical context. Unfortunately, the project got stuck into a combination of funding issues and politics, and the plan remained on the drawing board.
In 2003, Eileen Verdieck settled down in Dubai, in the Arab Emirates, at a time when the city was in the midst of its development plans to become a major tourist attraction(Russian) A circus act that can occupy up to the entire second half of a circus performance.. The concept of an equestrian theater began to take root again. Initial attempts to find a location and funding continued to falter, even though the idea was welcomed as much needed.
Then, in 2008, Eileen began to transform the idea into reality by organizing performances for major local events and galas. Finally, in 2009, Al Saheel opened its doors to the general public, in a tent that was initially meant to be its practice arena, waiting for sponsors to help build a real amphitheater.
A Show Is Born
Trick riders from Hungary and an assortment of local riders were quickly added, trained to perform for an audience, and Al Saheel’s first production, The Voice of the Horse, opened its doors on April 2009. For the Middle East and the Arab world, this was, in its own quiet way, the beginning of a new era—the establishment of its first resident professional entertainment company.
After having overcome the difficulty of transforming horsemen into showmen, "Al Saheel" began to mature, especially when experienced riders from other equestrian shows started coming to the fold. First, Luis Miguel Santos (trained under the famous Portuguese Riding Master, Luis Valença) came to lead the horse-training part of the production.
Then, former performers from "Cavalia," and "The Great Lipizzaner Show" also joined the cast. Al Saheel's second production, A Thousand and One Horse Tales (2010), established the depth of its artistic quality. The blend of an Arab theme and the international flavor of horsemanship have allowed Al Saheel to meet and surpass the expectations of its audiences for the first equestrian show ever produced in Arabia.
- Video: Al Saheel's pyrotechnic equestrian display (excerpt) (2011)