For centuries the people of the Rif have inhabited their mountainous and isolated homeland in what is today the northernmost part of Morocco. Although to a degree converted to Islam, their contacts with the outside world had been few, and they were happy for that to remain so, involving themselves with inter-tribal and inter-family disputes and the petty politics of a simple but violent society. When the Spanish began encroaching on their territory and independence in the early 20th century they fought back using classic guerrilla tactics, attacking military posts and columns, but avoiding large-scale confrontations in the open. They had no organised cavalry – the mountainous terrain made cavalry useless – but of course they rode horses and mules a great deal, and while they would dismount before a fight, they were skilled horsemen.
Given that neither side in the Rif War (1921 - 1927) fought from horseback, most of the poses in this set are hard to understand. While it is of course quite possible for a Rifian horseman to charge or shoot at a target of opportunity whilst mounted, the terrain and modern weapons of the Spanish made this a very rare event, and horses were mostly for travel or as beasts of burden. Yet in this set we find many poses energetically waving swords around, and others apparently using their rifles from the saddle. As mounted Rifian warriors these are very far from typical, which means there is very little scope for using them at all. Certainly a typical Rifian attack on an outpost, or ambush of a supply column, would have no need of most of the figures here, and really only the first two poses in our last row, holding their rifle in relaxed pose, are useful.
The poses of the horses are no more suitable to our mind. First of all, many are far from natural, with the first two pictured above being the worst (or best) examples. Second, for such a set the need would be for walking and standing horses, but while a couple here may be trotting, the rest seem to be moving at a much quicker pace, which is not impossible of course but again hardly the best choice given the subject.
The Rif are a Berber people, and normal costume was a simple long cotton shirt worn over baggy trousers, with a jelaba over the top in cooler weather. On their head they wore a small turban which left exposed the shaven crown, or a small cap. Not one figure in this set wears anything like this. Instead, as far as we can tell the men wear a long flowing robe like the Arab thawb, and on their heads they all have the unmistakable Arab shemagh and agal. So these are not even Berbers, but Arabs, and so quite wrong for the Rif. Basically that is all there is to say – the figures are entirely inaccurate. There are few pictures of Rif horses, so an assessment of the horse furniture and decoration is difficult, but nothing here seems particularly unlikely to us.
The sculpting of these figures is okay in general appearance, with faces that are nicely done, although some of the rifles are quite poor and stunted. There is a small amount of flash, but we found most of the figures are much too tight a fit on the horses, so much work will be necessary to make each man sit properly on his mount.
So as mounted Rif rebels this set is largely useless. It seems Strelets wanted to make more Arabs, perhaps for the Great War campaign in Palestine and Syria, and randomly chose to call them Rifs instead, so those looking to build an Arab army will find much that is useful here. However the poor fit is a problem whatever you choose to call them, so we were unimpressed by this largely fanciful set, which perhaps owes more to works of fiction than to history for its inspiration. We have had it suggested that the inspiration was the film 'The Wind and the Lion' (1975), which might explain some of the design decisions but does nothing to make the set more historically correct.