On my recent visit to Qatar, I learnt that falcons and falconry was and still is an integral part of Qatar’s traditional culutre and lifestyle. One of the most beautiful birds of prey and one of the fastest in the sky, the Falcon is revered and loved in Qatar.
Also viewed as a status symbol for the local people, falconry is an ancient tradition which is believed to have been introduced to Qatar through Bedouin tribes who used falcons as a tool for hunting. So, when I heard that there was a falcon souq close to the effervescent Souq Waqif, I was curious to visit the place. A totally unique and fascinating experience, a visit to the souq was quite a revelation.
I visited the souq in April but I was given to understand that this was not the ‘season’ and it was usually after summer where the demand for the birds are high Hence, there were very few birds in the outlets inside the souq. Nonetheless, it was an experience quite like none other.
The area in the above picture is where the falcons are apparently traded and there is a high demand for good breeds. It is not uncommon to find local people spend substantial amounts on buying falcons, gloves, caps and other training equipment. The stores in the souq retail all of these items and during the peak season (October to March), hundreds of birds exchange hands each day.
There is a high demand for accessories as well and training the birds is quite a task in itself!
The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula are one of the few places in the world where falconry is a prominent activity and is held in high regard. The birds are such a passion with the people here that falcons are even issued passports by the Government!
There is also a state of the art Falcon hospital in the premises that treats upto 100 birds each day and the treatment includes surgeries, diagnositc tests and even feather replacement.
With an objective to promote Qatar’s rich Arab heritage and to support falcon enthusiasts, Katara Cultural Village recently held the second edition of the International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition from September 4 to September 8, 2018. The event saw a large number of local and international companies specializing in falconry and hunting equipment participate.