São Paulo – Falconry has been practiced in the Middle East for millennia. Hunting with birds of prey is a popular activity to this day, especially in the Gulf countries. For instance, at Souq Waqif, the market in Doha, Qatar, there’s an exclusively area to the sport, where it’s possible to buy your falcon and all the accessories needed, right next to the souvenirs stores and restaurants, the major tourist attractions.
In Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, there’s even a falconry school, founded in 2016, and that held this year the graduation of its first ever women’s falconry class. Clubs, festivals and tournaments are a common thing in the Gulf, where the practice is considered to be a cultural heritage.
ANBA already met, face to face, many times with falcons and falconers in trips to the region. Last year, at the lobby of the Shagri-La hotel, in Doha, a bird and its trainer were welcoming the guests. The man was asking the tourists to hold and pet the animal.
After putting on the glove to protect from the talons, the animal hops on your wrist and stays there, perched. So cute, it loves a petting. A great experience and not one finger lacking.
When falcons are not in action, the trainers put it on the birds a hood that covers the eyes. The goal is to avoid the animal to, unexpectedly, fly after a prey, or to become scared with movement around him. And it can get quite busy around it!
In 2011, the UAE celebrated 40 years of its creation and, as part of the festivities, exhibitions and folk presentations were held at the Dubai Mall, the gigantic shopping center in Dubai. And one thing not missing was the presence of the falconer and its falcon, in the middle of the large flow of tourists and shoppers.
But the most unusual meeting with these animals took place inside a flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Casablanca, Morocco, also in 2011. This reporter was sitting, waiting for takeoff, when two huge wings rose above the headrest of a seat a couple of rows in front. “What’s going on?!” I had to investigate. While the owner read the newspaper peacefully, at the seat besides his there were two standing falcons, well-behaved, but with safety collars, of course. And we continued the long trip, without one single chirp.
Translated by Sérgio Kakitani