Falconry in Qatar

The sport of falconry began over 5,000 years ago in Iran, and spread over the centuries to East and West. The sport was introduced to Qatar through Bedouin tribes who used the birds as a tool for hunting. They discovered that it was much easier to allow the raptors to take down birds migrating across the Arabian Peninsula than it was to shoot them down themselves. This Bedouin method of falconry set the basis for the modern version of the sport practiced in Qatar.

Although, over the centuries, falconry has virtually disappeared from the European continent, the sport lives on in the Middle East. In Qatar, you can still purchase falcons in downtown Doha at falcon souqs or through private dealers. The best raptors can cost thousands of dollars and may even be issued their own Qatari passports to ensue they are not stolen or taken out of the country without the owner's permission. Due to these elaborate methods of theft prevention, it is not uncommon for you to be seated beside a full-grown falcon when travelling on a Middle Eastern airliner.

Once you have purchased (or caught and trained) your falcon, you proceed to enter a very competitive sport. Many Qataris spend fortunes on their falconry equipment, which can include radio monitors, 4x4 trucks, communication devices, and other high priced items. The reason for the high-tech equipment is so that the hunters can arrive right when the bird is taking down its prey, so they may separate the animals and kill the prey according to Islamic customs.

But if you are considering participating in this ancient sport, remember that a large amount of time must be invested in training the birds, especially if they are caught in the wild. One of the techniques involves keeping the bird on one's arm for several hours a day, which, aside from being painful, would obviously prove problematic to anyone who has a regular job.

The most popular prey is the Houbara bustard, a large, fast bird, which lives throughout the Middle East. That being said, the bird has been hunted to the point of being endangered in Qatar. So falconers must constantly travel the globe to search for new hunting grounds. It is said that the best hunting grounds are found in the Iraqi desert.

Falconry offers a glimpse at how Qatar used to be. The millennia-old sport remains extremely popular amongst Qatar's elite and new efforts to restock the Qatari desert with Houbara bustards will ensure the sport continues.

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