The sport of falconry began over 5,000 years ago in the Middle East, 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, 4×4 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.
Our society’s main aim to to promote and preserve the deeply rooted tradition.
The hunting season is anticipated eagerly by falconry enthusiasts. In preparation for the season, enthusiasts equip and train the birds. Falcons migrate by passing through the central and northern Arabian Peninsula, south-east Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and northern Saudi Arabia, coming from Russia and Eastern Europe. Migration begins from late September to early December, and then they are bound for Africa. Finally, their return journey starts from late February until April. Many falcons are left behind in transit zones during the migration, and the wind has a major impact on changing the course of migration. The falcons passing through the area of the Arabian Peninsula are considered some of the most beautiful and finest breeds. The hunting season begins with the month of October and extends to the end of April.
The Chairman of the Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves issued Law (8) for the year 2004 regarding the hunting season, stating the following: “Bustards are the only type of bird allowed to be hunted by falcons”. Article (1) of the resolution prohibits hunting of other types of birds and Law (7) for the year 2004 prohibits importing hawks from outside of the State except during the period of September to January each year. Article (2) prohibits importing the Peregrine Falcon over two years old.
There are several types of falcons and their names differ from one country to another but they are generally divided into four categories:
1 – Lanner Falcon: –
Widespread in many countries around the world, and differs in size and color depending on its country of origin. It is not considered a migratory bird and is characterized by ease of training and a skillful hunting.
2 – Peregrine Falcon: –
Highly spread in all the world except Antarctica. While difficult to train, these birds are the most ferocious breed. There are two different types of peregrines; sea and land. The latter is smaller than the former.
3 – Saker Falcon: –
Lives in Eastern Europe, Russia, Pakistan, and the Balkans. It is known for its beauty, strength, and size of females is greater than that of male sakers.
4 – Gyr Falcon: –
Falcon originating from cold areas surrounding the North Pole. It earned its name because it prefers to breed in the mountains, limestone in particular. Gyrs are present in abundance in some countries, and is not in demand by falconry enthusiasts. Its attributes include its high price, its ability to fly long distances, and was referred to in the Middle Ages as the bird of kings and nobles.