Known as Al Saqarah in Arabic, Falconry was practised for 4,000 years in the Arabian Peninsula, including by the Bedouins of the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the Arabs brought falconry to Byzantium and Persia. Before the discovery of oil, falconry was an intricate part of the Emirati culture as hunting was the main way to survive in the desert. Today, falconry is one of the UAE’s most honored traditional sports.
Known as Al Saqr, the falcon represents all the qualities that the Emiratis value- courage, elegance and majesty. Owing to her larger size and power, the female Al Hurr is used in hunting more often than the male Garmoush.
Falconry was also a favorite pastime of H. H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE. He launched many initiatives for the promotion of the sport as well as for its conservation. An example is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the largest falcon hospital in the world.
Falconry involves hours of training, determination and patience. The bond between the falcon and falconer is unique and is developed over time. Every falcon is given a name by the falconer and it learns to identify his voice from a distance. There are many aspects of falconry. They include:
Al Burgu: A leather hood-like piece that is placed on the falcon’s head to cover its eyes.
Al Sabbuq: A pair of jesses, made out of cotton or nylon, is attached to a leash that controls the movement of the falcon.
Manqalah: A cylindrical-shaped covered cuff made out of straw or cloth. This is worn by the falconer whenever the falcon perches on his hand.
Wakir: A long wooden stand with a padded surface which serves as the perching place of the falcon.
Al Mukhlat: The canvas bag in which pigeons are kept. These are used as a Tilwah or to lure the falcon back.
In 2016, the UAE together with 18 countries successfully included falconry into the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Falconry can best be viewed during special occasions and festivals, such as this year’s National Day celebrations. If you want to see more pictures and videos of falconry and other local traditions, check out my instagram!