Falconry is the upkeep of falcons. It is a very valued tradition in the UAE. Falconry is a sport that came to UAE many years ago. Poor people and rich people enjoyed it. It was a big part of their life in the desert. People think that it came by the muslim Arabs who went to Byzantine and Persia. The falcon is known as the Saqer. It is very loved by the people because of its beauty and lovely eyes.
H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan loves falcons. Falconry is his favourite sport. He says “ falconry is a port that teaches endurance, strength, and patience.”
The two main species used for hunting in the UAE are the Saqr falcons (Falco Cherruq) which are brought from other Middle Eastern countries and the Peregrine (Falco Peregrinus) The Saqr is the most popular because it is good for desert hawking. The female Saqr (Al Hurr), which is larger and more powerful is the one which is used more than the male (Garmoush). The female Peregrine (Shahin or Bahri Shahin) is also thought to be better than the male (Shahin Tiba) for hunting purposes.
Training falcons requires both courage and patience and it is made possible by the trainer. Ronald Codrai in his book The Seven Sheikhdoms describes the training of falcons as follows: "The key to success in falconry is the relationship of falcon and falconer who must exercise patience, skill, and devotion". The ability of a falcon to obey his master is what makes the Arabs like the sport a lot.
In the training process, the falcon sits on a round wooden thing like a mushroom which moves. This is called Al Wakr. Or on the trainer’s hand which is protected from the sharp nails of a falcon by a big cuff which covers his hand, this is called the Mangalah. This is usually made from material which is filled with straw or cloth. This is where the falcon sits. The falcon is held by a two braids of cotton, these are called Al Sabbuq, and they are attached to a leash to make the bird a free to move.
Al Burgu is another piece that is used in this sport. It is put on the falcon’s head too cover his eyes. This is because they have very good eyes and they could see very sharply. They also need to be slowly adjusted to any new environment. Their eyes are covered as a part of the training process. Then they are taken off slowly through showing them slowly the environment around them.
Al Mukhlat is the bag in which the trainer hides wrapped up houbara wings or pigeons. These things which are in the bag are used to attract the falcon back to get them. This way of attracting the falcon back is called the tilwah.
The wakir is the sitting place of the falcon. It is a long and decorated wooden Stand. On top of it there is a flat padded place for the falcons sharp claws to rest on. When the falcon flies away from the wakir, the end of the long stand, which is down is pushed into the sand
where it stays upright.
Controlling the falcon is very necessary, especially after making every catch. Light and also strong chains are put on its ankles. These things are called the subuq and are 30 centimeters long. They are very strong and flexible. They are made from nylon. The two ends of these chains are tied together into a short chain. This short chain is then attached to a small ball. These things make the falcon move easier and controls his flying. The whole piece is called the mursel.
The falcon shouts “yalla” and after a second, the falcon with all its power opens his wings and moves them very fast and powerful. Then moves quickly into the sky. As soon as it sees the animal which he is supposed to catch, he quickly chases it. This chase goes on for some time until the gets tired and slows down and at that moment, the falcon flies down quickly and pulls it to the ground.
The main animals which the falcon is supposed to catch are : Houbara or MacQueen’s bustard, Stone Curlew (Kiriwan) and Hare (Arnab). The Houbara is a powerful bird that can weigh up to four kilograms. It could stand as much as 75 centimeters tall and it is known for its great
Speed. It is fast in in flight and on land. This is what makes the chase more exciting for the falconers.
His Highness Sheikh Zayed is known by all the people as an expert in the sport of falconry. He
has been practicing this sport since he was a teenager. He wrote his famous book titled Hunting with Falcons which was published in 1976. It is considered to be an encyclopedia of falconry.
In the late 1940s, a falcon could be purchased for around 120 Dirhams. In the 1960s it was around 2,400 Dirhams. Nowadays, their prices are in ten thousands of dirhams.
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