Sponsored healthcare for falcons? Qatar’s love for falconry permeates its tradition

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2022-11-16 17:30:50

The Souq Waqif, Doha’s historical market, unspools from the close by bay like a roll of treasured material. A medieval maze of slender alleyways linked to a large essential plaza, the Souq has lengthy served as a buying and selling publish for Bedouin arriving by camel and vacationers in small boats.

However right this moment, as one of many metropolis’s final surviving historic city areas, the Souq additionally serves the quickly modernizing emirate as a hyperlink to a historical past and a tradition that’s fading. Nowhere is that conflict of previous and current extra obvious than on the market’s falcon hospital, a state-of-the-art medical facility devoted to caring for animals which have been revered right here for hundreds of years.

“In Qatar, falcons are a logo of dignity, valor and delight,” stated Dr. Ikdam M. Alkarkhi, the hospital’s Iraqi-educated director and veterinary marketing consultant. “For Arabs, falconry was a lifestyle the place each family, regardless of their social or tribal standing, loved the presence of falcons round them. Falcons can be thought of a part of the household.”

Greater than 1.2 million persons are anticipated to flood Qatar between Nov. 20 and Christmas for soccer’s World Cup, the worldwide championship of a sport that was little appreciated within the nation only a technology in the past. Falconry, nevertheless, has been the nationwide sport since lengthy earlier than Qatar turned a nation.

And it’s a cultural touchstone Qataris are desperate to share with guests.

Khodr Allah, a Pakistani resident of Qatar, poses for {a photograph} along with his gyrfalcon on the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar.

(Lujain Jo / Related Press)

Falconry within the Center East goes again greater than 5,000 years and was launched to the sandy Arabian peninsula that turned Qatar by humble Bedouin tribes. Nomadic folks used the birds to hunt prey such because the Houbara bustard, a big, quick chicken that has been hunted so aggressively it’s now an endangered species in Qatar.

The abilities the Bedouin discovered whereas searching finally turned the idea for the game nonetheless practiced in Qatar. But when that sport hasn’t modified over the centuries, nearly the whole lot else about falconry has.

It’s not a pursuit for humble tribal folks, for instance, however relatively a interest for the wealthy — which, in Qatar, is nearly everybody for the reason that nation’s residents have the best per-capita revenue on the planet and pay nothing for electrical energy, land, water or healthcare.

Falcons are the quickest members of the animal kingdom, able to reaching speeds of greater than 240 mph throughout dives. And prized birds, lots of that are imported to Qatar, are offered in markets or by non-public sellers for tens of 1000’s of {dollars}.

Veterinarians at the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar, work on a Falcon.

Veterinarians on the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar, work on a Falcon.

(Lujain Jo / Related Press)

“The choice depends upon the genes,” Alkarkhi stated. “One can not choose the choice of 1 over the opposite, so the house owners of farms that crossbreed should select the distinctive traits of the chicken earlier than continuing to breed it. Qatari falconers have excellent information about falcons and their illnesses.”

The gear used within the sport, similar to four-wheel-drive autos and radio screens, can value a whole bunch of 1000’s extra, which is why falconry has gone from one thing Bedouins did to place meals on the desk to a standing image, with princes and emirs competing to purchase or increase the perfect birds, a few of that are valued within the thousands and thousands.

It has additionally induced the occasional diplomatic rift. Members of Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani household have been arrested three years in the past and charged with stalking treasured birds throughout a falcon-hunting journey to Pakistan in 2019. 4 years earlier than that, 26 Qataris, together with members of the ruling household, have been kidnapped at gunpoint and held for 16 months earlier than being launched in Iraq following complicated negotiations that additionally included the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Syria.

A peregrine falcon waits for a procedure at the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital.

A peregrine falcon waits for a process on the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar.

(Lujain Jo / Related Press)

Defending the investments of royals and commoners explains why hospitals similar to Alkarkhi’s deal with as many as 150 falcons a day. In the course of the peak season, from September to February, the falcon perch within the hospital’s ready room incessantly turns into so crowded it wants a ready room of its personal.

“They’re a part of the household. If something occurs to [them], they take it to the hospital for a check-up and obligatory providers,” Alkarkhi, who has a grasp’s diploma in avian pathology from the College of Baghdad, stated of his shoppers.

The hospital, which opened in 2008, might maintain its personal towards any fashionable medical facility for people, boasting X-ray and gene-sequencing machines and gear for performing endoscopies and processing blood, fecal and kidney samples. The workers of practically two dozen, most of whom are foreign-born, can deal with greater than 200 providers from beauty procedures similar to beak changes and feather replacements to as invasive surgical procedure, Alkarkhi stated.

Drawers of feathers at a hospital for Falcons in Doha, Qatar, in September 2022.

Drawers of feathers on the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar.

(Kevin Baxter / Los Angeles Occasions)

On a latest summer season morning, veterinarians and technicians in white lab coats, or inexperienced and blue medical scrubs with the round emblem of the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital on the left breast, bustled between spacious examination rooms and counters topped with computer systems and high-powered microscopes. One man, carrying a yellow leather-based glove as safety towards razor-sharp talons, carried a falcon down one of many extensive hallways.

As a result of the three-floor facility is backed by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatari’s ruler, Alkarkhi stated hospital visits can value as little as $5.

However the royal remedy doesn’t cease with healthcare. A Saudi prince as soon as purchased particular person seats on a industrial flight for 80 of his falcons. No less than 4 Center Jap airways — Qatar, Emirates, Etihad and Royal Jordanian airways — permit falcons to fly in the primary cabin of their planes, supplied they’ve a ticket and a passport to show they aren’t being stolen.

UCLA historical past professor James Gelvin, creator of “The Arab Uprisings: What Everybody Must Know,” stated the eye and funding Qatar has made in falconry is essential for a younger nation searching for an id and a spot on the world stage.

A doctor at the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar, examines a Falcon on his arm.

A health care provider on the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital in Doha, Qatar, examines a Falcon on his arm.

(Kevin Baxter / Los Angeles Occasions)

It’s why a 7½-ton, 40-foot metal and aluminum statue of a fearsome-looking — if kitschy — falcon was put in final yr outdoors the departures terminal of Doha’s worldwide airport. And it’s why town’s fashionable Katara Cultural Village has staged an annual falcon exhibition every September since 2017, drawing greater than 180 firms from 20 nations to advertise the game and the tradition that surrounds it.

“You have got falconry, you’ve dates, you’ve pearls,” Gelvin stated, ticking off three historical pillars of regional tradition that predate the institution of any Arab Gulf nations. “All these states, they’re model new. So what they need to do is invent some kind of previous.

“It’s referred to as within the historic occupation the invention of custom. You decide a practice and also you say: ‘Hey, we’re Scottish, so due to this fact we’re going to put on kilts. And that’s actually going to be essential for us as a result of that’s what our nationwide id is.’ [Or] ‘we’re Qataris, due to this fact falconry is essential for us.’ It’s truly half and parcel of the state-building course of that’s occurring.”

Which is one other manner of claiming it’s not only for the birds.

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Supply by [tellusdaily.com]