Based on the population of the country, Qatar “could be considered as densely populated country for falconers,” Qatari businessman and falconer Farhan al-Sayed has said.
Speaking about the Katara International Hunting & Falcon Exhibition ‘S’hail’, which runs until September 24 at Katara – The Cultural Village, al-Sayed pointed out that owning a falcon and falconry “has high cultural value.”
Dating back to the Prophet Mohamed, falconry is an age-old tradition in Qatar “and is a source of prestige for many Qataris,” al-Sayed said.
“Qataris are introduced to falcons and falconry at a very young age; and owning falcons is a source of prestige. Similar to owning the latest electronic gadgets, one takes pride in saying ‘I own a saker or a lanner falcon.’
“There are also several other species of falcons, including the peregrine falcon and the gyrfalcon, which is considered as the ‘king of falcons’, but for children they are usually introduced to the kestrel falcon, the smallest of the species,” al-Sayed told Gulf Times on Friday.
He also said not many people know that the head of the peregrine falcon is used as a watermark for Qatari currency. “The image is most prominent in the QR500 bill, and this only goes to show the importance of the falcon and how it is embedded in Qatari culture,” he said.
Today, al-Sayed said, falconry in the Arabian Peninsula “is a $1bn industry.” This was reiterated by Ahmad Mohamed al-Mutairat, who noted that one falcon in Kuwait was sold during the bidding for $397,000.
According to Katara’s Daily Newsletter, the S’hail Auction had attracted amateur Qatari and overseas bidders. On Wednesday, Katara said Eid al-Azimi from Kuwait won in the auction’s first session with a QR210,000 bid. In the second session, Qatar’s Khaled al-Misnad won with a bid of QR220,000. Both winners named their new falcons after the auction – ‘S’hail’, according to Katara.
On Thursday, the second session began with a bidding price of QR70,000, and the much sought after falcon was bought by Youssef al-Sada from Qatar for QR150,000.
The auction has two sessions – 6pm and 9pm. In each session, a falcon of the ‘Al-Hur’ kind (which is the best falcon hunter) is displayed at the auction.
Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, al-Mutairat said Qatar’s falcon industry will help put the country on the global tourism map. “Aside from hunting, people will find it interesting to know about maintenance and how to breed falcons. For many falconers, they put utmost priority in taking care of these birds,” he said.
Al-Sayed also said expatriates visiting Souq Waqif are attracted to the falcons being sold there. “This tradition is very unique to this part of the world and it will help attract tourists to the country, thus improving the Qatar’s tourism industry,” he said.
Alejandro from Spain, a falcon enthusiast and breeder, who is in Qatar for the first time, said he was overwhelmed by the size of the Qatari market in this field and described it as a specialised and delicate market.
The booth, which represents three Spanish companies involved in falcon breeding, has received falcons from Qatar before but now it is a better chance to introduce the new breeding methods to the Qatari and international falconers from around the world. Commenting on falconry in Qatar, Alejandro said it is considered more of a tradition and a culture here than in Spain.
According to some other participants who specialise in falcon breeding, the Qatari falconers have developed new methods in training and caring for their falcons.