Qatar 2022 | Millennium Falcon: mascot and luxurious tradition | Video

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In Qatar they have been hunting with falcons for more than 5 thousand yearsbirds that form an essential part of their culture, are the pride of the family legacy and the object of a million-dollar business in which luxury reflects the fervor for this ancient tradition.

In the country, these precious birds are treasures that reach exorbitant prices in the market. They are not only used for exhibition, international tournaments, hobby or breeding, but as a family pet to train, care for and protect. An unknown world to get to know in depth during the World Cup in Qatar 2022.

“The Qataris know that we don't call it sport, we call it lifestyle”, says Zayide Al-Ali, secretary and director of communication of the cultural association Al Gannas, founded in 2008 to promote traditional Arab hunting with falcons, their protection, encourage research and organize international events.

“Our association is one of the most important in the world in terms of rehabilitation of birds of prey, but we also care for birds in general throughout the world. We protect them from smuggling, from being electrocuted or poisoned. We try to help them to live", emphasizes Zayide, who indicated that every year they release hawks to reproduce freely.

It is an activity in which the care and training of raptors is key, forming a unique bond between the trainer and the animalwhich hones your stamina and training.

Photo: EFE

“This little bird is very powerful. But at the same time he is very smart. they think. They react and don't forget anything you teach them,” she says.

Her hunting skills are key, but her beauty is just as important. And in the Qatari market, the most unique pieces are always sought.

A falcon costs between $4,000 and $10,000 on average, but there are exceptions and luxury also exists in this market. At the last S'hail, the international falcon exhibition in Doha, considered the most important in the sector in the world, A copy was auctioned for 911,000 Qatari riyals, in exchange for about 250,000 dollars.

But why pay that much for a falcon? Its color, its origin and its race are the characteristics that make it unique. Thus, in Qatar you pay more for a white bird for purely aesthetic reasons, a female is always valued much more for being able to breed and, definitely, if its origin is wild, generally from the Mongolian or Iraqi steppes, the cost skyrockets.

The Gyrfalcons, the Lanner, the Sacre or the Peregrinos, are the most common varieties in a fair that overwhelms with its variety through more than 10,000 square meters of surface.

Photo: EFE

“In Qatar, the bigger and whiter, the more expensive it is. They love the color white. Y females are the most expensive to breed”, says Alberto Relaño, representative of a family business of bronze falcon sculptures in Spain who attends the Qatari fair for the sixth consecutive year with his Bronces Relaño showcase.

The fair, specialized in the sale of falcons, falconry products of all kinds, hunting gadgets, weapons and even modified vehicles for birds, had in this, its sixth edition, representatives of 180 companies from all over the world in the heat of the rise of this practice in the region.

Among the most requested items are telemetry services for birds. Chips that measure your speed, distance and positioning via satellite since, during the training phase, it is easy to lose them and 3G or 4G connectivity does not offer guarantees in the desert. Or flying robotic decoys to train them with specific parameters and specific flight plans.

As for fashion for hawks, the hoods that serve to cover their eyes and so that they do not get stressed during commuting or in noisy places, are the trend. Thousands of proposals for an essential complement for any trained bird.

To such an extent it is important that the fair has a prize endowed with 3,000 dollars for the most dazzling. An award that in this edition went to the Spanish Pepe Parra, who began manufacturing hoods 9 years ago and despite making his debut at the fair, the tastes of the Qataris were clear: “They like thin skin, that it weighs little and that it does not bother the bird”, he highlights.

This 31-year-old from Murcia did not expect to win the prize at the great Qatari fair: “The jury liked it. I have been lucky ”, he highlights on his hood, made with snakeskin and chocolate and gold touches. Some pieces that he sells for a price that oscillates between 50 and 70 dollars in Doha.

What surprised Pepe Parra the most, regardless of the award, is the importance of tradition in the country: "Here, from the time they are little, they instill it in them, you see children handling falcons in a spectacular way. It's a cultural thing. Everyone does it."

An art that comes from its humble origins. “Desert nomads live attached to these birds to catch prey and eat. It is their food source. They don't have weapons, they don't have bows and arrows. They only have hawks to catch rabbits, birds and be able to eat every day during the winter”, assures Zayide.

Its vision, up to eight times sharper than human, and its speed to pounce on its prey at more than 320 kilometers per hour, make this animal the king of the desert. “They are killing machines. The shark is a killing machine in the water, and the hawk in the air.. They kill just to eat, not like wolves, who kill for the sake of killing,” he adds.

Today it is no longer an animal destined for subsistence, but is more linked to sports, competitions and leisure. Sporting events and falcon hunting begin in Octoberwhen the summer heat begins to ease, and lasts until mid-April, approximately.

A practice that tourists in Qatar can also enjoy, with packages that include, for around 120 dollars, a transfer to the desert, watching falcon hunting and learn about everything related to this ancient culture by the hand of their caregivers.

Falcons usually live between 12 and 15 years. and their cost makes them not suitable companions for all budgets. Acquiring the animal, training it or caring for it is quite an expensive hobby.

It is enough to take a walk through the maximum exponent of these birds in Doha, the Falcon Souk. Known for being in the heart and most popular area of ​​the Qatari capital, the Souq Waqif, this area is the place to find everything related to falcons. Accessory stores, animal sales, places to take a photo with one of these specimens on your arm or where to buy food.

But it also welcomes the peculiar hospital of hawks and in this place we can expect exactly the same thing that we are going to find in a (luxury) hospital for people.

Waiting rooms with tripods for falcons, sofas in the waiting rooms, windows to manage visits, emergency rooms and even a small museum to know all the peculiarities of these animals.

On average the center, which opens from 7 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, hosts between 120 and 130 falcons a day In general, endoscopies, beak and claw inspections, blood, feces, and urine tests, or routine ear and eye checks are performed at a cost of about $70. The pedicure and filing the beaks go separately.

If it is more routine and less specific, it can be around 25 dollars, but if feathers have to be changed, change a GPS chip or is it something serious, the price shoots up. However, as happens with the owners of other pets, any cost is acceptable when the relationship with the animal is close.

And for a Qatari there is nothing more revered and admired than a falcon, a bird that has become a national source of pride. EFE

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