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Qatar Has Specialized Hospital that Treats its National Bird, the Falcon

INTERNATIONAL: Falconry is something that is practised more in Qatar compared to other parts of the Middle East, so the high income economy has specialized hospitals for treating the birds.

Falcons previously were used by Qatari fathers and grandfathers to hunt for food, it was the only way to hunt for food, using falcons, but currently it has competitions, prizes, events and many things.

Centuries ago in the Gulf region, Bedouin tribesmen used falcons or "saqr" in Arabic to hunt for meat in the winter. Generations later, falconry has grown to become a popular sport and hobby for many Qataris.

Located in one of Doha's oldest markets, Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital, established in 2008, specializes in treating falcons. The hospital provides a wide range of services, from surgery to generating ID's and passports for the birds.

Tourists visiting the Souq, take pictures and try to peak inside the hospital while Qataris enter the facility with their falcons perched on their gloves.

"Here it is a well known practice and a well known sport but in other parts of the world it is not practised much," said Muhammad Babar, a senior veterinarian at Souq Waqif Hospital.

In the main season from around September to early March, the clinic receives around 140-150 birds per day while during off season when birds are resting, eating, and shedding their feathers, numbers go down to 20-30 falcons per day.

Falconers standing in line at reception, rely on the services provided in these facilities to keep their birds healthy.

"The hospital does provide us with very good services," said Falconer, Ali Al Marri.

Al Marri considers the sport to be a national heritage that he has loved since he was young and wishes to one day teach his children.

With many competitions and prizes, the sport today is not solely based on hunting, even though hunting is still practised.

The local hunting season in Qatar starts in November when birds coming from the northern hemisphere seek the warmer weather of the Gulf region.

Falconry was inscribed in 2021 on UNESCO's representative list of the 'intangible cultural heritage of humanity'.

Prices of falcon vary greatly, depending on different criteria, between a thousand Qatari riyal approximately $275 with some birds going up to a million riyals. around $275,000.

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