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Falconry is the ancient tradition of hunting with hawks or falcons. It has played essential role in Bedouin desert survival in ancient times and is a distinct part of the Arab culture. But falconry goes beyond the Arab world. Historically, it was important in Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa as well as the Middle East. As such, it is on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritages as a combined heritage of 18 different countries. (Germany, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Belgium, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Mongolia, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Syrian Arab Republic and Czechia) It dates back thousands of years, has been handed down fthrough generations and is an essential part of the identity of indigenous people in these 18 countries. Desert survival for the Bedouins was tough. Food was often sparse and the smaller birds and animals like hares were difficult to catch. Hence falconry as a hunting technique came into existence and was adopted by the Arab Bedouins to supplement their desert sustenance. The birds of prey were used to hunt because of their keen eyesight and swift action. Though the nomadic way of life is now almost over falconry is still widely practiced both as a sport and passion by Bedouin men of all ages.The falcon’s eyes are always covered by a leather hood when it is not hunting to calm the bird. The hood withdraws visual stimuli and suppresses the falcon’s hunting instincts when it is not chasing prey. The leather hoods are designed that they do not harm the precious birds.Falconry as a whole is an expensive sport. The Falcons in the souqs sell for anywhere between 5000 USD to 20000 USD depending on the condition and the skill level of the bird. Related expenses include costs to obtain legal permits and fees, food and housing for the bird, falconry equipment, veterinary costs to ensure good health, and travel expenses when taking the bird to falconry events. The life of a falconer is not easy. The birds need rigorous training before they can be used for hunting. They need to be well-cared for, housed properly, and exercised regularly. Despite this, falconry continues to be an indispensable part of the Arab culture and falcons are considered status symbols.
Most Middle Eastern Airlines including Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, and Etihad have detailed, efficient procedures to take falcons on planes. The birds can fly on their owner’s arms and if a falconer is traveling with more than one bird, then the birds have their own tickets. Recently, a Saudi Arabian prince flying with over 80 falcons made the headlines. The falcons not only have tickets but also passports to fly to international destinations. The passports also help in proving the bird’s origin and act as deterrents to illegal falcon trade.