View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Falcon: An Emirati Icon

It is heartening that David Remple and Christian Gross have produced a home grown book on the falcon, one of the national icons of the UAE and the Arabian Gulf. This volume is a reprint and update of the book first published in 1993. Since the initial launch Falconry has gone through four reprints, such is its popularity among UAE residents, tourists, students doing projects and the growing number of serious falconers.

If one is looking for an activity that is quintessentially Emirati, observing or flying falcons in the Arabian desert is the sport. The book commences with an illuminating history of falconry written by Cheryl Remple that describes the development of the art from as early as the thirteenth century B.C. The book distinguishes between eastern and western features of the practice of falconry and despite the lack of written sources in the Gulf region it sets out the distinctive aspects in the Arabian region. Falcon terminology such as ‘quarry’ and ‘raptor’ are explained and throughout the English text the key Arabic terms are also included. It is interesting to note the Arabic feature in which falcons in the Gulf are kitted out with a burqa or hood.

Authors, American zoologist, vet and founder of the Dubai Falcon Hospital, David Remple and Swiss naturalist, Christian Gross have teamed up to offer a comprehensive but highly practical book. Readers will discover the reasons that motivate people in the activity of falconry and will learn how to capture, train and look after them. The varieties of falcons and other birds of prey are described in detail and illustrated in a host of colorful pictures. The book is furnished with several black and white photos of early and notable Arabic falconers, including the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

The final chapter sets forth the threats facing falcons and their owners today and sketches how the art might develop in the future. Such is the changing face of falconry that the book requires regular updating. While Falconry describes the recent innovation of attaching radio transmitters to the legs or tails of falcons to track them when they get lost it would be important to include in a future update a statement about the threat of bird flu and the 2005 UAE requirement that all falcons be issued with an individual passport. Additional information would be helpful on where prospective falconers might purchase their falcons (if they cannot trap them), the cost of these birds and details about falconer schools and clubs.

This book is an interesting read. It needs to be in every school library and it is a good idea for a souvenir and a gift from the Emirates.

David Remple and Christian Gross, Falconry and Birds of Prey in the Gulf (Dubai: Motivate Publishing, 1993, reprinted 2007).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 75.00.

Geoff Pound

Image: Falcon wearing the burqa.