Airports in big cities are certainly one of those places where you never know what you might witness: from different personalities and characters to various situations – sometimes dramatic sometimes quite comical.
During hundreds of hours that I have spent in theses places throughout my life, I have certainly witnessed a lot, but there is one thing that I still have not. Maybe because I have not had a chance to travel to the Middle East yet or maybe I just haven’t been lucky enough. What I am referring to is – falcons. Yes, I am talking a about birds. Real life falcons.
Why do people own falcons as pets?
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that falcon is the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. According to Sarah MacLean from AllAboutBirds.org, in the Middle East, falconry has penetrated into everyday culture. In her article –“New Look At An Old Tradition: 10 Days Of Falconry At A Middle East Festival”, she mentions that she saw falcons perched in the middle of a living room, on the back of a car seat, and on the arm of a falconer seated at lunch.
Falconry has been practised in the Middle East for thousands of years. In the past, when people did not have sophisticated hunting tools, tribes used well trained birds to hunt in the desert which was highly rewarding. In fact, in some rural areas of countries like Kazakhstan or Mongolia, they still use this hunting technique these days.
As these birds, because of the history, are considered to be a symbol of force and courage in much of the Middle East, falconry nowadays is a special type of ritual for many local men. Actually, it is quite popular for groups of men to meet up in the evenings to share their experiences, learn from each other and train their birds.
Falcons on planes
Yes, that is correct. Certain Middle Eastern airlines do allow these birds in the cabin. Here are the official rules from Qatar Airways:
You may travel with one (1) falcon in cabin per passenger. There is a limit of six (6) birds allowed in cabin.
You may also travel with one (1) service dog in cabin per passenger.
I guess, there is a limit of 6 falcons in a cabin because things might get a bit messy if 230 people turn up with their falcons… Oh by the way, the birds have to be hooded for the duration of the flight.
Interesting fact: there is a special falcon market called Falcon Souq in Doha, Qatar if you are interested in purchasing one or just wonder around.
Have you ever sat next to someone who had a falcon? What was the experience like? Do you think it is a good idea for airlines to allow that? Leave a comment below!
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