A top-notch hospital in Doha is busy: Only falcons allowed

  • 02 Apr - 08 Apr, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

At first glance, the Souq Waqif clinic in the historic centre of Doha, the capital of Qatar, could be any other state-of-the-art hospital. Nurses in blue scrubs move briskly through the bright wards, conducting rounds. Radiology and operating rooms whir with the beeps and blinks of monitors. Specialists squint at X-rays and masked doctors make incisions with all the high-tech tools of modern surgery on hand. There’s just one thing: The rooms are filled with falcons. In the tiny, wealthy emirate of Qatar, the desert birds are among the nation’s most pampered residents. Long revered across the Arabian Peninsula for their ferocity and hunting prowess, falcons today serve as sheikhly status symbols recalling a Bedouin past. Although less fashionable now than in the days of yore, the art of falconry is still passed down from one generation to the next in Qatar and other oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf. With demand growing in recent years, clubs that teach the sport have sprouted up across the region. Falcons compete in an increasing number of races and beauty contests. The finest falcons fetch at least a few thousand dollars and Qataris spare no expense to maintain their good health. “The establishment of the hospital was to support the hobby and heritage of raising falcons ... it’s a pastime that stretches its veins into multiple generations,” Souq Waqif hospital director Dr Ikdam Al Karkhi recently told The Associated Press. “Keeping them alive and well is an essential duty.”