Qatar does a lot to protect its wildlife – from preserving traditional animal species like hawks and camels to protecting the country's mangroves.
Flights of fancy with falcons
The International Falcon and Hunting Festival is one of the largest of its kind in the region and takes place during the cooler winter months. Falconers have been competing in this centuries-old desert sport for thirteen years. This attraction, also known as Marmi, is organized by the Al Gannas Association: "Since 2008 we have been working for the falconers in Qatar. We have big projects, the most important of which is the falcon genome project. There is also a falcon release campaign into nature. Falconry in Qatar is an intangible heritage," explains its President Ali bin Khatam Al Mahshadi.
The competitions feature speed, dexterity and beauty, with coveted cash prizes and a desert vehicle up for grabs. One of the main objectives of the competition is to keep the tradition alive for young people like 10-year-old Thani Mohammed Al Kubaisi, who won the first prize of almost 5000 euros in the young falconer category.
Owners develop a very special relationship with their falcons and make sure they are healthy for competition. During the rest of the year, they bring their beloved pets to Souq Waqif Hospital, which offers a full range of services from radiology to laboratory services.
protection of the mangroves
Protecting and preserving wildlife from extinction is also one of Qatar's key goals for a more sustainable future. There are several nature reserves that offer a haven for birds, plants and a variety of animal species. One of the most influential advocates of nature conservation is Dr. Saif Ali Al-Hajari, a leading environmentalist and Founder and Chair of the Friends of Environment Center. He runs special workshops for children in the hope that the next generation will do more to protect their environment.
An extraordinary beauty pageant
The relationship between camels and Qatar dates back to the Bedouins, for whom camels were not only a means of vital transportation but also a sign of wealth. They are cared for with special care, protected from the sun and fed milk, wheat, honey and dates before an important competition. In the annual camel pageant, they are judged on their fur, the length and width of their necks, the proportions of their heads, the position of their humps, their lips and even their eyelashes.
The prize money totals more than 350,000 euros, but the camel festival was created primarily to keep traditions alive, as Mohammed Ali Salaan Almarri, media chief of the Qatar Camel Festival, explains: "It introduces young people to this old and deeply rooted culture of the State of Qatar."
The camels are not only revered for their beauty. During the camel racing festival, the animals with robots on their backs thunder down the racetrack. The "jockeys" are remotely controlled by their owners, who drive in off-road vehicles alongside the track. The fastest camel will be crowned champion. It's a lucrative industry that brings in millions of euros, but it's even more exciting to follow the race.