Tucked in the popular Souq Waqif near the Falcon souk and off a side alley, little falcon footprints lead up to the entrance of a modern, non-profit animal hospital just for the prized falcons of Qatar. During peak falconry season, September to January, Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital treats up to 150 birds a day.
First opened in 2008, Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital is a state-of-the-art facility with equipment to deal with issues from a chipped talon to a broken wing. Technicians can even replace missing feathers, and keep drawers full of different specimens so they can match the pattern of a particular bird. The three-story hospital is subsidized by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Falconry is a popular sport and hobby in Qatar, and the practice dates back thousands of years. It was introduced to the Arabian peninsula by nomadic Bedouin tribes, who trained birds of prey to aid in hunting. Few people rely on falcons to feed their families these days, but birds are kept as companions and trained in the sport of falconry. The falcon hospital is located near the Falcon Souq, where specialist shops sell birds for prices that can reach tens of thousands of dollars. (These birds are such a big deal that in the United Arab Emirates, falcons are issued their own special passports.)
Know Before You Go
Check the hospital website for information about coordinating a visit.