Only Bidoun could come up with this awesome title. Only Bidoun would relish the story of a state-of-the-art hospital in Abu Dhabi—that only caters to falcons and other birds of prey. Here’s an excerpt from my piece, just out in their spring issue on the theme, Sports:
In 1999 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates and a devoted falconer, banned all forms of hunting in his country. Exterminators need special permits to kill even rats. In spite of Emirati falconers’ massive campaign to add falconry to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it is almost completely illegal to use falcons to hunt in the UAE.
The ban was imperative. The object of falconry was extra intangible. The only hope that hunting might ever again be practiced in the Gulf would be to ease up for a time, perhaps decades, and let the hammered hare and houbara bustard populations recover. Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, is trying to jumpstart the project with an international Houbara breeding program. Much to-do attends even small events marking forward progress, as when Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, released seventy bustards into the desert last year.
One might ask, then, how an Arab might partake in his cultural heritage? For decades now, the answer has been: he migrates. Some head for North Africa, where a handful of countries still allow falcon hunting. But mostly, those who can afford it — primarily sheikhs and their entourages — go to Yak Much, in western Pakistan.
An alternative title name for the article? “Slouching to Yak Much”