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Falconry expert becomes first woman to showcase skills in Saudi Arabia festival

Published: Updated:

Saudi falconer Athari Alkhaldi skillfully showcased her bird of prey expertise during Saudi Arabia’s annual falconry festival; the first time a woman has participated in the male-dominated sport in the Kingdom.

The third edition of the King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival, which is being held in the capital of Riyadh, was Alkhaldi’s second attempt at qualifying, after failing in 2019 when her bird refused to take flight.

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“Dealing with falcons is not easy. It was difficult... thank God, I managed to handle the falcon and enter the competition,” she said.

Falconry, or the tradition of raising, training and using falcons for hunting, is a practice Arab nomads once used to survive in the desert.

Organized by the Saudi Falcon Club, the festival saw teams participating from the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, with more than 4,000 falcons.

Athari said her passion for falcons first emerged 10 years ago and she has been developing her skills ever since.

“Falconry is a well-known legacy since the old times, and we take pride in it... I proved that women can join this field, it’s not only restricted to men,” she added.

King Adulaziz Falconry Festival honored Athari for her participation in the contest, as a “continuation of the Kingdom’s efforts to empower the women in all the areas”.

For two weeks, falconers and enthusiasts gathered to revive the deep-rooted heritage, and compete in the ‘Al Mallouah’ - waving to a falcon by an artificial bird tied with a rope, and ‘Mazayin’ - Falcons beauty contest.

The festival continues until December 12.

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