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Spectrum » Travel

Posted at: Sep 9, 2018, 1:45 AM; last updated: Sep 9, 2018, 1:57 AM (IST)

Falcons, Angry Birds and a strange pair of shoes

In Qatar’s capital, the bird of prey holds sway while the world’s angriest flock of feathered fowls gets angrier

Preeti Verma Lal

Evenings in Doha’s Souq Waqif are cacophonous. The chirrup of the budgerigar, the hissing of the cockatoo and the squeak of the rabbits in the bird market. The onomatopoeic sound of the horse’s hooves and the frightening sound of a complaining camel. The mornings, however, are sombre. Except the Falcon Souq, where the falcons are many and the queue at the hospital longer. Men in white with leather gloves walk with their falcons to the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital where doctors in blue scrubs weigh, register and prescribe medicine to the falcons. Sometimes, they even make them prettier. Trim their beaks. Clip their talons. Fix their fallen feathers or overhaul a crummy heart. 

Qatar has an age-old tradition of falconry and the Falcon Souq caters to everything that the falconer will need. A falcon with pricey tags — a few thousand rupees to millions — that can be trained as a bird of prey. Leather hats in red, teal, turquoise for the bird… Perch shelves. Gloves. Feet leash. Anklets and jesses. Bells and swivels. Cobblers hunch over animal hides to handcraft glam burqas (hoods) for the young birds. And sellers preen their birds for a fetching price. 

In Souq Waqif, the falcons hold sway. In Doha Festival City Mall, the birds get angry. Really angry. Call them the Angry Birds, world’s angriest flock of furious feathered fowl. Those popular multi-coloured birds, who try to save their eggs from green-coloured pigs. These raucous birds live in 17,000 sq m space inside the mall. It is the first Angry Birds World (ABW) theme park. 

At ABW theme park, everything is about angry birds. Cookies one can chew. Angry food that one can gobble. Ride the Angry Birds in the world’s first indoor-outdoor karting track and the only multi-level track in the Middle East. Catapulted 60 metres into the air from a Super Slingshot Tower, one can fly like a bird. Or, perch oneself on the 17-metre high tree to learn the basics of science, improve musical ability and develop their creative chops. 

Beyond the birds, footwear in Doha can baffle many. The shoe collection in the private collection of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum is priceless. Legend has it that Sheikh started collecting artefacts when he was barely 10 years old. The museum, which has more than 15,000 artefacts from four continents, has antique shoes collected from around the world.  The strangest of all is a pair of wooden slippers with 12-inch high heel on both ends — slippers balancing on stilts. It is unfathomable how a woman could walk in those. Perhaps she did. And tripped at every step. Or, super-glued her feet to the wood. In the museum, no one knows the hows of that strange pair of shoes. 

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