Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Falconry in Afghanistan

In Idaho all those years ago I met a really smashing bloke, a falconer called Rob. He and his family (all completely lovely people) were widely travelled, funny, brilliant, and a real joy to know. I have happy memories of us all talking away nineteen to the dozen at an Irish pub in Boise. Where I ate the best Irish stew of my life.

We lost touch, but I've just heard back from him, which has made me so very happy. He and the family now live in Cairo, but spent a good deal of time working in Afghanistan back during the early days after the war.

He tells me how much Afghans love birds — something also eminently the case in Central Asia— and how nearly everyone has a parakeet or two. And how shocked people were when he enthused about how he'd love to fly a merlin at doves, because doves are kind and loving creatures. (Again, in Uzbekistan, these same doves are known as "The Prophet's Chickens", are never to be harmed, and it is considered great good luck should they nest in your house.)

Rob wrote this, and gave me permission to reproduce it here. It gives me a lump in my throat every time I read it:
While I was there, I had the chance to go falcon trapping and visit the back alley falcon markets of Peshawar. It was fun but it was also frightening. On my last trip to Peshawar from Kabul our convoy was attacked. We were not hurt and I made it back to Kabul without a problem. It did shake me, however, and I don't think I am much interested in working in war zones again.

When I was in Kabul, I spent a lot of my free time talking to men who, before war, had hawks and falcons. To them those were truly their best years. Every chance I got, I went to the sprawling Kabul market asking about falcons and falconry. One day I met an old man who simply said "Those days are over". He handed me the hood from his last Peregrine. He cried—which really doesn't happen often in that part of the world—and asked me to use it on a falcon if I had a chance, because he was sure that he would never have another.

I struck up close friendship with Karim Rahimi, who is President Karzi's spokesman. Before the wars, Rahimi was an avid falconer .... we have plans to somehow bring falconry back to the villages of Afghanistan... but not until there is peace.

When I returned to Boise, I made sure to use that hood the old man gave me on my tiercel Peales.


Matt Mullenix said...

Wow. So sad.

Carla said...

It never occured to me that such activities as falconry would have to die down because of war... I wonder why that is so?

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stevejohn63@hotmail.com said...

of course such activities as trapping falcons would become hard during a big war in Afghanistan,I know the areas spoken of ,would like to contact man who wrote this i am in uk

Kamran Khan Yousafzai said...


I found many falconers praticing falconry in Afganistan it was good to see goshawks and sparrowhawks with them