Morocco revives falconry heritage with help from UAE

Friday 05/06/2015
Mazrouei presenting award during the festival.

El Jadida, Morocco - The United Arab Emirates is helping Morocco revive its falconry heritage. To­wards that end, an Emira­ti delegation participated in the kingdom’s Lekouassem Fal­conry Festival, which took place May 29th through May 31st in Le­kouassem, 45 kilometres from the city of El Jadida.
Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, di­rector of Al Dhafra Festival’s her­itage competitions, said the UAE’s participation was part of the emirate’s commitment to re­viving Morocco’s falconry heritage through active sup­port of the festival.
“We have brought the knowledge and exper­tise that we have ac­quired in the UAE in a bid to transmit it to Lekouassem falcon­ers,” said Mazrouei.
“We seek to make this fes­tival a social venue for the resi­dents of Lekouassem village and also support Fantasia troops through financing the feed for their horses.”
The Emirati delegation distrib­uted first-aid kits and medicine to Moroccan falconers for the care of birds of prey.
“Lekouassem Festival is improv­ing steadily. Next year, we will help organisers develop it further in order to make it an international event,” Mazrouei said.
The UAE is one of the world’s leading countries in falconry, which was included on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Mohammed El Ghazouani, presi­dent of the Association of Lekouas­sem Ouled Fraj Falconers, who hails from a family of falconers in Lekouassem, said the aim of the festival “is to lure tourists to the region and introduce them to our centuries-old culture and her­itage”. “We are thrilled to see IAF Presi­dent Adrian Lombard in the festi­val. It is such an hon­our for us as our association is working to become a member of the International As­sociation for Falconry and the Con­servation of Birds of Prey,” said Ghazouani.
Lombard told The Arab Weekly that IAF was looking forward to working with Lekouassem falcon­ers and helping them preserve their ancient heritage.
“Morocco is a member of the IAF and we hope to strengthen this re­lationship further,” said Lombard.
Falconry is believed to have been practiced in Morocco for more than 1,000 years. Ghazouani cited the example of the ruler of Granada in Spain, who sent a letter to Morocco in 1352 thanking it for the falcon gifts.
However, falconry dwindled through the years in the North African kingdom due the mass rural exodus into cities and the lack of regulations on hunting prey.
Qatar, which was the guest of honour of this year’s fes­tival, hailed the improvement of the event, which allowed visitors to learn more about falcon­ry in the Arab Gulf region.
Ali bin Khatim al- Mehshadi, president of Al Gannas Society, said the aim of Qa­tar’s participation was rapprochement with Moroccan fal­coners in order to share this herit­age of their forefathers.
“We took part in other falconry events across Morocco, including Larache and Tetouan. We are here to support our Moroccan brothers in their festivals,” Mehshadi told The Arab Weekly.
Beatrice Fouchet, who has lived in Morocco for 18 years, said her attendance was a tribute to Lek­ouassem tribe, which she regularly visits. Fouchet created an associa­tion called El Jadida Accueil, which hosts foreigners in El Jadida.
Two weeks ago the 70-year-old French woman took about 80 tour­ists to Lekouassem village to learn about the region’s falconry herit­age.
“Falconry is part of the Moroccan culture that I respect very much,” she added.
Falconer James, who attended the festival with his falcon, said Morocco “is a beautiful country and the falcons here are stunning”.
“I came to the festival to learn new things about falconry in Mo­rocco and explore their heritage,” said the American falconer who works for the Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation in the North African country.
The opening ceremony of the fes­tival was a parade with trucks, trac­tors and SUVs carrying about large 60 dishes of home-made couscous with carrots and pumpkins, which are the symbol of Doukkala region, to the tents as a token of hospitality of Lekouassem villagers.