women and falconry


Anna Zacharias
October 1, 2017
Updated: October 1, 2017 07:47 PM
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Ayesha Al Mansoori wanted to be a falconer since age four. Reem Mohammed / The National
Ayesha Al Mansoori wanted to be a falconer since age four. Reem Mohammed / The National
When Ayesha Al Mansoori was four years old, she told her father she would be a falconer. Falcons are heavy for toddlers, so he bought her a small desert owl and taught her to earn the bird’s trust so it would eat from her hand.

“Sometimes I didn’t go to school and I’d go out to the desert with my father instead,” says Ms Al Mansoori. “If they would tell me they were going hunting, I’d tell them I would join them.”

As Al Mansoori grew older, her brother told her it was time to leave falconry behind. But her father insisted she still had a lot to learn. Now, when her father buys a falcon, he turns to her for advice.

Popular with sheikhs and young men who eulogise their falcons on Instagram, falconry is a multi-million-dirham industry in the Gulf. It’s also a man’s world. Like camel racing, women are almost completely absent from this heritage sport.

Ms Al Mansoori wants to change this. Last year, she paired up with South African falconer Angelique Engels to teach women introductory courses in bedouin and western falconry. Next month, they will begin women’s courses at the Abu Dhabi Falconers Club, near the Abu Dhabi airport.

Ms Al Mansoori had the idea years ago and twice applied for government funding to start a business. “They told me no woman in the UAE has a falcon,” says Ms Al Mansoori, who owns two garmooshas, two sakers and a gyrfalcon named Agab who is regularly perched in her office.

This dream was realised at the Abu Dhabi Falconers Club, who offer free classes for Emirati and expatriate women.

Ms Al Mansoori reached out to Ms Engels, who she had met at a Dubai hotel doing falconry demonstrations for guests. Ms Engels had come to Dubai via Bostwana, where she had used falconry in pest control.


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The course provides women with all equipment, the use of the club’s falcons and more than 12 hours of introductory classes with Ms Al Mansoori and Ms Engels.

Classes launched last year at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition. There were 60 active members during the first season. About half of the students were Emirati, many of whom were already familiar with falconry but had not had the chance to practice it themselves.

Fifty women have enrolled for the 2017-2018 season.

Ms Al Mansoori and Ms Engels will teach in English and Arabic, providing a theoretical and practical introduction that includes history, hygiene, health, feeding and weight management, training and handling. Students will learn how to fix broken feathers, what to do if falcon gets too long in the beak or how to handle a falcon when it jumps.

Students will train with 11 trained falcons, as well as Ms Al Mansoori’s Agab, an eight-year-old gyr will flies to her at sight. “When I walk, she knows it’s me,” says Ms Al Mansoori, looking at Agab with affection. “She’s my friend, khalas.”

Agab’s calm nature makes her a popular falcon for hooding practice. To prove this point, Ms Al Mansoori plays an old video of her daughter Osha, seated in in a pram and patting Agab’s hood.

Two weeks ago, Ms Engels was watching videos of her own “babies”, five nearly featherless chicks travelling from Europe to Abu Dhabi who will be with the women’s section. “It’s very hard with falcons, you know, because they don’t have facial expressions,” said Ms Engels. “But they do have distinct personalities and even siblings are so different from one another that you can’t believe they have the same parent.”

Students can choose how much to interact with the falcons. Many progress from being wary of touching the bird to handling it with confidence.

Once the course is complete, students become club members and can train with the club’s falcons on a daily basis. For beginners, this is valuable encouragement. An inexpensive ‘starter’ falcon costs at least Dh5,000.

Classes are available for all ages. The youngest student is Ms Al Mansoori’s four-year-old daughter Osha who is already adept at hooding a falcon.

Ms Al Mansoori has raised her daughter with falcons since infancy. She shows one video of Osha, age one and a half, wandering towards her with a falconer’s glove in one hand and a hood in the other. Their desert trips inspired her to write a children’s book, Osha and Grandpa Matar.

Courses will begin in October. Lessons run for five consecutive days, Sunday to Thursday, or over two consecutive weekends. They are offered throughout the winter.

cooking is fun cathartic and a pleasure

Jamie Oliver’s five ingredients to create tastier food
The star chef presents a simplified approach to cooking in his latest book and new show, which will air in the UAE on the soon-to-launch Fox Life channel

Claire Corkery
Claire Corkery
September 28, 2017
Updated: September 28, 2017 03:21 PM

Jamie Oliver’s new show, ‘Quick and Easy’, will be shown in the UAE on new channel Fox Life. Courtesy Fremantle Media
Jamie Oliver’s new show, ‘Quick and Easy’, will be shown in the UAE on new channel Fox Life. Courtesy Fremantle Media
“T his idea is really basic; I should have come up with this 10 or 15 years ago.” Jamie Oliver is reflecting on the thought process ­behind his latest TV show and accompanying book, the guiding philosophy of which is that you only need five ingredients to create a great dish.

Nearly 20 years after he shot to international fame with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver is back on our screens with eight 30-minute programmes. The show is called Quick and Easy and it has the sole purpose of getting everyone cooking from scratch using just five elements per recipe. In the show, the 42-year-old celebrity chef will demonstrate recipes such as sticky lamb chops and lemony ­courgette linguine from his new book: 5 ingredients.

The show will air in the Middle East on Fox Life, a new lifestyle channel being launched in the last quarter of this year exclusively on e-life. Fox Life is part of a trio of new channels being unveiled by the broadcaster in the next few months. Fox calls it “reality TV tourism”, a window into different cultures, cuisines and lifestyles around the world. Content will focus on travel, home, leisure, wellness and food.

At the launch event for Quick and Easy in London, Oliver explains why this book is different from anything he has ever done before. “Not all my books are for everyone, there are some for advance cooks, some for beginners, books about money or speed,” he acknowledges.

“But this book is probably the easiest book, the most accessible I’ve ever written. It’s probably a book that you could give to a 12-year-old or a teenager, or a student going off to university, but, weirdly you could give this to a really good cook but for different reasons.”

Over the years, Oliver has listened to feedback from around the world and recognised what so many of his contemporaries have failed to see – that opening a recipe book and seeing a long list of ingredients makes the average amateur cook’s heart sink.

This is a lesson he has taken on board himself: “As a cook, just because you’re good doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate being reminded to simplify. This became for me, as a chef, a masterclass in restraint – putting one less thing in.”

Meeting Jamie Oliver in the flesh is a comforting experience – over the course of his 20-year-career, his face has made its way into countless homes via his books or television programmes, so it is strangely familiar. “I feel very lucky,” he says when asked about his continued success. “To have a presence in someone’s home through a cook book is like the best gift ever.”

However, Oliver’s longevity as a TV chef, author and businessman with an empire worth about £150 million (Dh744m) is nothing to do with luck. It’s linked to his ability to move with the times, without losing the energy and enthusiasm that propelled him to TV fame in the first place.

During a live cooking demonstration of two of the recipes from the book – Asian fishcakes and garlic mushroom pasta – Oliver speaks with passion about his love of social media and image-collecting site Pinterest, which has allowed him to connect and share ideas with fans.

“For about 12 years of my career, I had no information,” he muses. “I only learnt from book signings or doing demonstrations [what people thought]. Now with digital and social media, there’s a ­conversation going on and it’s a global conversation.”

Although he is an avid user of Twitter and Instagram, Oliver knows that it can have its downsides. Last year, he caused a social media frenzy when he shared his take on a traditional paella recipe that included chicken thighs and chorizo. The inclusion of chorizo prompted a furore in Spain as traditionally the dish does not contain the sausage.

Despite the abuse he received, Oliver seems to take in on the chin: “It was amazing getting death threats from Spanish people because of a sausage. But it [the incident] made people discuss what is a paella and what is traditional. Chefs were arguing with each other about it on social media; I quite like that because that’s what it’s all about.”

Oliver is used to taking criticism. His ground-breaking 2004 documentary Jamie’s School Dinners, which exposed shocking truths about what school children in Britain were being fed, earnt him a lot of flak from those who accused him of interfering. However, the programme was a huge hit with viewers and led to the British government pledging to spend almost £300 million (then Dh2.34 trillion) on school dinners: “It went around 80 countries in the world who put it prime time – it went nuts. In Britain, there were standards for dog food but not for kids’ food in schools.”

It is about 13 years since then and he remains committed to improving food for children; all his recipe books now contain nutritional information so readers can make informed choices. “It doesn’t matter what book I’m writing, nutrition will always be there. Whether you use it or not is up to you but it’s there. It’s up front and it’s clear,” he explains.

Healthy eating has become his passion and is a value he and his wife, Juliette (Jools) have impressed upon their five children – Poppy Honey Rosie, 15; Daisy Boo Pamela, 14; Petal Blossom Rainbow, eight; Buddy Bear Maurice, seven; and River Rocket, one. The new book is dedicated to his five children – or his five ingredients. “Luck”, he jokes. “Now I can’t have any more.”

“My kids eat well at home. There’s no need for junk food because it’s expensive and why would you want it if you can cook?” he responds, proving that no fast food from burger outlets is ever to be found in the Oliver household.

The celebrity chef’s TV shows are famously a family affair, his wife, his children and even his grandmother have been known to make an appearance to help him out with some of his cooking. However, the inclusion of his children is not just for show, it’s because he firmly believes chi ldren should be taught to cook.

“Teaching my kids to cook, I do it for fun. Although it’s deeply ­political, they don’t know that – we just have fun learning about where food comes from, growing stuff,” he says. “That’s really important and that’s why I believe that every child in every country in every school should grow stuff.

“For me, knowing how to cook – that life skill – is what helps families, rich or poor, have a nice life. If we can gift that to our children in all of our countries, we’ve got the first pillar of a society right.”

parenting is tough so is being a child

It took me 20 years to talk about my childhood
28 September 2017
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Claudio at one of the orphanages he lived in as a childImage copyrightCLAUDIO YANEZ
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Claudio Yanez always preferred not to talk about his childhood. He kept his distance from people and threw himself into his education and career. But a government report published last year about abuses in the public child care system in Chile brought back terrible memories of being taken into care at the age of 10. This is his story.
My mother was 23 years old when I was born. We lived in the centre of Chile. She was a cleaning lady and she wasn’t permitted to take me to work so she’d leave me with my godmother, who also worked as a cleaner.
When I was six years old I went to live with my grandmother in a remote town in the north and from then on I was sort of handed over from one place to the next – sent back to live with my father, then with my mother, then with my godmother.
It was impossible for me to bond with anyone – whenever I tried to establish a relationship with someone I was sent somewhere else.
I was emotionally confused. The person whom I thought was my mother wasn’t my mother at all – she was my godmother.
I didn’t feel that I was loved by anyone and as a child you feel those things – that no-one wants you, that you’re a bother, and that’s why they kept moving me around.
Find out more

Media captionListen to Claudio Yanez on Outlook: “There was a lot of abuse of power”
I had very erratic behaviour, I became very frustrated and violent to a point where they didn’t want me to be there and I didn’t want to be there either.
I rebelled against my mother and against her husband. I didn’t like the conditions that they were living in – it was place that had no drinking water, no electricity.
The only place I really liked was school, it was like an escape for me. I went there not only to learn but to be with friends, to be entertained, anything but to be at home where I didn’t want to go. I wished that the school hours were longer.
I ran away a lot from home. I would go out and sleep anywhere, on the hill… I just didn’t want to go back to a place where I wasn’t wanted.
All of sudden an adult showed up and took me to what in Chile we call a public care centre. But those places aren’t really care centres, they’re more like jails. They’re very violent places, they’re very aggressive places. There was extreme mistreatment there, not just from the workers, but also from the children themselves.
Claudio Yanez in one of the orphanages he lived in between 1987 and 1992Image copyrightCLAUDIO YANEZ
There was sexual abuse, there was corporal punishment, I’d never imagined I could be hit so hard. There was no access to education, no access to health services. There was this military language that they used with us. It was just a very dire situation.
There was a lot of abuse of power, like the time when they just pulled out the biggest boy and gave him a ladle and told him to strike us as hard as he could. All of us were crying from the blows that he gave us, and the person in charge was just laughing. He thought it was a big, big joke. He saw that we were crying so he reprimanded the big boy for having hit us so hard. He hit this big boy, so he ended up crying as well. But they were all laughing.
I realised that I was alone, that I could only depend on myself, and that it was up to me what I was going to become. I could become a crook, I could become a drug addict, but I could also become a good person.
But it was a very, very painful and difficult thing to realise that I was on my own, that there wasn’t anyone else there for me.
I was lucky enough to be recommended for a psychological test. The results came back and it so happened that I had a high IQ, so I became the first child from that place who was allowed to go to school. When the other students would go back to their houses after school I would go back to this place which for me was a jail.
I had a social worker that I could talk to and complain to, and they knew what was happening but they wouldn’t listen. And if complaints ever got back to the people who were doing the abuse it would be worse for us, so our choice was to bear it and keep quiet.
There was no camaraderie because this system mutilates your emotions – you feel nothing. You don’t feel any empathy, you don’t feel any sympathy. That happened to me, the moment I went in there was a change in my DNA.
I got to the point where I didn’t feel anything.
I was seeing this boy who was about to be raped and I felt nothing, because you’re there, in the law of the jungle, and you have to survive.
I decided to run away and a very kind family took me under their wing.
I kept studying, and after school I would spend some hours working at a hotel, where I met a family who were staying there as guests. I started talking about my life and they sympathised and they are my family to this day.
Claudio’s new familyImage copyrightCLAUDIO YANEZ
Image caption
Claudio’s new family: He is the boy with the big smile at the right of the middle row
Even though I was welcomed by this family I felt like a stranger, and it was hard trying to adjust to them, trying to adjust to this new environment. I wasn’t used to any love, I wasn’t used to any kindness.
You think you’re guilty, it’s your fault everything that happened to you as a child and as a youth. You carry this with you and it takes a lot to get rid of that.
You have to rebuild a new person. That took time, but eventually it happened.
Towards the end of university I started to feel more confident. I got a job, I’m a civil engineer and I’m now a high-ranking public servant.
I didn’t share any of this with anybody until last year. People who’ve gone through what I’ve gone through are always discriminated against – it’s like being branded and my country is a very bigoted and prejudiced country.
I didn’t want the doors to be closed once I had revealed what I’d been through and what my origins were. That was my great fear, I did not want to be exposed.
Claudio Yanez standing outside one of the orphanages he lived in as a childImage copyrightJAVIERA ALBARRÁN
But in light of recent revelations about the public care system in Chile, in which it came out that at least 1,300 children had died in the past 10 years under that system and many others have been mistreated or tortured, I decided to speak out about my past.
I thought that as a person who holds a high position and also as someone who has lived through all of that I should tell my story.
I’ve worked many, many years in the health sector and it very was surprising for my colleagues that this director, this manager had such a story, such an origin. I was really taken by the way they’ve reacted, it’s been a very positive reaction. It’s been very good for me and for them as well.
I have to accept that Chile has changed – it’s a completely different country from the one I was brought up in – it’s a more inclusive country and I think that’s what’s allowed my story to touch people.
Now I run a charity that helps children who are in this system. We’re faced with children who have no motivation at all, children who’ve been told they’re good for nothing, and we want to tell them that’s not the correct way.
We want to make dreams come true and for those who don’t have a dream we want to help them create a dream. Children can be whatever they want to be and we’re there to help them be whatever they wish to be.
My mother, who was 63, passed away a couple of weeks ago, and, of course, it was sad. But I had suffered and cried over losing her already, during my childhood. She was never there for me and every time I was lonely or in pain I felt her absence. Maybe I needed a final conversation with her.
Claudio Yanez was speaking to Outlook on the BBC World Service

passion & poisitivity

UAE comic Ali Bin Swelah delivers satire with a sharp edge
The Emirati online star Ali bin Swelah talks to The National about the real-life stories inspiring his sketches and his return to stand-up comedy

Saeed Saeed

September 25, 2017
Updated: September 25, 2017 08:20 PM

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 24 September 2017. Emirati Comedian Ali Bin Swelah at his home in Baniyas. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Saeed Saeed. Section: Arts & Culture.
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 24 September 2017. Emirati Comedian Ali Bin Swelah at his home in Baniyas. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Saeed Saeed. Section: Arts & Culture.
While the UAE is fast becoming a hot touring spot for high-profile international comedians, local comic talent is limited to sporadic open mic nights and the occasional regional comedy showcase. Wednesday, however, presents a genuine opportunity to see one of the country’s promising talents take the stage.

The Comedy Suite returns to the funky vinyl Dubai record store, The Flipside, with a special Arabic edition featuring Ali bin Swelah. The Emirati funny man – well, funny kid – makes his stage return after spending the year conquering social media with Instagram skits that earned him nearly 400,000 followers.

The 20-year-old explains that it was time to get back to the fundamentals and look his audience straight in the eye. “I look at myself as a stand-up comedian first,” he says. “I been so busy doing all these videos that I realised I was missing the stage. It will be a great chance to share my experiences and tell people what I have been up to.”

And that’s a lot. Over the space of three years, bin Swelah – whose real name is Ali Saleh – has dropped nearly 300 micro-comedy sketches on Instagram. The 60-second videos, on the account b9w.e, tackle a variety of social issues facing Arab youth across the region and use comedy that ranges from dry satire to slapstick.

This month alone, bin Swelah released topical videos examining the plethora of cards advertising massage services found on car dashboards (his take is the perpetrators evade the authorities through the use of a time machine), the agony of returning to school from the summer break (he is a Men in Black character erasing the weepy kid’s holiday memories) and the struggle of avoiding an annoying acquaintance at the Corniche.

Bin Swelah, who was born in Al Ain before moving to Banyias, explains he runs a pretty tight operation. Starring his friends, the videos are shot using a standard digital camera and often edited himself. That leanness allows him to turn inspiration to produced skit within days.

“A lot of these videos are based on real-life situations,” he says. “They mostly come from me listening to people’s stories and experiences. They would share some of the things they went through in the course of their day and that gives me the idea. Many people don’t realise that what they go through is actually funny.”

One example is that yearly dilemma of end-of-year exams. In one video, bin Swelah achieving what a good satirist does, to expose the absurdity of some of our life choices.

Posted nearly two years ago, the video begins with bin Swelah talking to the camera stating “during the school year…” before cutting to him dancing joyfully to a boisterous club song. He then returns as solemn host to say, “but once the exams approach…” and the video cuts to bin Swelah the student. He is in tears as he raises his hands in prayer pleading to God to let him pass.

In another skit, he and a friend attend a job interview where they quickly realise communicating in English is a required skill.

“Are you an animal?” the Emirati manager asks, to which both applicants give a resounding yes. “Now, that actually came from a real-life situation,” bin Swelah recalls. “This was someone who was looking for a job. So he goes to this interview where he knew they needed English but he gave it a shot anyway. The only English he knows is ‘hello, my name is Ali’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’. He spent the whole interview just saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ without actually knowing what they were saying.”

The struggle of the region’s youth to gain employment is a recurring theme in bin Sweilah’s skits. In another inspired video, dropped in February, he is sharing a coffee with an Emirati businessman in a restaurant. The gentleman is puzzled by how bin Swelah remained jobless despite the countless job fairs he has attended.

“I went to many,” he bemoans in the video. “You go to the fair and you approach the staff to apply but they say ‘habib, you need to apply online’.”

The elder is unconvinced: “So all these people who are at the fair to help you, what you are saying is that you didn’t get anything out of it?”

Bin Swelah replies: “Of course I did. The first thing I got was some great flash drives. Then there were all those sweets that we can have. And now, they are starting to give us portable phone chargers. It is great.”

Bin Swelah makes a point in stating these videos are not mere spoofs. He says he is not interested in producing content without a purpose.

“There is a lesson behind every story, and for me they are all about positivity. I want to talk about things that relate to young people, to encourage young people to aim high, to study, work hard and achieve success. I just tell them in my own way,” he says.

Bin Swelah discovered he had a great knack for spinning a good tale during his high school years in Al Ain. It was the playground that planted the seed for his stand-up career. While he admits he wasn’t coolest kid at school, bin Swelah says he always had a good story to tell his peers.

“I would tell my friends about the things that I have seen the other day and, before you know it, there was big circle and people were listening.

“I realised that people were enjoying the way I was telling these stories. I would make them laugh and they would be intrigued about where I was going with it.”

Bin Swelah knew he was onto something potentially life-changing once he began performing impromptu stand-up gigs around Abu Dhabi and started posting his sporadic skit videos online.

A fully-fledged member of region’s social media savvy generation – bin Swelah is active in Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat – he explains these platforms have levelled the playing field when it comes to discovering talent.

“It is a totally different situation now in that you don’t have to spend all your time or money trying to get an agent or know someone in a television channel,” he says.

“Everyone has a chance now and you get an immediate reaction to your work. Instead of getting an agent to support you, it is the online audience who are the agents. They are the ones that are going to spread your name and get you the opportunities. But you need to keep producing good work at the same time.”

Bin Swelah says Wednesday’s appearance at The Flipside will mark the next stage of his comedy career, which will allow him to focus more on his live performances. “It has been a while, so I do view the show as challenge for myself,” he says. “But I have learned to have confidence in myself. Hopefully, this will lead to other chances such as stage plays or more touring. I just want to go out there and meet people and show what I can do, and, of course, see if there are any more stories to tell.”

Ali bin Swelah performs at The Comedy Suite, The Flipside Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, Wednesday. Doors open at 7.30pm, show starts at 8.30pm


language roots and branches – partial

This Amazing Tree That Shows How Languages Are Connected Will Change The Way You See Our World

This Amazing Tree That Shows How Languages Are Connected Will Change The Way You See Our World
1 day ago by​ Andrius
Did you know that most of the different languages we speak today can actually be placed in only a couple of groups by their origin? This is what illustrator Minna Sundberg has captured in an elegant infographic of a linguistic tree which reveals some fascinating links between different tongues.
Using the research data from Ethnologue, Minna has used a tree metaphor to illustrate how all major European, and even plenty of Eastern languages can be grouped into Indo-European and Uralic “families”. The whole image is dotted with languages, with bigger leaves representing those with the most native speakers. But even this detailed image doesn’t cover the immense variety of languages out there: “Naturally, most tiny languages didn’t make it on the graph,” the artist explained to io9. “There’s literally hundreds of them in the Indo-European family alone and I could only fit so many on this page, so most sub-1 mil. speaker languages that don’t have the official status somewhere got the cut.”
More info: Minna Sundberg | Print (h/t: mental floss, demilked)
Bigger leaves represent more people using the language as their native tongue
Here’s a high-resolution image.
The European branch splits in three: Slavic, Romance and Germanic. A rather complicated relationship between the Slavic languages is visible
It also shows the Germanic roots of English language
Surprisingly, unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, the Finnish language belongs to Uralic family
The Indo-Iranian group reveals the links between Hindi and Urdu as well as some regional Indian languages like Rajasthani
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