SPORTS AND RECREATION

The Arabian Peninsula is one of the last places in the world where falconry remains an important sporting activity. It is particularly popular among the wealthy. Desert nomads appreciated the stamina and hunting instincts of the falcon, and enjoyed the intense work of training the birds to hunt. The Houbara bustard, a large, fast-flying desert bird about the size of a heron, is the falcon's chief prey. The falcon requires great skill to track down a bird of this size and speed, and covers distances of 9 or 10 miles before finally capturing its prey. An experienced falconer follows the falcon in a jeep or on a horse to be on hand the moment it captures its prey.

Many Qataris enjoy sailing along the coast and hold races for dhows (traditional wooden sailing boats). Horse racing and camel racing are also very popular. Jockeys ride the camels, which are capable of running very fast. There is an atmosphere of tremendous excitement among the spectators at the camel-racing track in Qatar, and some spectators even follow the camels in their cars.

Qatar hosts a variety of international sporting events, including tennis and golf tournaments, squash championships, sailboat races, car rallies and the Qatar International Desert Marathon. Soccer is especially popular; there are 14 stadiums for soccer matches in Doha alone. The Qatari national soccer team attracts thousands of spectators and reached the quarter finals at the 1996 Olympics in Barcelona.

Boys enjoy playing the Al Ghomaid game, in which one boy is blindfolded and has to catch one of the others, who try to avoid him and make noises to confuse him. When the blindfolded boy catches one of the other players, that boy is then blindfolded. Girls play Umm Al Ial. One girl plays the role of the mother who defends her children against a wolf, represented by another girl. Qatari children also enjoy visiting Doha's amusement park, Aladdin's Kingdom, also known as the Family Fun Park of a Thousand and One Delights.

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The waterfront of Doha, known as the Corniche, is a spacious promenade around the harbor, lined with palm trees. Qataris enjoy walking and picnicking on the Corniche and gather there to watch boat races.

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On weekends, Qataris enjoy driving to oases where they camp out in tents. For a night or two they experience the lifestyle of their Bedouin ancestors.