Dubai: As director of project management office (PMO), informatics and smart health at Dubai Health Authority, Dr Mohammad Al Redha is at the helm of all healthcare innovation in Dubai. A man of ideas, his present is inextricably linked with the future. But ask him what he did in the summer months gone by and the past suddenly takes precedence.
“Well, I am just back after a game of falconry in Scotland,” says the 38 year old, the glint in his eyes unmistakeable. “It’s something I do every summer.”
Falconry or the art of hunting with falcons is a past-continuous passion with Dr Al Redha who pursues the sport even within the UAE.
“I like sports and spending time with family and friends. Falconry gives me an opportunity to do both. I find it very thrilling, right from wearing the special gear for the hunt and going outdoors to carrying a bird that can do so much.”
What Dr Al Redha also finds appealing is the variety of birds he gets to engage with. “The Scotland falcon farm offers different kinds of birds, including owls, hawks and American eagles. Each bird has its own personality and this is fascinating.”
The technocrat in Dr Al Redha touches on a technology aspect too. “When pigeons were employed in the sport traditionally, their feathers would be removed to slow them down. Today, you can attach a piece of meat or something that looks like a pigeon to a drone and film the falcon going after it.”
Falconry isn’t the only sport the doctor pursues. He also loves cycling.
“I cycle twice a week with a group of friends at Nad Al Sheba or Al Qudra. Now I take my son, nine, also with me. Cycling keeps me fit and I cherish the time I get with people I enjoy being with.”
Dr Al Redha lets on that he has had many falls from his red and white road bike, an upgrade from his earlier mountain bike. “My last fall was just before Ramadan. I lost balance and flipped over. As my friends waited for me, we saw others passing by, waving at us.”
He says it is essential to play a sport or develop an interest outside the realm of everyday work to stay fit and happy.
Falconry: Sheer poetry in motion
Dr Al Redha with friend Sultan Al Akraf at a falconry farm in Scotland
Falconry is described as one the oldest bonds between man and bird, dating back thousands of years. Ancient, yet modern in its currency, the sport employs trained birds of prey to take quarry in its natural state and habitat.
The falcon is adapted to hunt the prey which in turn tries to escape from the falcon. As the falconer orchestrates the two together in the lap of nature, what follows is sheer poetry in motion, elegant yet violent, with time standing completely still.
A popular sport, falconry has spawned a huge industry as there is a range of equipment to employ.
The gear includes everything from the iconic hoods used to calm the birds and gloves to protect oneself from the eagles’ claws to jesses and strips that are tied to the birds’ feet, besides identity tags, bells, trackers and telemetry.