'Breaking stereotypes': 11 photos showing the UAE's female falconers

For the past two years, photographer Vidhyaa Chandramohan has paid witness as falconry has shifted from being a purely male-dominated sport

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For thousands of years, falconry has been a male-dominated sport, but this is slowly changing. In 2017, Ayesha Al Mansoori began offering free training classes for women at the Abu Dhabi Falconers' Club. Within a year, more than 50 women had signed up. "It's important to promote it as a sport and emphasise the role of women," Al Mansoori says.

Photographer Vidhyaa Chandramohan has spent the past two years documenting these female falconers, following them into the desert around Abu Dhabi and capturing the candid moments that unfolded as they honed their skills.

Emirati Women regularly come together in the evenings to meet and train their birds where the practice becomes more about friendship and sharing knowledge than subsistence. (From left to right) Mariam Al Hammadi, Emam Al Hammadi, Khawla Al Hammadi, Osha Khaleefa Al Mansoori, Ayesha Al Manoori head trainer for the female section in Abu Dhabi Falcon Club, a government-owned organization which promotes falconry in UAE.Vidhyaa for The National

"Female falcons are used for hunting because they are larger and more powerful than the males, and yet, historically, most falconers were men," Chandramohan says. "Ayesha is breaking stereotypes and training expatriate and Emirati women in the art of falconry.

“Throughout history, falconry was transferred from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, but now this is slowly changing in the UAE. The transfer of skills has altered from mother to daughter.”

People have been practising falconry in the UAE for 4,000 years, primarily for hunting. Four years ago it was included in Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is a pastime that continues to unite families and communities – a thread that connects the country's past, present and future.

"My goal is to use my camera to capture an unexplored UAE, a world of new relationships, new chances, new beginnings and, most importantly, new stories," Chandramohan says.