A tribute to the Saluki — more than a mere dog

Updated 11 October 2018
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A tribute to the Saluki — more than a mere dog

  • "The Arabic word for dog, “kalb,” should never be used when speaking of a Saluki because “a Saluki was not a mere dog": A Saluki owner
  • The Saluki was used for falconry hunting and as a guard dog

BEIRUT: This tribute to the Saluki is long overdue. Even today, in Saudi Arabia, a Saluki is not a common sight. Many expatriates have left the Kingdom without ever catching a glimpse of this exceptionally graceful dog. 

 In the foreword to this book by Terence Clark, Alan Munro, British ambassador in Riyadh in the early 1990s, recalls how a young driver, after seeing the attractive silky head of a Saluki sitting on his passenger seat, asked: “Is that your girlfriend, mister?”

 In Saudi Arabia, ever since its domestication 5,000 years ago, the Saluki was used for falconry hunting and as a guard dog. Fast, clever, loyal and bold, Salukis are Bedouins’ best friends. They are very special, as Terence Clark discovered the day he acquired his first Saluki. He was then in Baghdad, serving as the British ambassador in Iraq. After several failed attempts, he finally obtained a travel permit and headed for the small town of Kalar in Iraqi Kurdistan to look for a Saluki. 

He was met by “the most majestic cream Saluki with a flowing, silky tail but no feathering on the ears. It was superbly built, with the prominent muscles and sinews of the coursing Saluki, and its feet were reddened with henna, which it is believed hardens the pads against damage over rough terrain,” wrote Clark.

 His proud owner insisted that the Arabic word for dog, “kalb,” should never be used when speaking of a Saluki because “a Saluki was not a mere dog.”

Abdullah Philby recalls in “The Empty Quarter” (1933) how Al-Aqfa, his Saluki, went missing but found his way back by following a set of tracks. 

“The intelligence of the desert Saluki is almost human,” he wrote. 

In “The Salukis in My Life,” described as “part-memoir, part-travelogue,” we are left with enchanting memories of traditional hunting expeditions with Salukis, but we cannot fail to notice how relevant the old Bedouin traditions are to contemporary life. It is satisfying to read about the renaissance of the Saluki breed in the Gulf region, promoted by the younger generation’s enthusiasm and passion.  


What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

Updated 21 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

In Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe, Sheri Berman traces the long history of democracy in its cradle, Europe. 

In her study of European political development over more than 200 years, Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard, shows that the story of democracy in Europe is complicated. 

“The ultimate goal, she believes, is liberal democracy, with elections, respect for the rule of law, individual liberties and minority rights. But that is a rare, and hard-won, achievement. A step forward is often followed by a step back,”  said Max Strasser in a review published in The New York Times.

“This may seem a bit obvious to anyone familiar with the broad outlines of European history, but Berman makes the case clearly and convincingly. Moreover, at a moment when hyperventilating over the decline of democracy has grown into a veritable intellectual industry, her long-view approach comes across as appealingly sober,” Strasser added.