Egyptians celebrate falconry heritage

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A Bedouin boy holds a falcon after using a pigeon to hunt in the desert during World Falconry Day at Borg al-Arab desert in Alexandria, Egypt, November 17, 2018. Picture taken November 17, 2018. (Reuters)
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A member of Al Qannas Al Masry releases his falcon during a celebration by Egyptian clubs and austringers on World Falconry Day at Borg al-Arab desert in Alexandria, Egypt, November 17, 2018. (Reuters)
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A member of EGY Falconer Club releases his falcon during a celebration by Egyptian clubs and austringers on World Falconry Day at Borg al-Arab desert in Alexandria, Egypt, November 17, 2018. (Reuters)
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Yasser al-Khawanky feeds his hunting Golden eagle during a celebration by Egyptian clubs and austringers on World Falconry Day at Borg al-Arab desert in Alexandria, Egypt, November 17, 2018. Picture taken November 17, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Egyptians celebrate falconry heritage

  • Under the slogan "Egypt ... Where It All Began", the birds of prey of the Egy Falconer Club soared through the clear blue skies

CAIRO: Egyptian falconers gathered in the desert of Borg al-Arab near Alexandria to celebrate World Falconry Day, hoping to increase awareness of the sport and help preserve the ancient tradition.
Under the slogan "Egypt ... Where It All Began", the birds of prey of the Egy Falconer Club, which organised the event on Saturday, soared through the clear blue skies and showed off their hunting skills, swooping on pigeons or rabbits.
Mohamed Mowafy, a member of the club, said falconry in Egypt dated back to the ancient Egyptians' worship of the falcon-headed god Horus.
The celebration brought together falconers from across Egypt and included a competition that featured more than 10 types of birds of prey, including a two-year-old golden eagle owned by Yasser al-Khawanky.
Among the younger competitors was 11-year-old Ammar, who said he was introduced to falconry by his father at the age of seven. Ammar named his light-feathered Shaheen falcon "Ashqar", meaning blond.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.