A tribute to the Saluki — more than a mere dog

Updated 11 October 2018

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.  


Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

Director Sahraa Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women. (Supplied)
Updated 30 min 24 sec ago

Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

VENICE: Dubbed Afghanistan’s first female director, Sahraa Karimi grew up in Iran with her refugee parents, and later studied cinema in Slovakia.

With 30 shorts and a couple of documentaries under her belt, she travelled this year to the Venice Film Festival with her debut fiction feature, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.”

Studying and making movies in Europe was not her scene. “Somehow, from a storytelling perspective, I don’t belong to that part of the world,” she said, recalling her days in Slovakia. “I belong to Afghanistan.”

She returned to Kabul to shoot “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which was produced by Katayoon Shahabi of Noori Pictures that once helped introduce Iranian directors such as Asghar Farhadi and Mohammad Rasoulof to the world.

In her film, Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women, linked only by problems with the men in their lives.

Hava’s (Arezoo Ariapoor) husband is callous to the point of being cruel, and her only comfort is talking to the baby in her womb. But when it stops kicking, she panics.

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar) is a popular television news reporter who wants to divorce her philandering husband. However, he insists on giving their marriage one more chance, and Maryam finds out she is pregnant.

Another expectant mother, 18-year-old Ayesha (Hasiba Ebrahimi), comes from a middleclass family but is left with no choice but to marry her cousin after being dumped by her cowardly boyfriend.

The three stories, while seemingly interesting, fail to engage because there is hardly any dramatic curve in them.

Possibly the only high point about the movie was Karimi’s relaying of the real-life tales she drew from women during her travels as a UNICEF representative. The experience was cathartic for many.

“Women don’t share their secret lives with their families or their communities, because they’re scared of rumors and gossip,” said Karimi. But with the female director, they felt comfortable and began to speak “about their suffering, wishes, and dreams.”

The more difficult part for Karimi was the shoot itself. The crew had to film under trying conditions with at least four bombs exploding in and around Kabul. But she labored on.

This probably prevented her from getting better technical results from an interesting concept, but the film could still have been pepped up with livelier storytelling.