Falcon sells for record-breaking $170,000 in Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi man displays a falcon which was sold for SR650,000 (US$173284) during an auction at Saudi Falcons Club Auction in King Abdulaziz Festival in Mulham, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 13, 2020, Picture taken October 13, 2020. (Media Center Saudi Falcons Club Auction via Reuters)
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A Saudi man displays a falcon which was sold for SR650,000 (US$173284) during an auction at Saudi Falcons Club Auction in King Abdulaziz Festival in Mulham, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 13, 2020, Picture taken October 13, 2020. (Media Center Saudi Falcons Club Auction via Reuters)
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A Saudi man displays a falcon which was sold for SR650,000 (US$173284) during an auction at Saudi Falcons Club Auction in King Abdulaziz Festival in Mulham, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 13, 2020, Picture taken October 13, 2020. (Media Center Saudi Falcons Club Auction via Reuters)
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Updated 14 October 2020

Falcon sells for record-breaking $170,000 in Saudi Arabia

  • The bird was sold on Tuesday for 650,000 Saudi riyals ($173,000)
  • Falconry is an important part of the cultural desert heritage of Arabs of Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A young falcon in Saudi Arabia has sold for more than $170,000, the most expensive sale ever of that type of bird and the costliest purchase so far at an annual 45-day auction of the hunting birds cherished in Gulf countries.
The bird was sold on Tuesday for 650,000 Saudi riyals ($173,000) by virtue of its unique characteristics and scarcity, the auction’s organizers, the Saudi Falcon Club, said in a statement.
The club said it was the most expensive sale ever globally for its type — a young Shaheen breed, a type of peregrine falcon.
Falconry is an important part of the cultural desert heritage of Arabs of Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries going back thousands of years.
Falcons, whose flight speeds can exceed 300 km (186 miles) an hour, are recognized internationally as endangered. Countries have varying regulations governing their sale, capture, breeding and hunting activities.
The falcon, weighing 1.1 kg, was captured from the wild in Hafer Al-Batin, in north-east Saudi Arabia, the club said.
The auction from Oct. 3 — Nov. 15 is organized by the Saudi Falcon Club, founded in 2017 and supported by the government as a way to preserve and nurture this heritage activity.
Falcon owners in the Gulf, seeking hunting opportunities, commonly travel with their birds inside plane cabins to countries like Pakistan, Morocco and the central Asian region during colder months.


Mysterious obelisk in US desert draws wild theories

Updated 25 November 2020

Mysterious obelisk in US desert draws wild theories

  • Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken

LOS ANGELES: A mysterious metal obelisk found buried in the remote western United States desert has inflamed the imaginations of UFO spotters, conspiracy theorists and Stanley Kubrick fans around the world.
The shiny, triangular pillar – which protrudes approximately 12 feet from the red rocks of southern Utah – was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.
After landing their helicopter to investigate, Utah Department of Public Safety crew members found “a metal monolith installed in the ground” but “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”
“It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from,” warned the agency in a tongue-in-cheek press release Monday.
News of the discovery quickly went viral online, with many noting the object’s similarity with strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others remarked on its discovery during a turbulent year that has seen the world gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and optimistically speculated it could have a different function entirely.
“This is the ‘reset’ button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” joked one Instagram user.
“Up close it reads: ‘Covid vaccine inside’” wrote another.
Although officials have refused to disclose the object’s location out of fear that hordes of curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, a Reddit user said they had managed to geo-locate the obelisk using surrounding rock formations.
Sharing the Google Earth location – where a small structure can be seen, roughly six miles from the nearest road – the user said the structure was first photographed by Google in 2016.
Bret Hutchings, the pilot who happened to fly over the obelisk, speculated that it had been planted by “some new wave artist.”
Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, a US artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.
On Tuesday a spokeswoman for his representative David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken’s works, but possibly by a fellow artist paying homage.
However later in the day Zwirner gave another statement in which he suggested the piece was indeed by McCracken, meaning it had lain undiscovered in the desert for nearly a decade.
“The gallery is divided on this,” Zwirner said. “I believe this is definitely by John.”
He added: “Who would have known that 2020 had yet another surprise for us. Just when we thought we had seen it all. Let’s go see it.”
Either way, Hutchings admitted it was “about the strangest thing I’ve come across out there, in all my years of flying.”
“We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it,” he told local news channel KSLTV.