Falcon cuff (al mangalah) used by falconers to protect their hands
19th century
Object Name: Falcon cuff, al mangalah
Period: 19th century
Date: 1800-1899
Provenance: Arabia
Dimensions: H:70.5-W:67.4-D:27.2
Medium: textile
Registration Number: QNM.2011.233.1
The cuff, or al mangalah, is a secondary means for falconers to protect their hands. Shaped like large bangles, the cuff is made of coloured fabrics and the two edges near the openings are made from soft leather, or soft but durable plastic. At one end of the mangalah is a durable leather noose, which can be joined to the end of the jess tied to the falcon’s leg. This is done when the falconers want to carry the birds on their hands.

Falconers carefully choose their mangalah. Longer varieties that cover the hands from the wrists up to the elbows are usually preferred. Falcons are fed meat by the gloved left hand, while they are seated on the left arm wearing the mangalah. Al mangalah is widely used in Qatar and other Gulf countries due to the hot temperatures, as it is a cooler option to a leather glove.
The Qatar Peninsula is surrounded by sea except in the south where it connects with its neighbours from the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years people have shared the land, resources and knowledge inherited from their environment. With no fixed lifestyle in terms of time and place, people moved easily and freely between land and sea for trade, livestock, pearl diving, fishing, and hunting at various times throughout the year. This symbiotic relationship between the people and their environment was represented in the unity of their societies, including the exchange of knowledge, stories and the trading of available goods.

A distinctive characteristic of life on the Qatar Peninsula has long been the close association between the coast and the desert – al barr. Some desert tribes spent several months of the year in coastal cities, setting up semi-permanent residences to participate in pearl diving or fishing. Similarly, coastal residents occasionally moved to al barr during the winter to graze their livestock. This exchange of natural resources and the influence of different environments has contributed to the creation of a unique community.
The presence of British, French and Dutch trading companies in the Gulf from the early 1600s brought uncertainty to the region, with unstable alliances and intense competition over trade routes. As trade flourished, however, the strength of the Arab tribes increased. Many Arab tribes moved from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula to Qatar, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the major towns of the Gulf were founded. Several towns flourished on the Qatari coast, including Huwailah, Khor Hassan, Fuwairat, Ruwaida, Freiha, Al Bidda and Doha. The most notable was Al Zubara which became a hub for the Gulf pearl trade.