Last week Kevin and I spent the afternoon at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Heritage Exhibition. Food, crafts, and FALCONS! I was captivated by the birds. They were so beautiful. Many dealers were present selling everything a bird owner could possibly need, from frozen rats to custom fitted hoods. I could have spent hours taking photos. Below are just a few of the images from that day, followed by an article explaining the history of falconry in the UAE.
Falconry is an integral part of desert life which has been practiced in the UAE for centuries. Originally, falcons were used for hunting, to supplement the Bedouin diet with some meat, such as hare or houbara. In the time before the UAE was formed, and before the discovery of oil allowed the development of roads and communication systems, hunting expeditions were also frequently used as a way for the tribal sheikhs to ‘tour’ their territory and keep in touch with the latest developments in areas which were otherwise incommunicado. The sheikh would hunt during the day, then a desert majlis would be held around the campfire in the evenings, when the Bedouin would come to pay their respects and raise with him any matters of concern.
Nowadays, falconry is practiced purely for sport. The main prey for falcons in the UAE are MacQueen’s bustard, houbara, or hare. There is now a very successful captive breeding programme in the UAE for houbara, ensuring that this popular sport does not eliminate this species.