This traditional Emirati sport has been practised for more than 2,000 years, with skills being passed down through generations. Falconry requires patience and co-operation between the falconer and his bird. By treating his bird gently and with empathy, the falconer gains its trust and obedience. Emirati falconers developed special breeding and rearing methods over the years, and a falconry experience allows you to discover this ancient tradition in person.
In his book, Falconry as a Sport – Our Arab Heritage, the late UAE founder, also known as the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, describes the essential techniques of catching these majestic birds. In one method, the hunter drills a hole in the ground and hides between trees, using a pigeon as a lure to catch the falcon. He takes the pigeon out of the hole and stays in control of its movements using a thread tied to its leg. As soon as the falcon jumps on its prey, the hunter pulls the thread gently towards him until the falcon is in his possession. Use of a net is another method of capturing falcons, where a pigeon is once again the prey. The falcon is netted as soon as it captures the small bird. The hunter grabs the falcon, takes it out of the net and hands it to the falconer to start training it.
Most desert safari experiences offer a chance to discover falconry, although there is another way to meet these beautiful birds of prey. Close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the world’s largest and most advanced falcon hospital. Its highlights include a falcon display museum as well as a facility home to free-flying falcons. Guided tours of this award-winning specialist hospital are available and highly recommended. Visit the luxurious wards where the birds are kept, explore the museum that gives insights into the noble desert sport of falconry, and even try your hand at the sport in the hospital’s lush gardens.