Falconry in the UAE

Local tribesmen and Bedouins have for the last 4000 years continued to master the art of falconry and its important usages which includes hunting. Throughout the ages, falconry has evolved into one of the UAE’s most revered traditional sports. Falcons are symbols of courage and strength and are today one of the most valued icons of the UAE.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE had a keen interest in wildlife preservation and had developed a particular fondness for falconry. During his presidency, Sheikh Zayed announced a number of initiatives and investments to further the development of falconry as well as a range of protective measures. These included the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Program which was established in 1995 and has already released over 2000 falcons into the wild while contributing to nature conservation. The latest release of 71 falcons took place in June 2022 and were freed in Kazakhstan and the previous year saw the release of 86 falcons also in Kazakhstan.

In 1999 and under Sheikh Zayed’s directive the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital was inaugurated. It is the first public medical institution solely catering for falcons in the country. The hospital which is globally the largest of its kind admits around 11,000 falcons annually. Their mandate is to protect conserve, research and promote captive-bred and wild falcons’ health, wildlife and falconry tradition. The hospital has expanded to include education, training and research facilities and in 2011 launched its own breading centre. The UAE is also the only country in the world to issues falcon passports.

Falconry plays a key role in the UAE’s culture and both the sport and the majestic species are heavily featured in poetry, songs and stories in the country. Falcon demonstrations also are a significant part of the Annual National Day celebrations. In 2016, falconry was added to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and since emerged as a firm tourist attraction.

Falconry shows and demonstrations regularly take place across the Emirates during desert safari experiences. In Dubai both the Al Marmoom Desert Conservative Reserve and the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa also host exclusive falcon shows. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is opened to the public and offers endless opportunities to learn everything there is to know about falcons. The hospital is also a wonderful place to watch these magnificent birds in action.

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