Falconry has a long tradition in the Middle East. Falcons are a symbol of pride and unity in the UAE and many Emiratis regularly spend time with their friends and their falcons out in the desert, hunting or training the birds. The most beautiful falcons are entered into beauty contests and the fastest compete in falcon races. These falcon competitions have been introduced fairly recently in a bid to boost the falconry tradition and to make it more popular with young Emiratis.


While falconry has a long tradition in the Middle East, falcon races have been introduced fairly recently. The President’s Cup, the highlight of the UAE’s falconry calendar, has been established in 2013 and is made up of several categories and races – some open to the public, others are for sheikhs only. The falcons fly, one by one, across a distance of 400m. Once they are released, the clock starts. A good bird manages to fly in a straight line, fairly close to the ground directly towards a man in a kandora waving the telwah – a lure of Houbara feathers – behind the finishing line. While waving, he shrieks and shouts to attract the bird’s attention. The birds reach top speeds of 90 km/h and so it’s usually just a few seconds until the falcon crosses the line. He is then caught and rewarded with a pigeon’s wing or leg while being cooled down with water. Like tired little athletes, the birds sit on their perches, devouring the meat and catching their breath, while the men prepare to lure the next contestant. Most of the men looking after the falcons come from Pakistan, Bangladesh or various African countries to work here during the falcon season. From September until April, they make sure their valuable protégés are healthy and in perfect condition – they train them every day and, of course, they all hope that their bird wins. After all, millions of dirhams in prize money are to be won – and a win usually means a much welcome bonus for the team.


















Falcons are not only the fastest birds in the world – many would say, they are also the most beautiful.
And to find out who is the most perfect of them all, a beauty contest, just for falcons, takes place in Abu Dhabi once a year.
This year, more than 100 birds have been entered into the competition. Each one of them is thoroughly checked – they each are given points on head size, eyes, beak, shoulders, wings, feet, claws and, of course, their plumage. The falcon with the most points overall is the winner.























Many of the falcons are extremely valuable and so they don’t live in a cage but in closed, air-conditioned rooms.

























Men and boys often spend the afternoons in the desert with their falcons.


In the Middle East there are even shopping malls for falcons and all things related.
Falconers come here to buy falcons, hawks and sometimes even eagles, falcon hoods, falconer gloves, bags, perches, falcon trainer aeroplanes, frozen chicks and mice, tracking systems, tents, boxes to keep pigeons in, telwahs – falcons lures made from houbara wings, little devices for trapping falcons in the wild, guns, camping showers, pots and pans and just about anything that makes a falconer’s heart beat a little bit faster. There is also a falcon clinic in the mall where falcons can be checked out pre-purchase.








Falcons are famous for their speed, their intelligence, their incredible eyesight and not least for their beauty.
The falcon is the national symbol of the UAE and a sheikhs’ favourite.
Looking after these noble birds is Dr. Jess and his team at the Falcon Clinic in Dubai. During falcon season they treat up to fifty feathered patients a day. For 90 dirhams, a bird can have a feather repaired or replaced and a nose rinse costs just just 50 dirhams. Besides those procedures, Dr Jess and his team straighten feathers, implant microchips, file claws and beaks, squeeze blocked glands, open abscesses and administer vitamin injections. Many of the birds are also checked for aspergillosis, a fungal infection common in birds which, if left untreated, often ends fatal.





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