Everything to Know About Falconry in the Middle East

Falcons have always been part of the Bedouin culture, and the tradition of falcon hunting remains a long-established pastime. The national bird of countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar is a symbol of freedom and courage, as well as a status symbol, with falconry even recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Falconry, traditionally used as a survival tool, was basically a different form of the hunting rifle,” Ruan Botha, managing director and co-founder of WildFlight Middle East, says.

While a falcon’s skill is more valued than its looks, they do occasionally get a go at pageantry as well. At the annual Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition, there is — among other competitions — a beauty contest for captive-bred falcons.

Both Qatar and Abu Dhabi have their own dedicated Falcon Hospitals, caring for nothing but these birds. Enter, and you’ll see waiting rooms for humans, albeit with falcons on their arms, and one specifically for birds, all sitting patiently in the dark waiting for their turn.

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