From being a bird of prey to a prized possession, falcons have made a fixed place in the heart of the Emiratis. The importance of the falcon was realized by the Bedouins who used them as hunters to catch meat like hare, which was then used in their diet. This resulted in the common use of falcons which has transformed into a survival tactic to a time-pass activity. Just like everything else falconry has evolved drastically over time making the UAE a place where falcons have their own hospitals and are treated grandly. Falconry experience is a traditional sport that requires immense cooperation and patience between the falconer and his bird. The Emiratis are equipped with exceptional skill to train the falcon with special breeding and rearing methods. The falconer treats the falcon with gentleness and empathy for a prolonged period of time. By doing this the falconer is then able to gain the trust and obedience of the falcon.
- Step 1 – The hunter drills holes in surrounding trees and hides behind them so that he has a complete view of the happenings.
- Step 2 – The hunter will then use a pigeon trap to get the attention of the falcon. The pigeon will have a thread tied to its leg so that the hunter will have complete control of the movements of the pigeon.
- Step 3 – Then when the falcon jumps on to the pigeon to capture it, the hunter will keep pulling the thread until the falcon is completely under his territory.
- Step 4 – The hunter will then use a net to capture the falcon along with its prey.
- Step 5 – The falcon is then handed over to the falconer to start its training to create great falconry experiences.
As mentioned earlier, the falconer with use kindness, gentleness and empathy to gain the obedience and trust of the falcon. Once the falconer is able to gain the trust and obedience of the falcon he is then able use it to create unique falconry experiences for visitors and tourists.
Let’s me get into more detail now
What is Falconry?
The art of training a bird of prey, especially falcons ,to hunt for prey and retrieve them by swooping down through the sky onto land to catch a hare or a bustard. This was mostly used by the Bedouins, the nomadic desert tribe, but is now a widespread sport practiced by all Emiratis.
Why was Falconry Used?
It was one of the major survival tactics of the Bedouins. As falcons are born hunters, these birds were trained to hunt for prey and bring them back to their trainer or owner. This helped the Bedouins involve meat in their diet that usually consisted of dates, milk and bread.
Falcons in Falconry
Falconry has become a cherished tradition in the UAE which strongly reflects the love of the Bedouins for these birds. The falcon, locally known as the ‘Saqr’ is a majestic bird admired for its agility, posture, sharp eyesight, hearing ability and overall its beauty. The two species of falcons mostly used for hunting in the UAE are the Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrinus) and the ‘saqr’ falcon (Falco Cherruq) which are brought down from other countries in the Middle East. The most commonly used from the two is the Saqr as it is more adapted to desert hunting. The female saqr, known as Al Hurr, is used more than its male counterpart (Garmoush) because of its larger size and power. Similarly, the female Peregrine (Shahin or Bahri Shahin) is preferred more rather than its male counterpart (shahin tiba) because of its hunting skills. In the late 1940s, falcons were priced at a mere 30 USD, the price of which rose to 600 USD in the 1960s because of their popularity in falconry. Nowadays, falcons are sold at thousands of dollars because of their marvelous abilities and sheer beauty.
The highness H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was regarded as an expert in falconry because of his exposure to the sport since his teenage years. The sport used to be one of his favorite activities which encouraged him to write a book titled ‘Hunting with Falcons’. This book focused on the art of falconry and was considered as an encyclopedia of falconry since it’s publishing in the 1976. The Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Project conducted by National Avian Research Center (NARC) aims at releasing birds of prey back into the wilderness to study their migration habits. A tiny mobile transmitter is attached to the bird to track and monitor their movement patterns. To improve the falcon population the birds are screened for any ailments or infections. The ones that are free of any are chosen and then released back into the wild. As state by Sheikh Zayed being a falconer teaches you strength, endurance and most of all patience.
Techniques in Falconry
Falconry requires the trainer or ‘saqqar’, as known locally, to have an immense amount of patience and bravery. Throughout the training process, the falcon perches on either a round wooden mushroom shape portable block (Al Wakr) or the trainer’s hands that is covered by a cylindrical cuff known as ‘Manqalah’ to protect from the sharp talons of the falcon. The Manqalah is made out of straw or cloth. The falcon is held by braided cotton or nylon (AL Sabbuq) connected to a swiveled leash. This is known as a jesses and allows the bird the freedom to move around but not too far from its trainer. ALBurgu, the hood that covers the falcon’s eyes is made out of decorated leather. This procedure is required to make them well aware of the surroundings by gradually exposing them to new environments. Its like training the senses before the sight. After the falcon is sent for a hunt, it is lured back by taking out the lure from the canvas bag known as Al Mukhlat. The lure which is called as ‘Milwah’ or ‘Tilwah’ usually consists of pigeons or gathered Houbara wings.
After a catch, the falcon perches on a ‘Wakir’ which is a long, decorated wooden stand with a flat padded surface for resting the claws. The falcon is tethered to it , especially after a catch, by light strong tethers fitted to its ankles. These ‘subbuqs’ are roughly 30 centimeters in length and are made up of flexible nylon cords. The two ends of the subbuq are attached to a shorter cord and the swivel. The swivel allows the falcon enough movement without letting it fly away. This entire contraption is known as the ‘Mursel’.
At the sound of the falconer’s ‘Yalla’, the falcon responds gracefully in split seconds, rising up with sheer beauty to start the chase of predator and prey. As soon as it spots its prey, the falcon swoops down to capture it. Sometimes, the chase lasts quite a while, eventually any slow movement detected from the prey is taken into advantage and the falcon swoops down for its catch.
Prey of the falcons
Falcons usually prey on McQueen’s Bustard, Stone Curlew((Karawan), Hare (Arnab) and Houbara. The houbara is a stealthy bird that weighs up to nine pounds with a height of almost 75 centimeters. Its speed on both land and air is a well known trait that makes the race of prey and predator even more interesting to watch.
What makes falconry more interesting for the Arabs is the mystery of how nature can be tamed to follow mans every command with a bond that lasts for a lifetime. Only a falconer can fathom it
Falconry is a traditional Emirati sport that has been practiced for over 2000 years. The falconry skills have been passed down through generations and has been a valued skill of Emiratis.
Falconry is an exciting part of desert life and a sport that served as a form of great entertainment for those who lived in the region for hundreds of years. Today Falconry has become a heritage and the Emiratis are known for creating unique falconry experiences.
Falconry as a sport
The falconry sport involves the graceful birds who swoop through the skies to catch their prey. The thrill is in watching the birds who swoosh though the skies and which one captures its prey first. You can enjoy the wonderful skill of the falcons and the exemplary training of their masters. Though unexpected in the contemporary city of Dubai, it is definitely still a popular sport that is greatly enjoyed by the Emiratis.
Falconry Experiences Available
To offer a complete falconry experience, the tours at Adventure Emirates offer the following:
Falconry displays are a common aspect that is included in most of the day tours that take you to the Arabian Desert. You get to watch the Falconry sport and get to actually feel the ‘thrill’ that comes along with the impressive sport.
Most of the tours that are designed to display the remarkable aspects of the falconry sport include a Bedouin styled camel ride, a traditional Arabian meal in a Bedouin tent and are bundled up with iconic desert experiences.
At Adventure Emirates we have tours that are designed to give you a hands on experience of falconry. What can give you a better falconry experience than becoming a falconer yourself?
The Interactive Falconry Experience involves a top notch falconer who will train you on the basics of falconry. You will be wearing protective gloves and be given the opportunity to release falcons from your hand to catch their prey, the falcons will then return back to your waiting hands with their prized possessions.
You will be learning the both the traditional methods and modern methods of falconry. Most of these interactive falconry experiences take place at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is known for providing hands-on experience on wildlife for travelers with falconry experiences being a major part. The other wildlife sports provided by the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve involves wildlife spotting.
The Falcon Hospital located in Abu Dhabi is the first public institution that provides veterinary services exclusively for falcons in UAE. Every year over 11,000 falcons receive treatment at the Falcon hospital, this includes falcons from around the Middle Eastern region.
In 2007 the Falcon Hospital opened its doors for tourism. The falcon hospital gives an insight to the unique relationship between Bedouins, Bedouin culture and the falcons. The falcon hospital houses a museum that showcases different falcon species and gives an insight to the different types of falconry equipment.
At the Falcon hospital you can visit the rehabilitation centers to get a hands on experience in the way the falcons are treated for their ailments and to witness the recovery process of the falcons. The falcon hospital is also a home to a free-flight aviary that the falcons are free to fly for a long distance. At the falcon hospital you can also capture a memorable moment with a trained falcon resting on your shoulder.
Tours and activities that features Falconry Experiences
For exclusive falconry experiences that give you not only an insight to this amazing bird but also give you a one-on-one experience you can book a tour with Adventure Emirates from anywhere in UAE.
Dubai Falconry Experience with Wildlife Drive and Optional Breakfast
At Adventure Emirates partnered with Shaheen Events & offering a private tour for you to gain a holistic experience that involves learning about falcons and then enjoying some time with these exotic creatures. The falconry experiences that we provide include travelling to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve early in the morning amidst sand dunes of the Dubai desert. Once you reach the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve a professional trainer will give you an insight to the different aspects of the art of falconry. You will learn amazing facts about the falcon and its history with the Emiratis. You will then be presented with gloves that you can wear will getting trained by a professional trainer. You will learn traditional falconry techniques and remote controlled drones. You will be marveled at witnessing the falcon hunt for its prey and then return to your gloved hands after its successful capture. You can also book an optional breakfast with us, then you will be taken to the Al Maha Desert Resort after your amazing falconry experience.
Interactive Falconry Experience and Wildlife Drive with Optional Breakfast
Another tour for exclusive falconry experiences involves a 5 hour drive. We will pick you up on a 4X4 and will drive you across the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Here you will be able to observe the movements and life of the rare species of the Arabian Desert like the Arabian Oryx, hares and other wild creatures. You will then be given the opportunity to enjoy a hands-on falconry experience. This involves learning traditional and modern falconry skills and techniques from an expert. You will then be able to watch a falcon fly away from your hands and enjoy the thrilling experience of the swooshing of the falcon to catch its prey. The falcon will then return to your gloved hands and you can capture a moment of the falcon with its prized possession. The number of people taken for a tour is limited to 12 to provide a personalized and amazing experience for each and every individual. If you book the optional breakfast you will then be guided to the Al Maha Desert Resort to enjoy a scrumptious breakfast.
Abu Dhabi Falconry
The Falcon Hospital located in Abu Dhabi is indeed a great place to tour for an insight of falcons and hands on experience. At Adventure Emirates we have designed a 2-hour tour of the Falcon hospital along with a tour guide. You will be presented with amazing information about the correlation between falcons and the Bedouin culture at the Falcon hospital museum. You will then be taken to the treatment areas where you can witness falcons in various levels of recovery. At the Aviary you can enjoy an amazing sight of the falcons flying freely across a vast land space. The tour is complete with an opportunity to capture a memorable moment with a falcon perched on your arm.
Ras Al Khaima Falconry
The Falconry experiences of Ras Al Khaima involves a falconry course at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi Resort in the Middle East. This course is designed for people interested in falconry with no prior falconry experiences. This course will give you an insight to theoretical aspects of falconry and raptor husbandry. This thorough insight educates you completely on how to handle the birds, the recall and training methods, maintaining the health of falcons, common diseases, weight management, feeding and disease prevention techniques.
The duration of the course is 2 days after which you will be given a certificate upon completion. Book your tour with Adventure Emirates to enjoy memorable falconry experiences