During August, thousands of falcons in the UAE undergo training in order to prepare them for racing and hunting season, which typically takes place from October to February. This week, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was accompanied by his son HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, during a visit to a falcon training facility in the emirate. The royals are both known admirers of the majestic bird, which is the national emblem of the UAE. In a bid to revive the ancient sport of falconry, Sheikh Hamdan joined forces with the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC) to establish the Fazza Championship for Falconry. Last year, his falcon Ghaith won the competition. The government has also called on Unesco to grant the sport world heritage status in order to preserve it.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was an avid conservationist, imparted that the sport of falconry teaches patience and strength. This is certainly true, as training a falcon to catch prey can take up to three months. The training begins in mid-August, with the falconer and falcon developing a uniquely strong bond as they often spend night and day together.
A great deal of importance is placed on these birds – so much so that Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s largest and most advanced falcon hospital, with a museum dedicated to falcons. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, launched a multi-million dollar initiative in April to help prevent the endangered animals from being killed by electrical power lines.