The Falcon – National symbol of the UAE

Falconry in Arabia goes back more than 2,000 years. The falcon is also a symbol in many other cultures and has a place in the history of many countries from the Roman Empire to the Russian Socialist Republic, and of course the Peregrine Falcon is a symbol of the Bedouin culture of UAE. The bird was traditionally used for hunting and it was a source of survival in the desert. In the old days before the invention of guns and when guns were not powerful enough to reach prey, the falcon was like nothing else with its amazing ability to see great distances. Bedouins used the bird to supplement their diets, catching the Habara, which is a wild bird, very similar to a wild turkey, or for hunting down a wild jack rabbit or a hare. In the old days the falcon was caught, trained, used for the season and set free again as they are migratory birds. It would come back to its owner in the next season. Today falcons are kept year round by their owners. The birds are also used in sport. Owning a falcon is a matter of pride. Just like you train your horse, just like you train your hunting dog, a falcon can be trained – the better the falcon, the more skilled it is at hunting, the better and more skilled the owner. The sport involves the falcons going out hunting and the ultimate falcon is the one with the prize catch. The relationship between the falcon and the trainer is very, very close, it’s similar to the relationship between a dog and its master. The falcon is also a bird that is sometimes used to find water in areas where water was very scarce. The falcon was able to see long distances and to fly up high and give the people a chance to know exactly where to aim for. For us, the falcon represents survival, training, honour, sportsmanship and it is the prized possession of the Bedouin. It is similar to the pride of the Arabian horse or camel. For us the falcon is part of our culture and is still used for hunting in the desert, as well as developing into a noble sport. I’ve seen an interesting video on HH Sheikh Mohammed’s website where a falcon attempts to bring down a small gazelle. Pretty amazing for such a small bird. Falcons can cost between Dhs2,000 and Dhs50,000 with the growing popularity of the sport. They must even have their own passport to travel out of the country!

Credits: SMCCU

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