September 1, 2013
There was a time when no gathering of sheikhs was complete without a falcon on every wrist, as illustrated by this gathering with the Ruler Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan in Qasr Al Hosn captured by a Time Life photographer in the early 1960s.
Birds of prey were one of the symbols of authority, as well as a crucial tool when hunting for food in desert lands. As a result, falcons have a special place in the hearts of Emiratis. A golden falcon known as the Hawk of Quraish is the heraldic symbol of the UAE, while only in Abu Dhabi could there be a hospital devoted entirely to the treatment and rehabilitation of injured birds.
The modern age, lived largely indoors, is not conducive to carrying around falcons in daily life, but the affection for the birds runs just as deep as it ever did. To witness this, it is only necessary to visit the Abu Dhabi International Hunting & Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex), which opens in the capital on Wednesday. To find the falcons, just follow the crowds.
* James Langton