Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Falcon Hospital

Today was another first... a falcon hospital.

Having been to the hospital it sort of makes sense but really who would have thought of doing this?

Falcons, camels and Ferrari's are a passion here, only the last being a relatively new thing.  Camels of course have been a staple for years but then again as we found out, so are falcons.

Falcons don't live in Arabia in summer, they are migratory and only come here (by mistake) in winter time when they are aiming for the other side of the Gulf but get blown over to the other side.  That has been going on for thousands of years.  The Bedouin who lived in the desert in those years captured some and used them to hunt rabbits, hares and other creatures of the desert to augment their pretty minimal diet.  

Over time falcons became integrated with the Bedouin but as these days they go to the supermarket (or rather their people do) falconry is now only a sport.  But what a sport.  These birds are expensive and are imported from Germany/Austria in the main but also from other places in Europe and the US.  The royal family and their relatives have their own flock of falcons (is it a 'flock'?) and their own hospital facilities.  This falcon hospital is the largest in the world and deals exclusively for everyone else... not to say that this is cheap.  It is not.  Caring for a falcon is as complex as dealing with humans.

The tour was led by an emirati who was very chatty and cracked lots of jokes.  It encompassed the treatment room where rows of falcons sat/stood/perched patiently waiting their turn.  One doctor (or orderly) demonstrated putting one falcon to sleep and then cutting, trimming, resharpening and filing the bird's nails.  Lying there on the slab, it looked like a dead parrot!

There were loads of them!

"This falcon isn't dead, it's resting..."

The hospital holds reserves of feathers just in case one breaks so they can replace it.  They  put little sticks into the wing itself to reinforce it.  Who on earth figured this all out?  Had to be a German.
The other facility we visited was the moulting room where falcons first shed and then re-grow their feathers (this is an annual event).  The feathers are harvested and used to repair broken wings when something untoward happens to these pampered birds during racing or other interactions with their owners.  

The feather sanctuary
The birds stay in the hospital for half the year anyway due to the heat and the moulting so they are very familiar with the place.  When we were waiting in the waiting room, quite a few clients came in with birds on their arm from all over the UAE.  It is very busy.

The very busy waiting room
The tour also met the head vet, a German lady who set up this place, who spoke only German to the tour group after which the guide showed us all the photos of her with the local royalty and nobility accepting awards and the like since it opened in 1999.  

Mind you the guide said it ranked higher on Trip Advisor than the Grand Mosque so asked us all to add a positive review for the place.  It was probably one of the most unique places I have ever been to and something I am not likely to ever visit again.  I will do that too!

Another first!!

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