Five Falcons And Me In The Arabian Desert

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do something in the desert just outside Dubai. This, so far, has been my all-time favourite travel moment.

Before arriving in Dubai, the number of articles and advertisements in brochures and magazines relating to falconry told me that this was certainly something I should look into seeing while I was there. With a little more research, I discovered that the United Arab Emirates have a long history with falconry; I was easily sold on the idea and asked the hotel concierge if they could recommend somewhere to go to get the chance to see some birds and learn a little more about the subject.

Trusting the hotel’s ability to arrange somewhere reputable to go, I ended up not asking any questions apart from “Tell me where I have to be and when.” I have to admit that I was expecting to go to a regular bird show in a wildlife center – somewhere with lots of people, where someone far away from me would give a nice presentation about birds of prey. Then a few birds would fly around (maybe swoop down on the crowd for dramatic effect) and we would then shuttle back to the hotel.

That’s why I was a little surprised when I was greeted by a safari-guide-looking gentleman in a somewhat dusty jeep the moment I walked outside the hotel. Nevertheless, I maintained my excitement. I was even MORE surprised when I walked around the back of the jeep and peered in through the window to see five hooded birds sitting patiently and calmly on their individual perches. I was prepared to see some birds of prey that day, but I couldn’t possibly imagine that I’d get to be this close to them. I’m sure that in about 40 years time, when I’m re-telling this same story, I’ll have added a few extra embellishments. Probably something along the lines of “I met a wandering tribesman who was hunting small quarry with his falcons while I was out riding camels across the Arabian desert…”

Anyways, we rode out of Dubai and into the desert, and stopped at a tent surrounded by dunes. The location looked like something straight out of a movie. Spending one-on-one time with the man who trains and takes care of these birds was an amazing opportunity, and he had a wealth of information which he was extremely willing to share.

Out in desert we took each bird through their exercise and training routines, and seeing them swoop in and land on my arm led to some unforgettable scenes. I also had the chance to feed one of the birds, which was very cool – at least until it got a little overenthusiastic with a piece of meat, started choking, and then proceeded to vomit it back up onto my hand. This was also an unforgettable scene, but in a far less charming way.

I would like to think that I’m not yet done travelling, so I’m open to the possibility that in the future some new moment will take the top spot away from my “Falconry in the Desert” adventure. However, for now I’m very happy with it being my all-time favourite travel moment.