By Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi
ABU DHABI // Hundreds of people, including a large number of schoolchildren, attended the International Festival of Falconry in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The seven-day festival moved to Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi following three days of desert camping in the Western Region of Al Gharbia, where falconers practised hunting traditions with their birds.
The festival is organised by the Emirates Falconers Club and the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi.
More than 800 falconers and associations from 80 countries are taking part this year. And the event also involves more than 51 exhibitors and performers, 19 trainers, 45 painters and sculptors and 47 photographers.
A three-day international falconry conference also started yesterday alongside the exhibition. The conference will see 50 speakers and falconers presenting their research papers and taking part in discussions and workshops on the heritage of falconry, falconry skills and techniques.
It also aims to examine plans devised by Unesco to safeguard the future of falconry.
“The international Festival of Falconry relates the story of all of our ancestors and describes their way of life in different continents of the world. It is actually regarded as an ideal platform for the promotion of falconry among younger generations,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and the chairman of Emirates Falconers Club.
In his message, Sheikh Hamdan said that the keenness of the UAE to preserve heritage, and especially falconry, helps to build bridges between people of different cultures.
Peter Burke, a falcon trainer from the UK, is taking part in the festival for the first time. “I am so overwhelmed to see the hospitality and fantastic arrangements,” he said.
“Falcons are an important part of Emirati culture. They treat them as their own children. I was so surprised with the kind of knowledge they have about falcons and falconry.”
Judy Robert, an artist from the UK who has featured falcons in her work for decades, said: “I have been living in the UAE for more than 30 years and I know very well that falcons are very close to Emirati hearts.”
A group of girls from an Abu Dhabi school were excited to visit the country camps, which were a part of the festival.
“It is our culture and heritage. We are so delighted to see so many falcons from so many countries,” said Alya Yousuf, a Grade 7 pupil.
She said the festival, which ends tomorrow, is a great place for children to learn not only about UAE falcons but also falcons from around the world.
“We learnt so much today that we couldn’t have learnt in the classroom,” said Shama Saeed, Alya’s friend. Both the girls want to own falcons when older.
Alongside the falconry exhibition, there was an art and photography exhibition showcasing arts and crafts and paintings related to falconry.