A guide to Bedouin falconry, its history in the UAE's culture, and where to watch falconry shows in Dubai
11 August 2023| Last updated on 15 August 2023
Discover one of the UAE's cultural sports and past-times with our guide.
Long before the UAE became an international hub for business, education, and tourism, the nomadic Arab Bedouin tribes (desert-dwellers) inhabited the region and lived in difficult conditions.
To thrive among harsh environments and weather, the Bedouin people would travel across the deserts and rely on the surrounding nature (ghaf trees, oasis, desert plants, etc.) to survive, build shelters, and establish homes.
One of their methods of survival was falconry, an activity that is still practised in the UAE today at select locations.
What is falconry?
In the UAE, falconry is a traditional activity among Emiratis which involves hunting using their trained falcons.
Requiring patience and falconry skills that are typically passed down through generations from the Bedouin people, falconry is a challenging and rewarding sport.
Wild falcons are typically caught using a lure to bait them (such as pigeons and quails), then the gently-caught falcon will be handed over to a professional falconer to begin training it.
History of falconry in the UAE's culture
This popular and ancient activity has been in practice for over 2,000 years, according to the book Falconry as a Sport - Our Arab Heritage by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE.
During the olden days, Bedouin Arabs trained falcons mainly so it can hunt for food, contributing to the older generations' survival in the desert.
These days, hunting using falcons is banned in most parts of the UAE, however Emiratis may still keep these beautiful creatures as companions.
Where to watch live falconry in the UAE?
As falconry is both a tradition and a popular activity among locals in the UAE, there are plenty of opportunities to watch live falconry in Dubai.
Dubai desert safaris
One of the most common places to see a Bedouin falcon show is at a Dubai desert safari, and it is typically part of a series of other fun activities such as dune bashing, riding camels, sandboarding, henna painting for ladies, desert BBQs, live shows, and more at a Bedouin-style camp.
During a falconry show, a professional trainer will demonstrate how these majestic birds would fly, swoop, and catch their preys. The falconer will throw a lure high into the sky and once the falcon catches the lure, it will be rewarded with its favourite treat.
After the demonstration, guests are usually invited to take pictures holding the falcon on a protective glove.
Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve
Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve often hosts falconry displays conducted by an Emirati trainer. Located at the heart of the reserve, guests will travel by camel through the dunes where they will then reach a spot to sit and watch the show.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) ensures that their desert safari tours guarantee eco-friendly and sustainable tourism.
In addition to camel treks, horse riding, archery, sand boarding, camping, hot air balloon rides, and desert dining, guests can enjoy falconry shows where the speed and natural predator instincts of these beautiful birds will be on display. There will also be photo opportunities, Q&As with a falconer, and inspections.
You can also spot native Arabian animals such as gazelles and oryx wandering in their natural habitat.