ABU DHABI // Hyei Al Hameli almost did not enter his prize-winning bird into the falcon beauty contest at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition.
"I didn't want to show her to anyone, but my friends forced me to enter the competition because she is so beautiful," said Mr Al Hameli, the owner of Yas Falcons.
A panel of five judges selected his Gyr-Peregrine hybrid falcon after evaluating the brightness of her eyes, the lustre of her feathers and the length of her wings.Entrants from each of three categories received a Dh10,000 prize. All of the competing birds were female and owned by UAE companies.
"I am confident that the most beautiful won," said Dr Margit Muller, director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and one of the judges. "It's nice to encourage the falconers, to have them show off their birds."
Festivities were interrupted yesterday afternoon as a loose falcon swooped across the exhibition space and took residence in the rafters at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. A falcon booth staff member said the runaway would be captured after the expo closed.
The falcon beauty contest returned to Adihex after a two-year hiatus and drew in more than a dozen local falcon companies.
The top prize in the pure Gyr category went to Rainer Falcons, and the winner in the Gyr-Saker division was a bird from the Emirates Falconers' Club. The pure Saker category was scrapped after no entrants met eligibility requirements.
Mr Al Hameli said he believed his year-old bird won because of her exceptional weight of 1.6 kilograms and said he "had a good feeling" she would take the top spot. So far at Adihex, he estimated he had sold about 30 per cent of his 180 falcons, which he imports from England.
Hamed Al Romaithi, the owner of Rainer Falcons, said he selected his falcon because she was the "most special". His German-bred falcons brought in steady business, he said.
While Mr Al Romaithi said he intended to sell his prize-winner, Mr Al Hameli had another plan for his bird. "I want to give her as a gift to the sheikhs," he said.
The best falcon exhibitor will be named today and given a secret prize from the Emirates Falconers' Club.