x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Falconry olympics' set to take off

A festival of workshops and training sessions dubbed the "falconry olympics" is coming to Al Ain next month.

DUBAI // Falconers from around the world are to converge on Al Ain next month for a "falconry olympics".

The Third International Festival of Falconry, which runs from December 11 to 17, will involve the participation of 75 countries that count falconry as part of their cultural heritage.

It will consist of training sessions, demonstrations and workshops.

As many as 700 falconers are expected, said Dr Nick Fox, the technical supervisor of the festival and a member of the board of directors of the Falconry Heritage Trust in the UK.

"This makes the festival worthy to be the 'falconry olympics'," he said.

The last such festival took place in Reading, England, in 2009.

Organisers hailed that event as the largest meeting of falconers, but organisers say this year's event could be bigger.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) labelled falconry as an intangible cultural heritage in November last year and the move has been credited with bringing greater focus on falconry as an art form and tradition.

"Falconry is much more than a sport, it's a living tradition," said Margrit Mueller, the director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which will be hosting first-aid workshops at the festival.

"Its popularity has been growing around the world and that's due to Unesco's statement as well as events like this being held in Europe," she said.

"It's nice to have it held locally, as there's a large number of falconers here in the region."

It is the first time the Emirates has hosted the festival.

However, in 1976 the country hosted a falconry conference that also attracted participants from around the world.

The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) participated in the last falconry festival in the UK, and is helping to organise this year's event.

To mark the occasion, the authority will begin collecting and translating texts detailing the history of falconry in the Emirates. It is hoped that these will help preserve and record the country's traditions.

"Not only will the original copies be saved, but they will also become scientific references available to all those interested in falconry," the authority said.