Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Parrots that paint and falcon fun wows the crowds at Adihex

Annual event mixes hunting and sporting traditions with heritage and entertainment

A series of pop-up galleries display patriotic portraits of UAE rulers and dozens of intricate equine paintings.

But the artists showing off their work are not the ones currently attracting the attention of visitors to Adihex 2019 – the annual hunting, equestrian and heritage conference in Abu Dhabi.

Metres away, a parrot from Al Ain zoo clasps a paintbrush in its beak and goes to work at an easel. A colourful creation is produced within minutes and handed to a delighted child in the audience.

Later, birds of prey swoop over spectators seated in a temporary stand, as zoo staff give an insight into the UAE’s proud history of falconry.

Giulia Chambers, who is originally from South Africa but has been living in the Emirates for almost four years, brought her daughter Giovanna, 7, to the show. A keen rider, Giovanna had come to see some horses and to get a new helmet, but said she had most enjoyed the falcons and eagles.

“It’s very special to be able to see a part of Emirati culture,” said Ms Chambers, 37, who was attending Adihex for the first time. “It’s really nice to come and learn about the hunting, falconry and crafts. As an expat, it makes you feel part of it.”

Elsewhere, everything from ornamental knives, drones and furniture adorned with antlers were on sale. Guests could try their hand at archery or play on a bird-shooting simulator. And past airport-style security, hundreds of guns - from pistols to sniper rifles and military-style semi-automatics - were on display in their own section.

A vintage Abu Dhabi Police Porsche – used as part of a motorcade for Queen Elizabeth II’s historic visit to the UAE in 1979 – is also there to see.

At a makeshift arena, the parrots and eagles make way for an archery display, pony rides and a demonstration of gymkhana, a traditional equestrian event.

Other shows over the five-day event at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre include police dog displays, a polo show and a camel auction.

Last year’s event drew more than 100,000 people from more than 120 countries, organisers said.

Hamad Al Ketbi, a falcon breeder from Dubai, has been attending Adihex since the first event in 2003. He was displaying 40 birds at his stand to promote his business, the Falcon Centre, and said the event had changed hugely over the years.

“Every year I am here, it is a very good place, I have a lot of customers here from all over the world,” said Mr Al Ketbi, who breeds about 600 falcons a year at a centre in Germany and two in Spain before sending them to the Emirates.

“People from all over the world are here, because we have everything, from falcons to hunting, everything. If anyone needs to buy something, there is no need to go to many places, it is all here.

“Everybody – adults, children, they have been enjoying seeing our falcons. Over the last three or four years, Adihex has changed a lot. More companies have come. Every year, it has become bigger, and at the weekend, we expect it to be busier, with more tourists.”

Updated: August 29, 2019 09:40 AM

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