The Emiratis take falcons and falconry very seriously. So seriously that the owners take care of them as full-fledged members of the family.
Arab falconry dates back at least to 3500BC when it was practiced in Iraq. In Babylon it is believed that game reserves were even established for the birds and Al Harith bin Mu'awiya, a local king would train and hunt with the birds.
Let's focus on Abu Dhabi for the time being. There is this hospital, looks exactly the same as any hospital, where they treat people. As soon as the birds visit, they are transferred to the sorting room, where the medical team weigh them and quickly identify the symptoms.
A typical scene from the Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi, the world's leading veterinary clinic, would be something like this. The hospital which was started in 1999 annually treats about 12,000 birds !
In non-emergency cases, the birds that still have color leather hood (it allows them not to panic) are placed on special perches on which they will wait for their turn. Falcons in critical condition are immediately sent into the operating room where a team of experienced professionals is on alert around the clock.
They are always ready to carry out a complex operation that can take several hours. Later sick birds are transferred to the intensive care unit or into the air-conditioned hospital rooms, where they gradually recover and get goodies from concerned owners.
"This hospital works in exactly the same way as a human hospital" - said Margaret Gabriel Muller, an energetic German veterinarian who controls the institution for more than fifteen years. "First, the birds are taken to the total screening area, where we determine whether additional tests are needed (such as x-rays or an endoscope) and whether or not to send them into OT. "
Some hawks in critical condition are placed in special incubators, which were originally created for children.
"What works for children, usually works for the Falcons, as there are no special equipments designed specifically for the Falcons. That's why we are so fond of children" Muller added. The level of care that is given here for the falcons, may seem excessive to the outsider. However, in the UAE, where the bird is a symbol of national pride and tradition, this is not at all surprising.
""Falconers here love their birds as their own children, and sometimes even more". She said that in the UAE in many homes in the falcons have their own roosts in guest rooms. In some cases, they sleep beside the bed of the owner, and may also have a place in his office. These birds have their own passports, and those falconers who can afford it, buy them their tickets to business class.
"In Europe and America, falconry is a sport. But here in the UAE, falconry is traditionally viewed as a way of meat production, Mueller said. Life in the desert was extremely difficult, and the Falcons were vital for the survival of the Bedouin families. "
Therefore there is nothing surprising with the fact that Abu Dhabi so seriously invested in the creation of Falcon Hospital, turning dusty abandoned building near the main airport into this brilliant world-class institution. Currently 107 people work here.
There may be an internship future veterinarians, students, technicians and therapists.Patients (the falcons for sure) from all over the country and from outside such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain are constantly flocking into the hospital. Recently this has turned out to be one of the biggest tourist attractions.
The hospital permits entry for tourists twice a day, so that visitors can see how the medical procedures are carried out, and find out more about the working of this hospital