The relationship between the falcon and the houbara is a story that transcends time. Falconry has been described as the sport of the skies and has been practiced in the region for thousands of years.
Harnessing the natural world, the people of the desert trapped wild falcons that were migrating from the north.
These birds were trained to hunt the houbara, which is not a natural prey for falcons.
In line with their nomadic lifestyle, hunting was carried out at specific times, particularly during the annual migration of the houbara from central Asia and practiced in such a way to ensure the sustainability of the species.
Only the skilled falconer could train their falcon to catch the houbara which became the prize prey.
Ultimately, both birds became important emblems of Arabic heritage and culture.
Abu Dhabi has played a leading role in preserving and promoting the ancient tradition of falconry. In 2012, following a campaign led by the UAE, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed falconry on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The UNESCO inscription recognises the vital role falconers play in the conservation of wild raptors and their prey species, while passing this heritage on to subsequent generations and instilling an appreciation of wildlife and tradition in their children.
Reflecting this commitment, IFHC is also the custodian of the Middle East Falconry Archive (MEFA), which documents and preserves historical Arabic falconry treatises dating from as far back as the Second Century.