Monday, March 15, 2010

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Out past the Abu Dhabi Airport, somewhere around the camel farm and the saluki breader is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Falconry is the national sport of Abu Dhabi, the Saker Falcon is the National Bird and falcons are the only animal allowed to travel in the cabin on Etihad airways (truly, Manuel has had falcons next to him in business class) so it's only natural that the world reknowned falconry hospital should be here. The tour of the hospital is a little-known "must do" in Abu Dhabi. Every year the hospital expands so that it now does boarding both of falcons and other pets, there's a laboratory, ICU, surgery, small museum, coffee shop, conference center, catering hall, flying ring and it's still growing...
Here are some fun facts about the falcons...
A gyr falcon (typically white from Siberia although now they tend to be more brown do to interbreeding) goes for around 300,000 AED (over 82,000 $).
Sheikh Khalifa has over 200 falcons in his collection.
Falcons need visas to travel to different countries which they stamp in their passports.
Breeding can only be done in NATURALLY cold climates. So all breeding here is by artificial insemination.
Falcons in captivity need to have their claws and beaks trimmed as they can grow too long causing bumblefoot (infected cuts in the pads of their feet).
The birds falcons typically hunt are ghaboor which are themselves endangered.

The tour is simply amazing -- they greet you with dates and tea in a waiting room with astro-turf covered stands for the falcons and couches for the humans. Once you're in with the falcons there's a treatment room where you can watch them perform pedicures (clipping and filing the claws so they're the same shape as before, otherwise they'll find it difficult to get their balance). The birds are out during the procedures. An anesthesia mask covers their entire head. You can also hold them and help feed them. Then you can look in on the surgery and the ICU (there were no patients there when we were there). Afterwards we were served a lovely lunch. All in all a great visit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I know I posted a while ago about 'hot kisses' here in the Emirates...well top news today is that a British couple is in court after kissing in a hotel restaurant at 2 am. An emirati woman said she and her children witnessed this. The couple was arrested and charged with indecency as well as consumption of alcohol. They claim their kiss was not fact it was a kiss on the cheek.
How come no one arrests the Emirati woman for having her children out at 2am? Isn't that against any child welfare laws??? Honestly, it is scary living here when you read stuff like that.

In the good news column...the Abu Dhabi triathalon was yesterday with an amazing finish at the Corniche. They had crowds of people and beautiful, if hot, weather. Apparently they delayed the start by 45 minutes to have pictures with the sunrise as the participants dove into the water off the Emirates Palace. That might explain the weak and swooning athletes crossing the finish line under the noonday sun. It was also interesting to see a primarily white group of athletes. It's almost like cross-country skiing :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wakestock Abu Dhabi

I've said it before, but it bears repeating...the Emiratis are great at making the desert entertaining. This weekend Abu Dhabi was host to Wakestock a British wakeboarding competition they held down on the Corniche in tandem with free concerts at night. Friday was seriously windy impeding the competition, but yesterday morning Cordelia and I sat out at Cinnabon and drank coffee while watching the sea-snowboarders. The night before Cordelia had been at the concert.

In other news...
I'm not sure if I blogged about the brand new idea here -- wearing seatbelts in cars. Seriously, road accidents are a major cause of death here and they now are campaigning hard that people actually wear those belts. This morning the National reported that starting soon every baby born in the Emirates will go home with a free car seat. If you have the money....

Updates: The Burj Khalifa is still closed with no word on a reopen scheduled.