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ABU DHABI


S


everal pairs of beady eyes follow me around the room. I feel as if I’m being watched from all angles. It’s a


little intimidating, but, quite frankly, I’m more concerned about being pooed on. My trip to Abu Dhabi had certainly started in a somewhat bizarre fashion – at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Who’d have thought my first visit to the United Arab Emirates would see me watching a falcon having wing surgery in a hospital on par with any Bupa facility in the UK. I was a little nonplussed to see it on my


itinerary, and even more surprised when I arrived to find a group of 20 tourists and a horde of schoolchildren waiting to tour the hospital.


It might not be a typical start to a


luxury trip to Abu Dhabi, but it’s an important one, because falconry is so entwined with the emirate’s culture. Most families own at least one falcon, which can cost up to $250,000. It’s an expensive hobby, but my guide explains that these birds are seen as part of a family, like a son or a daughter. They are treated like royalty – and even have their own passport for when they travel with their owners (in business or first class with the gulf carriers, might I add).


66 — aspire march 2017 ARCHITECTURAL DELIGHTS


This was my first trip to the Middle East, and I admit that prior to my visit, I’d naively believed that Abu Dhabi was all glitz and glamour, having read lots about places such as Yas Island, which is full of attractions such as Ferrari World and the soon-to-open Louvre Museum. What I wasn’t expecting was for somewhere as young as Abu Dhabi – which gained independence from the UK in 1971 – to be brimming with such culture and heritage.


Falcons can cost up to $250,000 and are treated like royalty – they even have their own passports


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