A Travellerspoint blog

In the Footsteps of Sheikhs and Falcons

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

sunny 100 °F

Few countries have undergone such a supercharged transformation as the seven emirates of the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Until oil was discovered in the late 1950s, this was a sparsely populated Gulf backwater, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi being simple fishing settlements. In less than a century, extraordinary oil wealth allowed the Emirati ruling families to remodel the UAE into a multiculteral business hub, with about 80% of the population now made up of immigrants.

Stepping ashore in Abu Dhabi, we were met by the searing heat of the Middle Eastern sun, a familiar welcome where the desert sands meet the shimmering sea. The capital of the UAE is known for its scorching summers, with daytime temperatures soaring to an average of 106° F from May to September, while even the nights offer little reprieve, hovering around 84° F. With a packed itinerary ahead and the heat of midday, our exploration of Abu Dhabi was brief yet memorable. We managed to find some unique gifts for family. [As Jeff mentioned, it's unlikely any one of them, other than perhaps our granddaughter Beka, will ever venture this far from home.] However, we encountered some fascinating sights along the way, from the striking presence of sheikhs in their traditional white attire, to a skilled scribe and a majestic gyrfalcon.

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Based on the falcon's distinctive appearance - its mostly white plumage with some brown speckling - it appears to be a gyrfalcon, which are prized in falconry, especially white or light-colored morphs as seen here. Falconry has a long tradition in this region, and its likely this light-colored gyrfalcon is not only beautiful but also a valuable bird for sport. We alo learned about the term "morph" refering to distinct color variations within a single species of bird. The three primary morphs are:

  • White morph: These birds are almost entirely white with few, if any, markings. They are highly sought-after in falconry due to their rarity and striking appearance. [It appears that this was indeed a white morph].
  • Silver morph: Also known as the intermediate morph, these gyrfalcons have a a mix of white and grey feathers, resulting in a silver-like appearance. They may have some dark barring or streaking on their plumage.
  • Dark morph: These birds have predominantly dark brown or grey plumage with white speckling or barring. They are the most common gyrfalcon morph in the wild.

In falconry, the color morph of a bird does not necessarily indicate its hunting abilities, but lighter morphs are often more highly valued due to their aesthetic appeal and relative scarcity. Nevertheless, I think you'll agree it was a beautiful falcon!

On a final note, we couldn't leave port without Jeff securing a glimpse of a four-legged critter. The closest he could find to a horse, as seen below:

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Abu Dhabi is a destination that offers a unique blend of luxury, culture, and adventure, making it an unforgettable experience.

Posted by Where2FromHere 12:19 Archived in United Arab Emirates

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