The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is world-renowned for its ultra-modern cities rising from desert sands. But long before glittering buildings pierced these skies, humans enjoyed productive and mutually-beneficial relationships with the region’s natural world – specifically, with some of the animals that have played an integral part in the desert ecosystem. A Discovery Tours small group lets you witness firsthand how these relationships have evolved into the 21st century.
A Breed Apart: The Arabian Horse
Dubai is renowned as one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Its sports facilities, too, are world-class, as you’ll discover at the Meydan Stables. This private club is home to some of the finest Arabian horses in the world. Though the finely chiseled breed can now be found all over the world, it evolved in this desert climate and has long been treasured by the Bedouin people. Their quick reflexes, high spiritedness and eagerness to please their trainers once made them ideal for sand-strewn battlefields. Today, their temperament makes Dubai’s equestrian sporting world a thrill to witness.
Our small group size gains us behind-the-scenes access to the Meydan Stables, the host of Dubai’s $10 million World Cup, the world’s riches horse race. Fortunes of sultans and oil tycoons are made and lost here and during your visit you’ll see the stables, grandstand and racecourse behind all the action. Our morning visit affords you a glimpse of the beautiful horses as they are put through their paces. You’ll also stroll through the stables where they are groomed and witness how trainers use a swimming pool to increase the horses’ strength. Then imagine the thrill of the race when you visit the jockeys’ rooms, saddling paddock and parade ring.
Majestic Dromedary: The Camel
Arabian horses are not the only four-legged wonders of the UAE. A visit to this desert region would not be complete without learning more about the legendary “ship of the desert,” the camel. But we won’t be riding these beasts of burden; instead, we’ll visit Camelicious, the first and only camel dairy farm in the UAE and the largest in the world.
Camels have long been heralded for their ability to travel great distances without water. But there’s another reason they are the perfect means of desert transport: Camel milk is highly nutritious and helps to nourish their fellow human travelers on long treks where food is scarce. In fact, camel shepherds still today might rely solely on the milk of their herd when traveling long distances. The milk has also been found to enhance the human immune system. For their part, the local Bedouins on the Arabian Peninsula believe it has curative powers.
Like any dairy farm, Camelicious produces more than just milk. Cheese, too, is made here, and you’ll witness the process – and meet some of the herd – during your visit.
Greatest Hunter: The Falcon
There’s no denying the nobility of horses and camels in Arabian culture. Another creature garners similar respect, so much in fact that its care is financed by His Highness the Crown Prince. We’re talking about the high-flying falcon and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
Falconry, the art of hunting small game using a highly trained and fearsome winged hunter, has been part of the fabric of the UAE culture for centuries. In the Middle Ages, it was both a status symbol of the royal elite and a means of hunting for food among the nomadic Bedouin. Regardless of a falconer’s class and station in life, those who could tame the powerful talons, robust strength, and laser-like reflexes of this raptor drew utmost respect
So central is the falcon to the cultural identity of the UAE that the bird has its very own hospital. Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Hospital, the first of its kind and one of the world’s largest avian medical centers, is a pioneer in the rescue and treatment of these birds. Since its opening in 1999, it has seen more than 75,000 patients and expanded its attention to all manner of birdlife. You’ll visit this remarkable place, gaining insight into the tradition of falconry and seeing the facilities where majestic birds are nursed back to health.
Join Discovery Tours on our Explore Dubai & Oman itinerary, and learn more about the magnificent and graceful animals that help define this desert region.