In the UAE, Falcons Get Passports

UAE Falcons
image: By HISHAM BINSUWAIF from Sharjah, UAE (Falconry Day)

In a little over a week, Kim, Lucas and I will be heading off on probably our biggest trip of the year.

On Christmas Day, I had what could be considered the best flight connection ever. During a stop in Atlanta (on the way to Jamaica) I booked tickets to Abu Dhabi from NYC for $232.53 each.

During our trip, we’ll be visiting Abu Dhabi, other Emirates and a few other countries in the region. It’s going to be really hot but we’re still looking forward to our trip!

While in Abu Dhabi, we’re hoping to visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital if the dates and times for visiting work out with our schedule. According to the tourism board, the hospital “is the world’s largest and most advanced falcon hospital, featuring a falcon display museum as well as a facility with free-flying falcons“.

The hospital sounds pretty awesome and should definitely be a place that will appeal to Kim, Lucas and me.

Well it also turns out that valuable falcons have to be protected from illegal trade, according to Atlas Obscura. When they can cost up to $1 million it is not surprising that measures had to be taken to protect them.

In the article from Atlas Obscura, it mentions what has been done since 2002 to “crack down on falcon smuggling“. The UAE put into place the need for a falcon passport when the birds leave the country!

This sure does sound like a joke but it’s true!

Each falcon gets its own unique passport but no photo is added. When flying with their falcon, the owner must show the passport to the customs official. The falcon passport will get stamped much like how ours are stamped. The cost for a falcon passport is over $100 and good for 3 years.

Considering there is no photo of the falcon in the passport, how does a border agent know they are looking at the correct bird. (Then again, do falcons really look much different from each other? I have no clue!)

According to Obscura, “the falcon must also be fitted with a leg ring inscribed with an identity number that ends up on the passport. This guards against one bird impersonating another“.

Interesting stuff. Find out more about UAE Falcon Passports (where you can also see a photo of one) from Atlas Obscura here.

4 thoughts on “In the UAE, Falcons Get Passports

  1. Having looked forward to the Falcon Hospital visit when I was in AD I came away very disappointed. The cost was way to high for what you get. There is not a lot of time spent there and the best thing, holding the “patients” on your arm was over in a a couple of minutes as there are people all around that want to do that. You wait in a big room then go into a smaller room which is crowded for information on the history then into the hospital wing. You also go to a rehab area where the birds practice flying and finally a museum. The kids that I saw fell into two camps. They either loved it or were scared and didn’t want anything to do with the birds.
    If you take a cab there do NOT tell them to wait. They will charge you a lot more. The hospital will call a cab for you for your return and that is cheaper then having a cab wait.
    What I found fascinating was a visit to the Mosque. I actually stopped there on the way back and really enjoyed it. As with everything some people like things, some don’t. I was really excited about the hospital and thought it would be different,

  2. Interesting story, but the concept of birds having passports is not new. Over in Washington, DC there are hundreds of turkeys with official passports. And they get to fly at taxpayer expense.

  3. I will be in Abu Dhabi next Monday and Tuesday morning! If you are around, we should grab a quick bite or something!

  4. Traveler- Sorry to hear about the disappointing experience. Thanks for the heads up about it but I’m still hoping to visit.

    AlohaDaveKennedy- I’d live to hear more about this!

    Charlie- It would be great to meet up! We get in early evening on Tuesday. What time do you leave Abu Dhabi?

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