Picture the thrill of a polo match in the crisp air of Jaipur as teams compete for possession of the ball. The grandeur of beautiful stallions and the thud of their steps as they grace the grass is truly remarkable. Presenting a mix of gamesmanship and luxury, the exquisite game of polo is one of India’s most loved sports. What Polo is to India, falconry is to Saudi. The exquisite sport lures thrill seekers from across the globe to the country’s beautiful dunes. Revered by locals and welcomed as a member of the royal family, falcons have been one of the most treasured jewels in the Saudi crown. You will feel like you’re in the presence of the emperor’s favourite warrior around them.
A Saudi heirloom celebrated through generations
Home to the Rubʿal-Khali, the largest area of continuous sand in the world – nearly one-fourth of Saudi’s untouched beauty is made up of deserts. And the deserts are where this unique sport is enjoyed best. Falconry enthusiasts set up desert camps where they can enjoy this sport and train their birds for big competitions. And the endless view of the desert enhances the charm of watching the bird in flight as you get a clear view of the action.
Falconry formed an important part of the 10,000-year old history of Saudi. A former hunting companion of the Bedouin people, today the bird of prey is a Saudi icon.
The ‘sport of kings’ celebrates the world’s fastest bird as it dives at 300 kilometres per hour, making its way to the handler’s outstretched arms. Its onyx-coloured eyes follow its prey from a kilometre away with utmost precision. Its large, majestic wings hover over the falconer – its companion in the mystical desert.
Father and son duos, along with their prized falcons, compete in races for prestigious titles. The exclusive races can win up to seven million dollars and luxury automobiles for its competitors. The sport brings pride to the royals of Arabia as it perfectly blends technique with a rich legacy that is fueled by the special bond between the falcon and its people.
Falcons are chosen for their strength, lineage and build. Races require the birds to cover 400 metres under 16 seconds. Sometimes valued at 250,000 dollars, the royal companion is treated to the best healthcare and training by falcon enthusiasts.
Experience the adrenalin with the emperor’s favourite bird
The best time to experience falconry is at the annual King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival held near Riyadh. Falconry season begins in the winter months when the atmosphere is most suited to the majestic birds. The festival hosts the crème de la crème of Saudi as they celebrate a legacy that’s also responsible for the conservation efforts of the once endangered falcon. The festival broke a Guinness Record in 2019 by hosting 2,350 birds!
However, the sport can also be experienced in a more exclusive way with guided tours by experienced operators who will help you unravel the Arabian marvel. From the moment you arrive in the country, you will be treated to splendid Saudi hospitality by its warm locals. Kiss the sunrise with an early morning hike which will showcase the incredible natural landscape of stone and sand. Relax over a traditional picnic complete with dates and fruits picked for the King. Rub shoulders with the royal bird as you get to trace its tracks, feed it and look into its intense eyes that unfold stories of princesses, kings and imperial families across India, China and Egypt that have loved the bird throughout civilisations.
Perfect for connoisseurs of art and food, a falconry experience is sprinkled with ancient cities and natural wonders and is the most exquisite way to see the myriad landscape of the country marked by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
If the sparkle of falconry has stirred your curiosity, know that the destination is one that cares for its people and falcons alike. The country’s successful COVID-19 protocols are created with the support of the Ministry of Health and the country’s e-visa process is completely digital. Citizens and tourists who are affected by COVID-19 are provided with free healthcare. The country’s regal beauty is a crown with many hidden gems that shine through the warmth of its people. Its mystique will never let you leave. And if you do, you will find that the falcon is now a part of you.
Offering a mix of luxury, adventure, royalty and history, a trip to Saudi Arabia is like none other. And falconry is just the beginning! Has the exquisite bird captured your attention and got you interested in learning more about the country? Experience the magic of Saudi – visit the Saudi Tourism Authority’s official website to plan an enviable adventure!
In association with Saudi Tourism Authority.
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