Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

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Wildlife Reserve

in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 03:  A falcon is placed on a bench at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, on February 3, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH) is located just outside Abu Dhabi. It is the largest of its kind in the world attracting customers from all over the UAE and the wider Gulf region including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. Around 9,000 birds are treated each year for a wide range of ailments. The centre which has a an ophthalmology department, and intensive care unit is equipped to deal with everything from X-Rays, cases of Avian Flu, Falcon Pox, repairing of feathers, and general health checks and provides a 24 hour service. The centre also has two large air conditioned aviaries where falcons can rest while they are moulting, or changing their feathers. Traditionally a way of obtaining food, Falconry today has become more of a national sport and a rite of passage for many young Emirati men, who take their time to train their Falcons, developing a relationship and deep bond with the birds. Groups of friends regularly come together in the evenings to meet and train their birds where the practice becomes more about camaraderie and sharing knowledge than subsistence. The practice of Falconry was recognized by UNESCO in 2012 under the 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity' list.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Standing outside Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, watching anxious owners from across the region delivering their hooded 'patients' in person, you will quickly realise that this is a much-needed and much-loved facility. Falcons are an integral part of traditional Gulf culture, and no expense is spared in restoring these magnificent birds to full health. Tours include visits to the falcon museum, the examination room – including intimate glimpses into coping procedures – and the free-flight aviary. Tour reservations (bookable online) are mandatory.

If you're willing to brave an arm, the well-behaved raptors will even perch for a photograph.

The hospital is about 6km southeast of Abu Dhabi airport. Coming from central Abu Dhabi, follow Airport Rd (E20) to Sweihan Rd in the direction of Falah City; about 3km past the junction with Hwy E11, turn right after the water tank (before exit 30A) and follow the signs to the hospital.