Arabian Saluki Centre

Animal Sanctuary in Abu Dhabi

Image by Lindsey Parry Lonely Planet

You'll probably hear them before you see them, as a howl goes up when a visitor approaches this hound pound. A visit here involves entering the kennels, meeting the affectionate and well-looked-after residents, picking up a puppy or two and perhaps watching bath time. Prized for their hunting skills and speed over distance, salukis have for centuries been man's best friend to the Bedouin, and after a visit to this breeding and training centre, it's easy to see why.

It neighbours the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital so can easily be combined with a tour there.

Originating in China, the saluki is thought to be one of the first breeds of dog to be domesticated and their speed, tolerance to high temperatures and intelligence made them the perfect companions for nomadic communities who used them to catch rabbits and other small game. While there's not much call for their skills in the desert these days, they remain a beloved part of the Arabian Peninsula heritage with pure-bred, well-behaved dogs fetching thousands of dirhams. Many are bred to race and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, a saluki holds the record for four-legged speed at 68.8km/h, clocked in 1996. Their beauty is also prized and dogs are paraded before judges for their pride, stride and condition of coat. To see these wonderful, shaggy-eared dogs in action, visit the 10-day Al Dhafra Festival in the deserts of Madinat Zayed in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate.