Tuesday, December 13, 2016

November 3rd, Continued: Where's My Falcon?

After finishing up at the mosque, we hopped back on the road and drove a bit further.

We passed this building along the way. It was a circle. This is one of the things I love about the UAE. Where most people would think, 'why in the world would you want a building shaped like a circle?', here, they seem to think, 'a building shaped like a circle? Sure! Why not?'   :)

We stopped at a small gluten-free bakery near the beach to pick up a few things for Megan, then drove a little further over to Yas Island. The Formula One race track is there, as is the Viceroy Hotel, which sits right on the track.

Not a bad view from one of the hotel's restaurants!

It must be really fun to watch the race from here. The race was about a month away when we were there, and there were workers scattered through the area, getting things ready.

We wound up going up to the hotel roof and getting lunch from their cafe up there.

It took a while, but when the food finally came it was fantastic. I inhaled my veggie burger, and when we were all finished it was time for our next stop in Abu Dhabi...

...the falcon hospital!!

When we were talking about things to do in Abu Dhabi the day before, Megan mentioned the falcon hospital. Mark and I had no idea what it was, but we're always up for new things and Marcus was able to get us last minute reservations. It's basically a vet's office for falcons, and after a short introduction from our guide, we got to go back into the area where they treat the birds. It was pretty crazy to walk through the door and into a room full of falcons!

All of the falcons in the first picture were waiting for their owners to come pick them up. Some of the local Emiratis use them for hunting in the desert, and they bring their birds in for checkups and procedures to keep them healthy. The birds on the perches had little hoods covering their eyes; it turns out they can be fairly competitive and aggressive toward other falcons, so this keeps them from attacking each other. The doctor told us about the different kinds of falcons; this one here was one of the biggest (and prettiest, and of course most expensive).

After telling us a bit about falcons, the doctors sedated one of them to trim his talons and do a couple other quick checks.

After they finished the procedures, they brought a few 'friendly' falcons out, and we got the chance to hold them!!

The falcon flapped its wings a bit when they handed it to me (which is why I'm holding it so far away); it was heavier than I expected. I certainly wouldn't mind having a falcon.  :)

They had explained to us that falcons get attacked from behind, so if an owner wanted to pet their falcon they should pet its front. This lady decided to try that out, and you could almost see the falcon thinking 'what the $@#%&;???'

Mark had wandered over to another part of the room and waved me and Marcus over. We got there in time to see this tiny owl!! A couple people got to hold it, but then the owl decided it had enough and flew back over to the counter.

One of the doctors asked for a volunteer and this lady jumped right up. Turns out, she got to feed the falcon! They feed them frozen quail, so the lady got to hold the quail and the falcon while it ripped its meal apart.

The other falcons on the perches could hear the falcon eating and kept turning their heads to try to see. I can't imagine what a giant mess it would have been if they didn't have their hoods on.

*Sigh...* Why just enjoy the experience when you can shove your iPhone in the falcon's face?

After we finished up in the examination room, we got to see a room full of awards that the hospital has received. I figured the tour would probably be over then, but then our guide led us outside and we got to see some big owls in an enclosure outside. I figured THAT would probably be the end of the tour, but nope!

We also got to see a room where a bunch of falcons hang out to molt. That's our guide on the left; I can't remember his name, but he was awesome. (Plus, he could somehow whistle exactly like some kind of songbird. The first couple times he did it, I thought it was a recording!) He explained a few more things, then told us we could walk around a little bit.

When he said it was ok to walk around a little bit, maybe he should have specifically told iPhone lady not to try to walk into the little areas on the sides where many of the falcons were perched. She got a little too close, some of the falcons weren't too happy about that, and next thing we knew there were a bunch of falcons flying very fast circles around the room. They eventually calmed down a bit and the tour eventually wrapped up. It was definitely one of the coolest things I've done in a while!  :)

After finishing up at the falcon hospital, we made our way back to Dubai, got cleaned up, and hung out for a little while before heading over to the Mall of the Emirates.

I bet your local mall doesn't have penguins! This is the mall with the indoor ski slope, so we hung out for a little while, watching people ski, sled, and play with the penguins.

I'm not exactly sure what the penguins did after this; we wound up meeting Megan and went to grab dinner. We wandered through a bunch of the fancy stores before making our way back to their villa and heading to bed. Mark and I had to get up early the next morning for our next adventure!

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