[CT Birds] In Dubai, Flying With the Falcons - The New York Times

Arthur Shippee ashippee at snet.net
Sat Jan 20 21:31:29 EST 2018


An evening read.
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> https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/travel/dubai-falconry-hot-air-balloon-tour.html
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> In Dubai, Flying With the Falcons
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> Jan. 17, 2018
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> Mr. Komza depressed a lever on a gas valve, sending a fearsome jet of propane-fueled flame into the 130-foot-tall hot-air balloon. “Head up to 4,000 feet, then we’ll let the falcon fly a bit,” said Mr. Schaefer, gesturing to a large hooded bird with white- and charcoal-barred feathers, resting on the gloved arm of his colleague, Dylan Freeman.
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> We were drifting over the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, an 87-square-mile former camel farm purchased by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, in 1997. Since then, the fenced-in wilderness, a part of the Arabian Desert, has served as a protected habitat for a variety of indigenous mammals — hedgehogs, shrews, gazelles, Arabian hares and at least three species of bats — and a getaway spot for tourists and locals overwhelmed by the skyscraper-dominated megalopolis of Dubai, the most populous of seven city-states that comprise the United Arab Emirates.
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> For the past year, the reserve has also been the locale for a remarkable new venture that combines hot-air ballooning with an introduction to falconry, the Arab world’s most ancient and venerated sport. In the cool of the morning, passengers soar high over the desert joined by a captive-bred bird and its trainer. The hourlong experience provides an intimate look at how these raptors — which can soar to 8,000 feet and plunge after their prey at 150 miles per hour — fly and hunt at high altitudes.
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