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Falconry as Heritage in the United Arab Emirates

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Within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), falconry is not only considered a sport but also an important aspect of the region's cultural heritage. This paper seeks to explore the way in which falconry has been inscribed and re-articulated within the contemporary society of the UAE as it evolved from necessity to heritage sport. The discussion will examine: the contemporary role of falconry within the national story of the UAE, its central role in the proposed Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi and its inscription as living human heritage by UNESCO. In doing so the role of sport within the development of local, national and transnational heritage identities in the UAE is highlighted.
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Falconry as heritage in the United Arab
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Sarina Wakefield a
a Open University, UK
Available online: 19 Apr 2012
To cite this article: Sarina Wakefield (2012): Falconry as heritage in the United Arab Emirates, World
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Falconry as heritage in the United Arab
Emirates
Sarina Wakefield
Abstract
Within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), falconry is not only considered a sport but also an
important aspect of the region’s cultural heritage. This paper seeks to explore the way in which
falconry has been inscribed and re-articulated within the contemporary society of the UAE as it
evolved from necessity to heritage sport. The discussion will examine: the contemporary role of
falconry within the national story of the UAE, its central role in the proposed Zayed National
Museum in Abu Dhabi and its inscription as living human heritage by UNESCO. In doing so the
role of sport within the development of local, national and transnational heritage identities in the
UAE is highlighted.
Keywords
Heritage; sport; falconry; United Arab Emirates.
Introduction
Sport is an integral part of contemporary global culture. In capitalizing on the growing
demand for sports heritage tourism, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has identified the
preservation and presentation of falconry as cultural and sporting heritage as a key
concern, one that is inextricably bound to developing the identity of the UAE on a variety
of scales, from local, to national, to transnational. Historically, falconry has played a
fundamental economic and social role in the lives of the people of the UAE. There is a
large literature surrounding the keeping of and caring for falcons and the art of falconry
itself, but, when it comes to the role of falconry within heritage, this is a largely unexplored
phenomenon. The emergence of falconry as a sport and its presentation as heritage sheds
light on contemporary developments in the conceptualization and development of a
transnational ‘heritage industry’ within the UAE.
World Archaeology Vol. 44(2): 280–290 The Archaeology of Sport and Pastimes
ª2012 Taylor & Francis ISSN 0043-8243 print/1470-1375 online
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2012.669644
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This paper explores falconry heritage in the UAE from several different vantage points.
The first part of the paper investigates the relationship between sport and heritage more
generally and the potential it has for understanding the development of falconry as a
sporting pastime within the UAE. In order to understand how falconry is being re-
articulated in contemporary UAE society the role of falconry as a leisure pursuit and its
meaning for the local community will be considered. Falconry will then be discussed in
relation to the presentation of the national story of the UAE through its inscription within
the planned Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. Finally, the transnational role of
falconry will be explored in relation to the UAE’s global vision for heritage. In doing so,
the role of falconry within the development of local, national and transnational identities
is highlighted.
Sport and heritage
The potential that the sporting past has for generating tourism has been recognised within
the sport tourism literature (Fairly and Gammon 2005; Gibson 1998; Hinch and Higham
2004). However, this work has largely focused on large exhibition sites such as halls of
fame, museums, stadium tours and so forth. As Gammon notes, ‘to date these attractions
have been discussed in terms of tourism and nostalgia and less so in heritage terms’ (2010
[2007]: 2). Bale (1994) suggests that all sports are cultural manifestations of the cultural
landscape and that sport identities are representations of particular cultures in particular
places at particular times. Questions remain however (as they do within heritage more
generally) as to whether commodification is destroying the cultural meaning of sport
through the process of creating, preserving and displaying its heritage (Gammon 2010
[2007]). Crucially, new meanings emerge for sporting practices that are presented as
authentic through the development of heritage.
Within the Gulf States it has been argued that the presence of different cultures due
to an influx of foreign workers through the development of the oil economy has
created a strong sense of self-preservation among indigenous Gulf communities, and
that this has ‘resulted in an increased consciousness of their societal identity by
upholding their age-old traditions and customs as identifiable factors’ (Ansari 1987:
22). This idea has been developed further by Khalaf’s (1999) anthropological study of
camel racing within the UAE, in which he argues that heritage is created
predominantly as a response to the threat that globalization poses to indigenous
lifeways. In his analysis he argues that camel racing was transformed from a series of
small community events where locals celebrated ‘social occasions such as religious
holidays, weddings, circumcisions, or the visit of a prominent sheikh’ to a globalized
industry in the 1980s. This change is attributed to the Bedouin who, he argues, used
camel racing to assert Bedouin culture against global values and to praise the local
leadership of the UAE through rationalization within the process of ‘inventing
tradition’ (Khalaf 1999: 85–106). As Robert Hewison (1987) and others (e.g. Wright,
1985) have argued for the UK, Khalaf suggests that with decline came an awareness of
the importance of preserving and reviving elements of traditional culture. ‘Preserving
UAE heritage, and maintaining national identity in the context of the threatening
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forces of modernity, constitutes the dynamics of inventing tradition’ (Khalaf 2000: 7).
The appearance and trajectories of new traditions are ‘important symptoms and
therefore indicators’ of larger social developments (Hobsbawm 1983: 12). On the
surface this line of thought seems appealing as it draws on issues relating to the
broader processes of the oil economy and the building of modern nationhood largely
as a response to globalization.
Such a view does not develop criteria to differentiate ‘invented’ from other traditions. In
effect it implies that heritage pre-oil is authentic and natural and post-oil inauthentic and
invented, and, as such, sports heritage develops due only to the threat of globalization. Yet
it can be argued that all traditions are to some extent socially constructed and therefore
invented. This line of argument ignores a host of other traditions that are grounded in the
everyday: leisure pursuits, work practices, family events and community festivals and so
forth. The pursuit of leisure is a key category to consider in any analysis of the relationship
between sport and heritage.
Crucially, we need to understand how residents take up and are involved in actively co-
producing heritage as a part of their participation in and consumption of sport, in addition
to looking at the way the State is creating heritage planning processes. This will allow us to
explore the extent to which the local population of the UAE is involved in resisting and/or
co-producing these official forms of heritage. Hertzfeld argues that, ‘the state is incurably
messy and that citizens including bureaucrats are part of the state’ (2004 [1997]: 375).
Taking such a view enables a consideration of the broader social context within which
heritage emerges, a view that sees the brokers of heritage – planners, government agents,
museum workers – as engaged within an active process of negotiation between the State
and the community, of which they are inevitably a part. As Kirshenblatt-Gimblett argues,
‘they are not only cultural carriers and transmitters but also ‘‘agents’’ in the heritage
enterprise itself. What the heritage protocols do not generally account for is a conscious,
reflexive subject’ (2007 [2006]: 163). In the case of sport, and in this particular case
falconry, it is a living, changing, vibrant cultural resource. Falconry has evolved not only
as a response to the process of globalization but also because falconry means something to
the people of the United Arab Emirates.
Falconry and leisure
Sport and heritage have associations that mean a great deal to people of all ages across all
sections of society in the UAE and across the world; they contribute in meaningful ways to
people’s everyday lives. It is no surprise therefore that ‘ideologically and politically sport
and heritage convey powerful messages about the identity of communities and their
aspirations for the future’ (Gammon 2010 [2007]: 5). As such sport is an important aspect
of modern life for those who have strong commitments and passion towards it. So much
so that, Wood argues, ‘long-established loyalties to teams and clubs are an important part
of the identity of local communities’ (2005: 141). Within the UAE this passion can be
observed within the sport of falconry.
Falconry is a highly popular sport there, with the majority of families owning falcons
according to Margrit Muller, director of the Falconry Hospital in Abu Dhabi (pers.
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comm.). According to Khalaf, there are some 5,000 Emirati falconers across the UAE and
that this could possibly be ‘the highest number of falconers per capita in the World’ (2009:
311). On a material level there are a number of clubs and organizations that deal with the
preservation and presentation of falconry as a contemporary sport and a heritage. One is
the Emirates Falconers’ Club, which operates a range of education and conservation
initiatives to preserve falconry traditions for future generations as well as being a means
for falconers to come together. In addition, the government of the UAE stages events and
conferences to promote falconry as a sport and a heritage such as the International
Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX), held annually in the Emirate of Abu
Dhabi. This exhibition includes the sale of farm-bred falcons and the latest falconry
equipment along with heritage exhibitions and competitions related to falconry, such as
finding the best Nabati poems describing a falcon, the loss of a bird and hunting (Anon.
2011b). The 2011 exhibition also showcased the successful registration of falconry on
UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Events such
as these in the UAE are therefore used to promote both sporting and heritage aspects of
falconry.
In an interview with CNN, Margrit Muller stated that ‘falconry is not regarded as a
sport in the UAE, as it is in the United States and Europe. In the Middle East falconry has
a different background. Even 70 years ago in the UAE most of the population were
Bedouin living in the desert.’ During this time abundant grazing land was not available
and this limited the number of animals that could be herded or farmed; thus falcons were
used to hunt wild game to supplement the diet. This illustrates how, in the past, falconry
was not ‘just’ a sport; it was a necessity for survival. Yet the relationship between the
Bedouin and their birds was a transient one. In the summer months falcons were set free
since the average Bedouin family could not afford to feed them. A falcon was therefore a
prized possession and so a sign of wealth and prestige among the Bedu. Many of the
previous benefits and uses of the falcon as a hunting bird have evolved with a new focus
and passion placed on the sporting aspect of this now popular leisure pursuit. Since the
1950s the buying and selling of falcons has become a common practice. Today falcons are
captive bred and owned for many years.
Falconry in the UAE is a participant sport that is undertaken largely, but not
exclusively, by Emirati males of all ages and classes. Though there are currently no
designated areas for Emiratis to practice falconry, there are proposals to create managed
hunting areas but these are yet to be finalized by the government (Fox, pers. comm. 7
September 2011). Because of the depletion of the Houbara bustards (a large bird), the
primary prey of falcons, the practice of hunting is prohibited in the UAE. Emiratis today
are permitted only to train their falcons within the UAE; if they wish to hunt they have to
travel abroad. Emiratis therefore take their birds to countries such as Pakistan, Morocco
and Sudan where prey can include rabbit, Houbara bustard and even gazelle (Tutton
2010). To an extent therefore, falconry has become an elitist sport, often associated with
royalty, as it is only the very wealthy who can afford to travel abroad to hawk with their
birds.
Emiratis have strong emotional bonds with their falcons. As we have seen, falcons
played an important role in helping families to survive in the desert, and for that reason
they were often integrated into the family. Even today, falcons have a similar position
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within the family. According to Rashid Hamad Al Suwidi, a trainer at the Abu Dhabi
Falcon Hospital, ‘We treated the falcon as a member of the family. Back then we were
hunting for food, now we hunt for fun but the relationship is the same’ (cited by Croucher
2011). This personal link to falconry is further reflected in the facilities at Abu Dhabi’s
state-of-the-art Falcon Hospital where falcons stay in air-conditioned rooms and are fed a
daily diet of quail and occasionally mice. Notably it is the largest falcon hospital in the
world, employing fifty-two people and treating around 5,000 birds each year from all over
the region, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and South Africa. The hospital has an array
of high-tech equipment for treating sick birds, including an endoscopy unit that transmits
live digital images to the waiting-room, so the bird’s owner can monitor the procedure. ‘A
falcon is like a child for its owners. In the same way as when you take a child to the
doctor’s, you want it to receive the best possible care’ (Tutton 2010). This demonstrates
how falconry in the UAE ‘is not simply a product of the nationalistic elements of sport
that tie it so closely to heritage; it is also about the personal relationships between people
and animals’ (Gammon 2010 [2007]: 2).
As we have seen, the production and distribution of the emblems of nationalism are by
no means controlled exclusively by the ruling class. On the contrary, they derive their
power precisely from the fact that they are universally available. At a local level falconry
has been re-articulated by individuals as a meaningful leisure pursuit that acts as both a
source of pleasure and a way of retaining an important aspect of Bedouin heritage. The
initiative for heritage is by no means always governmental, but frequently triggered by the
concern of private citizens for the protection of a past legacy perceived to be disappearing
(Graham et al. 2004 [2000]: 14). Thus falconry in the UAE can be classed as a heritage
sport.
The nation and falconry
In addition to being re-articulated locally, falconry is also being re-inscribed within the
contemporary material culture of the UAE through its role within the planned Zayed
National Museum in Abu Dhabi and its place within the story of the nation. The seminal
work of Edward Said on ‘Orientalism’ in 1978 marked an important recognition of the
manufactured nature of national identity and the extent to which that identity is
constructed through cultural displays. It is therefore generally accepted today that heritage
is one of the primary instruments in the discovery or creation and subsequent nurturing of
national identity (Askew 2010). Thus, visual representations are a key element in
symbolizing and sustaining national communal bonds. Such representations have the
potential to generate new social and political formations and are therefore also used to
produce a certain view of a nation’s history. As such, nations have become imaginary
constructs (Anderson 2006 [1983]) partly defined and maintained through symbolic means
in the form of flags, anthems, rituals and traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983).
Notably, falconry within the UAE has been the national symbol of the country since the
formation of the Federation in 1971, and, as such, has played a distinctive role within
national identity. The falcon is intricately linked to Emirati identity as it is the symbol of
the UAE and is represented on the Emirati flag. Blau (2003: 28) has noted that the
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iconography of the falcon often appears on doorways and gates in combination with the
Emirati flag throughout the Emirates at a household level and that, publicly, it can be
observed in prominent areas such as roundabouts and/or public walkways. Therefore it
can be argued that the falcon is an important symbol within Emirati material culture in
both public and private spaces.
As we have seen, it is generally accepted that labelling an object, building or site as
part of the heritage elevates it above the mundane into a symbol of a nation or people.
Since the nineteenth century the national museum has been one of the dominant ways
of achieving this goal, presenting a nation’s history. Bennett (1999 [1988], 2007) has
suggested that one of the ways that the nation is imagined is through the ‘exhibitionary
complex’. Within this view culture is brought into the public domain through visitable
institutions such as museum and heritage sites, and so a citizenry is produced which
comes to see the display of culture as part of their own inheritance and identity.
Therefore through cultural display people are made to feel included in the nation’s
culture. Within Abu Dhabi, the capital and seat of the government for the UAE, the
Zayed National Museum is being built within the Saadiyat Island project by the
Tourism Development Investment Corporation (TDIC) by Foster þPartners. The
$27bn government-funded project will also be home to Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim,
Jean Nouvel’s Louvre, Zaha Hadid’s performing Arts Centre and Tadao Ando’s
Maritime Museum (Anon. 2010). Notably it will be among the largest concentration of
cultural institutions in the world.
The Zayed National Museum is set to be the centrepiece of the development and the
jewel in the crown for the Emirates. The focus of the museum is multi-faceted. The
national museum, developed in consultation with the British Museum, will serve as a
memorial to H. H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, the founding president and late
ruler of Abu Dhabi, honouring his life and legacy by incorporating five galleries that are
said to present the five pillars that embodied his life: education, conservation,
environmental protection, preserving heritage and embracing progress (Conroy and
Thomas 2010a). One of the central themes of the museum is falconry, which is reflected in
both the symbolism of the architecture and the content.
Designed by the world-renowned Pritzker Prize architect Norman Foster, the
architecture draws its ‘inspiration’ from the falcon. The building is said to ‘represent
the wingtips of a falcon, a symbol of UAE culture and heritage’ (Conroy and Thomas
2010b). Five towers, made of lightweight steel, have been designed to look like the wings of
a falcon that will rise out of a constructed hill housing the public lobby. In addition the
museum will feature a falconry and conservation centre highlighting the late ruler’s
favourite pastime and offering an exploration of the practice of falconry – trapping,
training and hunting – using objects and audio-visuals. At the time of writing no detailed
information was available about the objects and displays proposed for the galleries. This
area of the museum will also incorporate an outdoor arena where visitors will be able to
experience live falconry as spectators, participants and enthusiasts. The museum will
therefore link the heritage of falconry with its physical practice and display as a
contemporary sporting tradition.
An important part of the museum’s remit is to serve as a public and civic centre with an
emphasis on education, learning and preserving the nation’s heritage such as falconry. It is
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through what Smith (2006) calls the ‘authorised heritage discourse’ that society decides
what should and should not be considered as official representations of heritage, and that
heritage
focuses attention on the aesthetically pleasing material objects, sites,places and/or
landscapes that current generations ‘must’ care for, protect and revere so that they may
be passed to nebulous future generations for their ‘education’, and to forge a sense of
common identity based on their past.
(Smith 2006: 29)
Graham (1994: 135 cited by Meethan 2001: 100) argues that the possession of heritage is
a necessary component of the nation-state, and, as such, is specific to both time and
place. Claims that a particular culture has existed in a particular area in the past are
made to lay claim to a particular history. Falconry therefore has ‘the potential to be a
powerful integrating and unifying influence for people comprehending their place in
global society’ (Wood 2005: 141). At a national level then, falconry serves a didactic
purpose in educating or fostering a sense of nationhood for consumption by both
insiders and outsiders.
Transnational heritage and falconry
As our interactions become increasingly global so too must our analysis of the way
heritage is created and put to use. Robins (1999) argues that enterprise and heritage
cultures must be seen in the context of what has become a global integrated system.
Globalization has led to the destabilization of the dichotomy between self and other,
which emerges through the involvement of worldwide cultures (Appadurai 1996). The
UAE has recognized, and is supportive of, the importance of the global role of heritage. It
is following the words of H. H. the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ‘he who has
no past, has no present’, that the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage
(ADACH) states:, ‘our activities are informative, enlightening and a true reflection of our
culture and heritage. . .they not only have an impact on our local and regional society, but
also have an international dimension based on the inclusive appreciation of human
culture, of which our own is an essential component’ (Al Mazrouei 2010a). The way that
the UAE is using its falconry heritage on a global level can be explored through the
inscription of falconry as a living human heritage on UNESCO’s representative list of
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Global or transnational heritage is not new and takes many forms, from object loans
and touring exhibitions from one heritage organization to another to franchising whole
heritage places. One of the most popular ways in which heritage has become of global
concern is through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO). Yet the early value system that UNESCO adopted in which places were
assessed was dominated by Western regions and aesthetics, which have tended to
emphasize the museum definition of authenticity. UNESCO then responded by devising
categories that recognized intangible heritage such as languages, music and living cultures
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within its Global Strategy for a Balanced, Representative and Credible World Heritage
List in 1994 (Von Droste 1995: 22). ‘This signalled a major shift in approach from the
production of a single heritage ‘‘canon’’ to the development of more ‘‘representative’’
approaches to heritage’ (Harrison 2010: 196). It was when the UNESCO convention for
inscribing the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was passed in 2003 that falconry
could be inscribed as Living Human Heritage on the representative list. This was then
driven forward in November 2010 by a nomination and co-ordinated submission by the
Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Fox, pers. comm.).
The UAE played a central role within the preparation and co-ordination of the
international file on falconry. This is reflected in an official statement from within the
UAE, which notes that ‘the efforts made by the leadership have contributed to the
protection of this human heritage and have encouraged cooperation between different
peoples and civilizations. This is a source of pride to Abu Dhabi and the Arab World in
general’; also that ‘the attention of late Sheikh Zayed turned falconry into a global human
cultural heritage’ (Al Mazrouei 2010b). What can be observed is how the Abu Dhabi
government has taken on the global rhetoric of UNESCO, purposefully using
transnational terms to position both itself and the country’s heritage within the global
system.
Ironically, UNESCO suggests that its expanding cultural programmes aim to mitigate
the destructive effects of ‘globalization’. Yet, ‘World Heritage, like world fairs and
museums, are part of a world system [sic], within which the world is to be convened, a
world image projected, and a world economy activated’ (Kirschenblatt-Gimblett 2007
[2006]: 163). Turtinen (2000) argues that world heritage, if a ‘cosmopolitan political
project’, is one which aims to create a new political imagined community. Within the
overall condition of global modernity UNESCO is part of a system of global
interconnection, transnational governance and cross-border movements of people and
things (Beck 2000: 10–11). Therefore the international heritage movement of UNESCO
does not stand outside or counter the processes of globalization; on the contrary, it plays
an active role within the creation and circulation of global heritage through its advocacy of
the importance of ‘World Heritage’ in the contemporary world.
In effect this means that global heritage sites are not free from political influences. Since
sites are designated only at the request of participating national governments, it can be
argued that UNESCO’s member states use the nomination process and promotion of
world heritage sites for their own domestic agendas (Harrison 2010). The universalizing
effect of world heritage masks the political nature of this process. Askew argues that ‘the
globalised and institutionalised heritage system has not overcome nation-state based
power structures and nationalistic agendas, but has enhanced them’ (2010: 20). Within the
UAE the inscription of falconry on the Intangible Heritage of Humanity list is being used
to communicate the UAE’s sporting heritage locally, nationally and internationally as part
of the Emirates’ transnational vision. In addition, it serves to counter the prevailing
perception that the area was without heritage or history until the appearance of oil by
situating the region within the authorized heritage discourse of UNESCO. According to
the Emirates Falconers’ Club, ‘given the entrenchment of falconry in UAE culture, and
that it is a symbol of the country’s national identity, the inclusion of this heritage sport
would enhance its visibility and promote it at both local and global levels’. They added
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that ‘the inclusion of falconry on the list would encourage future generations to learn and
practice the art, and be proud of it, upholding it as an important component of their
national heritage’ (cited by Anon. 2011a). The UAE thus use heritage in global terms as a
form of ‘soft power, a means of communicating their cultural credentials to the world’
(Labadi and Long 2010: 6) in addition to consolidating falconry as a key sporting element
of the national story of the UAE.
Conclusion
This paper has highlighted that falconry is more than merely a sport or a hobby; it is an
integral part of the region’s cultural heritage. Like other forms of heritage, sports-related
heritage draws from many sources including culture, history, memory and tradition in
order to meet the demands of the present. In the UAE these are used within the re-
articulation and re-inscription of falconry in both leisure pursuits and the material culture
of contemporary society. With food now readily available, falconry is no longer necessary
for survival. It could be argued therefore that it is not inherently valuable, as it was in the
past. It is the cultural processes that are at work locally, nationally and transnationally
which make it valuable today. Within the UAE, contemporary heritage developments are
as much about preserving and presenting the past as they are about consolidating the
UAE’s membership of world heritage through the cultural medium of falconry as a
heritage sport.
Open University, UK
sarinawakefield@me.com
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Sarina Wakefield originally studied archaeology at the University of Leicester, gaining a
BSc in 2001. She then went on to gain an MA in museum studies in 2004 also from the
University of Leicester. She has since worked on museum and heritage projects in the
United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Bahrain. She is currently pursuing a PhD at
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industry in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’.
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... Other initiatives include musical performances that are usually occasional, playing selected music to tourists and national festivals. Some events involve animals to preserve certain folklore practices and performances, such as falconry and camel race, which are more prominent and popular in Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates [13,14]. However, such projects are part of consumer culture oriented towards attracting tourism rather than sustaining cultural heritage. ...
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Abstract: Anthropogenic climate change poses a serious threat to the intangible cultural heritage in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). Oral folklore is particularly at threat since the local citizens cannot earn a decent living from traditional practices and jobs. This paper explores feasible solutions for sustaining oral folklore of the GCC through three different ways: mobile museums, UN partnerships, and national policies. Each of these proposed methods is analysed through a GAP analysis, where the researchers compare an ideal scenario to the recurrent problems and hurdles faced on the ground. The paper presents successful experiments of sustaining oral folklore as a model to be adopted in this region to bridge this gap. Finally, the paper concludes that oral folklore should be closely tied to the national policies and visions created to combat climate change in this region.
... Falconry has recently gained much attention, owing to the recent acknowledgement of falconry as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (Flynn 2018). In addition, the United Arab Emirates announced the preservation of falconry as part of their sporting and cultural heritage, a service that provides economic and social benefits to local people (Seddon and Launay 2008;Wakefield 2012;Panter et al. 2019) and is a major source of economic revenue for some. Falconry remains relevant today, not only as a link to the cultural history of many peoples, but because many of the historical methods of capturing birds of prey for use in falconry remain foundational to modern capture of birds of prey for conservation research in tracking studies (Bub 1978); moreover, falconry techniques are widely used in the rehabilitation process of birds of prey and for educational purposes (Phillott 1908;Sielicki 2016). ...
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The paper offers an ethnographic documentation of camel racing as a growing traditional cultural heritage sport in contemporary Gulf Arab societies. An integrated anthropological approach is used in describing and analyzing the multiple aspects and functions of the races as an evolving cultural revival within the broad contexts of oil wealth, the building of modern nation-state, and modern global forces. Camel racing is analyzed as an activity for distributing oil wealth among the Bedu segment of the United Arab Emirates national population, as a significant component in the enterprise of statecraft and state formation, and as cultural festivals for preserving and promoting national culture.! identity which appears threatened by multiple global cultural flows and dynamics.
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This article provides ethnographic documentation and analysis of the poetry and politics of heritage revival displayed in the invented tradition of camel racing in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, viewed here as a representative case study of the wider Gulf. Preserving UAE heritage and maintaining national identity in the context of threatening forces of modernization constitute the dynamics of inventing this tradition, giving meaning to Badu (Bedouin) poetic voice and its politico-cultural discourse. The annual celebrations and activities surrounding the glorification of the thoroughbred camel as a cultural icon are given new meaning, rhetoric, and direction for a community reconstructing itself as a modern nation-state within shifting global contexts. (The Arab Gulf, United Arab Emirates, heritage revival, inverted traditions, camel racing, cultural change).