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The Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition12 Years of Success

The first Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition was opened in 2003 by HH the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan may Allah have mercy upon him. Sheikh Zayed gave instructions to hold this exhibition every year in Abu Dhabi and turn it into a world class event. The event was held for the second year in 2004 to great success and high turnout, offering a great encouragement for the Higher Organizing Committee. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Emirates Falconer's Club, instructed the members of the Higher Organizing Committee to keep up the good work of developing the exhibition to meet the highest standards, and promote sustainable hunting and the UAE's traditional heritage, customs and values.

Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee, member of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Falconer's Club and Advisor for Culture and Heritage in the Court of His Highness the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, stated that the late Sheikh Zayed's presence in the first Exhibition in September 2003 was evidence of His Highness's desire to take part in this important heritage event with the sons and daughters of his country and of other GCC countries. This important visit, says Al Mazrouei, left a great impression in the hearts of the exhibitors and the attending hunting and fishing enthusiasts, and was a great factor in the exhibition's success not to mention adding an air of distinction to the event.

Sheikh Zayed may Allah rest his soul in peacehad the foresight to create a balance between maintaining the traditional heritage of falconry and hunting with falcons, and making sure that falcons and their prey remain in the wild in the future.

His unique vision has arrived to what conservationists nowadays call "sustainable hunting." Sheikh Zayed did not just think ahead of his generation, but also much further than international conservationists. In the mid-thirties of the 20th century, Sheikh Zayed the falconer was a pioneer of nature conservation, out of his comprehensive vision to build wildlife-friendly communities. On the social level, Sheikh Zayed was the perfect example of Arab falconers due to his intuition and his vast knowledge of nature, wining him the love and admiration of his Bedouin community.

Zayed also introduced a humane dimension to the sport of falconry which he considered a priceless piece of the heritage. With his continued passion for falconry, Sheikh Zayed's skills grew to be superior and unrivalled as Sir Wilfred Thesigerthe British explorer who once hunted with Sheikh Zayed 50 years agoput it.

To conservationists, Zayed was the face of the undying values born from his experiences and convictions. He loved the nature and the wildlife in a way never before seen. The renowned British Journalist Patrick Seale who met Sheikh Zayed in Al Ain City when he was its Governor back in 1965, wrote:

"Heknew every stone, every tree, every bird of his domain. Above all, he understood the importance of preserving every drop of water and putting it to productive use. Tree-planting was his passion."

As for his social environment, he did not see falconry as an abstract individual sport but a chance for companionship. Unlike what was common in the rest of the world, Arabian falconry is a social activity. Due to his exceptional skills in his own method of falconry, Zayed was very close to the hearts and minds of his people. Moreover, it is that very same connection that made him the most popular and the most beloved leader in the entire region.

Among Sheikh Zayed most important initiatives is organizing the 1st World Conference on Falconry and Conservation in the city of Abu Dhabi in late 1976. This conference brought Arabian falconers together with their peers from North America, Europe and the Far East for the first time ever. The conference was a real starting point for Sheikh Zayed's strategy to gather falconers as the frontline stakeholders in the wildlife conservation efforts.

At that time, European captive-bred falcons started appearing in the Arabian Peninsula starting a new trend that still remains to this day with most of the falconers of the UAE. This trend was simply to choose birds bred in captivity, minimizing the effect of the sport on wild falcons.

In the early 80s, Sheikh Zayed built the Falcon Hospital at Al Khazna outside the city of Abu Dhabi and later on in 1999 established the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.

Regarding conservation, Sheikh Zayed was the first to realize the dangers that birds and animals are subjected to, and therefore, created several conservation projects. In 1977 His Highness established a captive breeding program for the Asian Houbara in Al Ain Zoo, where the first captive-bred Asian Houbara in the UAE was hatched in 1982. In 1989, the National Avian Research Centerlater on becoming a part of the Environment Agencyestablished an ambitious program to breed the Asian Houbara.

Sheikh Zayed may Allah have mercy upon himestablished a tradition to rerelease many of his falcons into the wild at the end of the hunting season. He started a program to rerelease falcons into the wild in 1995. He rereleased hundreds of lanner falcons and peregrines along their original immigration path in Pakistan and Central Asia, where they successfully resumed their normal life in the wild.

During the life of Sheikh Zayed and even after his passing, he was blessed with the praise and appreciation of the world for his genius leadership and the grandeur of his success in building the advanced forgiving harmonious community of the UAE. Falconers around the globe still carry love and gratitude for Sheikh Zayed and for what he gave to this sport, lifting it to become this traditional heritage art. He did not just love the sport, master it and excel in it, but also added a great deal to it, and gave it so much of his nature- and wildlife-loving soul.

Statistics of the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition

Run No. of Exhibitors No. of Countries No. of Visitors Total Floor Space
12th, Abu Dhabi 2014, 10th to 13th of September
640 48 120,000+ 39,000 m2/ 17,000 m2 of which net floor space for exhibitors
11th, Abu Dhabi 2013, 4th to 7th of September
605 41 118,996 39,000 m2/ 14,345 m2 of which net floor space for exhibitors
10th, Abu Dhabi 2012, 5th to 8th of September
630 40 111,298 38,000 m2
9th, Abu Dhabi 2011, 14th to 17th of September
596 30 95,000 31,000 m2
8th, Abu Dhabi 2010, 22nd to 25th of September
589 39 106,148 28,512 m2
7th, Abu Dhabi 2009, 30th of September to 3rd of October
573 37 112,000 23,300 m2
6th, Abu Dhabi 2008, 8th to 11th of October
526 37 100,000 23,000 m2
5th, Abu Dhabi 2007, 24th to 27th of October
472 35 80,000 22,232 m2
4th, Abu Dhabi 2006, 11th to 15th of September
525 42 75,000 22,000 m2
3rd, Abu Dhabi 2005, 12th to 16th of September
353 36 70,000 19,893 m2
2nd, Abu Dhabi 2004, 13th to 16th of September
192 21 60,000 11,000 m2
1st, Abu Dhabi 2003, 22nd to 26th of September
40 14 45,000 6,000 m2

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