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New discoveries... and more advantures.

I am really kicking myself now that I have been to Global Village. I had a chance to go and I didn't about a month ago. Well, I did have a slight knee injury and it would have been rough going, but if i would have been a bit more careful, I would have been fine.

We went up on Saturday and wow! I have never seen anything like it. It was absolutely fantastic. I got some fantastic perfumes that I really like and some necklaces and we also got a fabulous rug.

We would have liked to spend more time there and possibly gotten several more rugs.

If anyone knows where the rug vendor is located that was just inside the front gate to the left, please let me know. Or if you know a really good place to pick up rugs, I would love to know that also. I have heard the rug store in Meena shopping center is good.

There was one pavilion that was really intriguing... I think it was the Dubai police department? They had gorgeous trunks and some large gold trays. The work was incredible. Were these just on display, or an auctions or just what? I think that would be something I could convince hubby to buy in the future.

When we were up in Dubai we went to the Dubai Mall... how fun. I could so totally imagine the damage I could inflict on a credit card there lol. I wouldn't so that of course since I would be the one to pay it off lol. There were some fantastic lighting shops I would have loved to explore.

The Burj is absolutely incredible when you get up close and see it. The architects are so creative. Doug has dubbed Dubai as the "Architects Playground". When you see some of the interesting and creative buildings going up you soon realize why.

Well I am off to a morning of fun. I am going to a WIAD coffee and the presentation is on Kazkhstan. Should be very interesting. I will be posting photos


Just stuff...

I am so glad that tomorrow is the weekend. I so desperately need a down day.

My friend Janet and I walked down town on Monday. We were both thinking that our legs hurt more than usual, so I mapped it out and we walked 8 flippin miles. I couldn't believe that so I had to do it over. Sheesh, I didn't think I had it in me to make it that far.

We found a great little restaurant that serves healthy food. Janet thought I was nuts dragging her through a hospital. I was just curious... I know back in the states that some of the best restaurants are in some of the big hospitals. This was a gem.

I found a fabulous little Iranian restaurant with my friend Lisa when I was down there last week. It was just one we saw along the sidewalk and it was cute. The service was awesome and the food was fab. I definately want to take Doug there.

I am really enjoying my culinary adventures here. Some days I do crave a big fat burger (today) and crave American comfort food. Fortunately there are some of the big chains I am familiar with.

Most of the time we try to eat at local places. It has been a lot of fun discovering them. Some have become favorites of ours and we take friends there.

I have also been discovering coffee shops with my friends. There is an awesome one just down the street from us called Vivelle. Fantastic coffee and the sweets are divine! There are these little ones shaped like pumpkins that are made out of chickpea flour and oh they are so good.

I will get some pictures next time I go there. That sounds like a reason to go there tomorrow...


Dust Storms

I remember being somewhere around the age of 8 or 9 and driving through the middle of the US and seeing "dust storms" and "dust devil's". I was always fascinated by them and how the wind controlled them.

Later when I read novels and romance stories under the covers by flashlight (oops... Dad you did not just read that ) hoping I wouldn't get caught. Stories about Adventurous people who lived in the Middle East and rode camels and Arabian horses. There were always places where there was some dramatic dust storm. For some reason, I could never quite get my head around the concept of something that big.

Later after Doug and I were married I remember seeing a car that the pain was almost blistered off of, but it was so smooth it looked like it had been sanded. That is just what had happened to it. I don't remember details other than they had been driving through Nevada and got caught in one of the dust storms.

I didn't give them a thought when we decided to move here. I don't think the thought crossed my mind at all. I guess living on the high desert in Idaho, I know sand but... sand is sand right?

Nope! Not by a long shot. The sand here is very different.

First off, it is very fine. If you take some regular sugar and grind it in a coffee mill (electric) for about 20 seconds, you would end up with about what we have here.

If you go to the beach, it gets in everywhere... if you track it in the house, it goes everywhere. When the wind blows... it really does everywhere.

I decided to go over to the mall today and look around. As I left my apt, I noticed that the sky looked kind of overcast. My mobile buzzed and I had a text from Doug that said
the outing we were planning for tomorrow afternoon was being canceled. So I decided to walk up to the Corniche (beach) and take a look. WOW I could barely make out the other side.

I am going to run up to the roof and see if I can get some pictures real quick here. Ok camera worked and cooperated...


How am I spending my days? and Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

I have been having a very interesting time here...

For the most part, I am getting up around 6a.m. with Doug and seeing him off to work. Then I have a couple of hours to myself and am usually out of the apt by 9 or 10 in the morning.

I have met some new friends and we are exploring the city together. Most of the time we are hopping on the bus (which is free and fabulous). I will have to post about the various area I am seeing and my experiences. Right now though, here is an update on one of my latest activities. I will post pictures soon also.

The other day I went on the most amazing tour. I went to the Abu Dhabi falcon Hospital. The hospital is located out near the airport. It is also an award winning hospital.

I am not sure what I initially expected. I guess I was thinking more of US version of an animal hospital. Instead I found something very unique.

We were given an education about the birds, the history of them, their needs, the problems and struggles they face, the maintenance and care of the birds, and a glimpse into the lives of those who have Falcons.

I guess at this point I should also mention one small thing. I am absolutely terrified of birds flying around me. I can't go into aviaries at all, It totally freaks me out having something flying around my head. I guess I was a bit nervous about this experience at the beginning.

Falcon owners can have as few as one bird, to as many as 80 or as in the case of the President and Crown Prince, 200 plus birds. The falcons take place in hunting, racing and beauty contests.

The history of the Falcon in the UAE is not a long one, remembering the fact that the nation is not that old. It was only about 100 to 120 years ago that falcons began to assist in the catching of food and started being trapped and trained. The primary purpose was to find food. Now the falcons have become a national symbol, heritage and a sport. The Falcon is a migratory birds with the migratory season being in September.

Ninety percent of the birds that are used in sporting are bread in captivity. Traditionally these have been Peregrine Falcons, Saker falcons and the rest is made up of hybrid birds. There are many markets in Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States. The cost of the falcons can really vary in price. Some go for as low as 30K and up as high as 80K USD. Depending on the lineage of the bird and the owner and breeder they can go for as high as 100K (usd). Sharjah has a market as does Dubai. It is estimated that there are around 20 thousand Falcons in the UAE.

Before purchasing a falcon it is important to have a complete health check done. Ninety percent of the birds examined will have an endoscope done to look at the internal organs and check for diseases. They all have blood tests and are completely examined by a veterinarian. The falcon hospital can see 40 to 60 birds per day.

The hunting season is September through December. If you are caught hunting out of season, your bird will be confiscated and you will face 6 months jail time as well as a hefty fine. Eighty percent of the birds in the UAE are hunters. The primary hunting grounds are Afghanistan, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Each of the birds is outfitted with a tiny clip on the top of the tail. It is about the size of a pencil eraser and very light weight. It then holds a transmitter that is tracked through GPS. The birds are also “chipped” (the same procedure that is used in the US for finding lost pets) so that they can be tracked and monitored. One interesting note here is that in order to travel, every falcon must have a passport. So if you wanted to take your falcon to Morocco to hunt, you take them with their passport, or you do not go.

After the hunting season is through then comes the breeding season and moulting season. The moulting season takes 3 to 6 months to complete. The average life span in captivity is 15 to 17 years where in the wild the average is around 25 years. The falcons breed early in moulting season. The gestational period is 36 days. They lay 3 to 5 eggs. In the wild 3 out of the 5 will generally hatch. Hatching time to flying time is 3 weeks. Both sexes of birds take turns sitting on the eggs. Falcons are carnivores, eating only fresh meat.

I found it interesting that eighty percent of the birds are female. The reason being that they are bigger and prettier.

There is a lot of personal pride in owning a falcon. There is also a lot of maintenance and care in owning one. I asked how much it costs annually for the care and upkeep of one bird and they vet did not know how much the cost was. Just a check up costs 800-900 AED.

Personal pride is huge when it comes to falcons. Much time is spent taking care of them, and feeding them. It is that relationship that brings them back to the owner when they hunt. They know their owners voice. Many people have special rooms set up for the birds care. They also have a staff that takes care of the basic needs. When the owner is with his birds, he first talks to it and strokes it so that his touch is known. Then the bird is fed by the owner. There is bond between them and this makes successful for hunting.

Pre-hunting and post-hunting check ups are very important to the health of the bird. During the visit for the check ups the birds also have an endoscopy procedure done to make sure the internal organs are fine and they have not ingested something that is bad for their system. After the check up they may be quarantined for a period of time if it is needed. The birds also have their blood drawn and a full blood work up is done on them. If a bird needs antibiotics for some reason, they are given the same kind as humans but in minute amounts. The blood tests allow the vets to check the progress of the bird and to see if they antibiotics are working.

The falcon hospital can see between 40 and 60 birds per day. They may need to be seen for infections, a routine check up, surgery or feather replacement.

We were privileged to be able to watch a feather replacement on one of the falcons there. I have a 20 minute video that I took that I am going to try to put on u-tube or somewhere, so those of you interested can watch it. I was absolutely fascinated by the procedure.

First the bird is sedated, kind of like when we are sedated by gas in the dental chair. The bird totally relaxes allowing the vet to open the wing spans and check each feather for defects and or flaws that need to be fixed. I found it fascinating that each feather has it's own unique purpose. It is either a flying feather, turning feather or something so each one needs to be fixed/replaces with the same kind of feather. You can't, for instance, take a tail feather and put it on the wing, because it won't work right.

After the bird is asleep and the feathers are checked, the vet matches up the feather with ones that have been harvested from moulting birds and ones that have died. The color needs to be matched to as close to the color of the feathers being replaced, I think that is mainly for aesthetic reasons. At the hospital they have a large collection of every kind and color of feather imaginable.

Once the process of selecting the correct feather is finished it is time to remove the damaged feather from the bird. They use a clipper that is sort of like a pliers type toenail clipper. They make a clean cut, and match the length of the feathers. The next process is to glue small pieces of doweling into the end of the feather. Feathers are hollow at the ends. A test match is made and then they mix a 2 part epoxy and insert the dowel into the repair feather, then into the feather end that is still attached to the bird. Sometimes they will use a super glue to glue the feathers, it just depends on the kind of feather and the function.

Sometimes a feather is not broken, but just damaged by being slightly bent. They take a crimper and crimp the feather into the right shape, then apply a splint made from a tiny portion of a feather shaving with super glue. When it hardens, the feather is as good as new.

After all of the feathers are checked and repaired, they then pull the bird back out of the air chamber and let it start to breathe a bit of normal air. At that point they take a towel and wrap it around the bird and take it to a perch on the floor. They place the birds hood on and let it come out of the anesthesia completely. The they take the bird to its perch and tie it down so it is comfortable and secure. It is amazing how fast this all happens. If I remember correctly the whole procedure took about 20 – 25 minutes.

The falcons are quite expensive depending on the blood line and the owner of the bird.