Three enterprising Emirati sisters are embracing the UAE's rich falconry traditions to help their business dreams take flight.
Afra, Mariam and Salma Al Dhaheri got their family-run company, Al Sharagha Falconry, off the ground last year and are hoping one of the country's biggest cultural events will be a springboard for further success.
They have joined more than 1,200 exhibitors from 65 countries at the 20th Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition, taking place this week at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
The siblings, from Salahah Island, 160km west of Abu Dhabi, initially crafted falconry equipment before they decided to start selling the prized birds of prey too.
Afra believes they are the first Emirati women to open their own falconry business.
“First, we were sewing falconry hoods at our home in Abu Dhabi. Now our business thrives, and we are selling falcons,” she told The National.
One of their falcons on show at the exhibition is valued at about Dh235,000 ($64,000).
The sisters are proud to be championing a sport steeped in Emirati history.
For 4,000 years, Bedouin in the UAE and wider Arabian Peninsula have practised falconry as a form of hunting.
It remains a popular sport and pastime and is a key feature of the UAE’s identity.
“We are immensely proud to be Emirati women contributing to the preservation and promotion of falconry in the UAE,” said Afra.
Their company offers a range of services, including falcon training and educational programmes for enthusiasts of all levels.
Despite being born on an island and more familiar with maritime culture, the sisters found their passion while visiting their relatives in Liwa Oasis.
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“We loved the falconry. Our leaders care about it. It is part of our traditions that we have from our ancestors,” Afra said.
“Falconry is not just a sport, it's a way of life for many in our region. We want to ensure that this heritage is accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, and that it thrives for generations to come.”
Afra said they have been inspired to champion UAE heritage by UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“Sheikh Zayed taught us that we should know our past and traditions to make a better future. His words echoed in our hearts, and we are determined to preserve and enrich the falconry traditions,” Afra said.
She said the sisters have been buoyed by the support they have received as they make their way in what is a typically male-dominated industry.
They are eager to pave the way for other women to follow in their path.
“It's encouraging to see the doors of opportunity opening for women in this field. We will welcome any Emirati woman wanting to be part of our business.”