Unesco weighs protecting falconry

The intergovernmental committee will meet in Nairobi next week to discuss recognition of falconry as an "intangible" cultural heritage.

DUBAI // As intrinsic to the cultural and national identity as the pearl and the dhow, falconry may soon receive an international seal that preserves the tradition for future generations.

Last year, the UAE joined 11 other nations to present a proposal that falconry be recognised on a list detailing "Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of Urgent Safeguarding" as compiled by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

An intergovernmental committee will meet in Nairobi, Kenya, next week to make its final decision.

Dubai Municipality, which runs the Dh16 million National Falcon Centre in Nad al Sheba, stressed the importance of inclusion.

"If the UAE is successful it will be a step forward because more protection is required," Obaid Ibrahim, the head of markets section at the municipality, said.

The centre serves traders, conservationists and visitors who wish to learn more about falcons. A falcon can fetch up to Dh250,000.

Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, the director of Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which supported the bid and has hosted the Unesco delegation twice since 2009, said it could be a "major breakthrough".

"Falcons are an endangered species. The inclusion will also benefit other nations and put emphasis on its fundamental role in national identity," Mrs Muller said.

"The support afforded to the hospital, the biggest in the world, is evidence of the leading role the UAE has adopted," she added.

Unesco's list pledges protection plans for cultural elements at risk. The Aalst Carnival in Belgium and traditional Kashan carpet weaving in Iran are among 47 nominations from 31 states.

Those chosen will join the existing 166 elements from 77 countries already on the list that fit the definition of "intangible cultural heritage" as laid down by the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.