Inaugural AlUla Falcon Cup Celebrates Nine Days of Spectacular Heritage Sports and Record-Breaking Prizes

by Ajay Rajguru
  • AlUla’s Mugharia Heritage Sports Village hosted 2,000 elite falcons and their owners during the first edition of the tournament, held from December 28th to January 5th
  • International contest attracted leading falconers from all over the world for a series of exciting races and traditional ‘best-in-show’ falcon beauty contests

ALULA, Saudi ArabiaJan. 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — After nine days of thrilling aerial action and hotly-debated beauty contests featuring perfectly groomed birds of prey, the first-ever AlUla Falcon Cup has come to an end. The debut tournament attracted some of the best and most awarded falconers, who competed for a share of a record-breaking prize pot of US$16 million. A collaboration between the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Falcons Club (SFC), the AlUla Falcon Cup is an exciting new edition to AlUla’s year-round calendar of events and heritage sports competition.

More than 2,000 elite falcons, from six of the most famous and sought-after sub-species, took part in a variety of daily races, with the flight of each ultra-fast bird expertly tracked using state-of-the-art laser and camera systems that calculated their speed to within a fraction of a second.

The AlUla Falcon Cup called upon the expertise of leading falconry competition judges, Rajeh Al-Juhani from Saudi Arabia, and Italy’s Francesco Drico, to pinpoint and score each individual bird’s performance. The technologies used by the judges ensured a clear photo-finish review of the results of each race.

Staged from December 28th to January 5th, the event was divided into four categories to cater to falconers from KSA as well as international competitors. Saudi falconers were invited to the first category, with 24 rounds of races and a prize pot of US$2.77 million. Local and regional falconry teams who had previously qualified for the prestigious King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival were invited to participate in the second category, with 48 rounds and a prize fund of US$7.63 million.

Category three was open to top-tier falcons only and saw the most elite and highly trained birds of prey compete over six rounds of races for prizes worth US$2.8 million. The AlUla Falcon Cup’s final event was the highly anticipated beauty contest, named mazayen. A prize pool of US$2.72 million was shared amongst the winners of the competition’s six rounds.

Judges carefully examined each bird’s beak, talons, wingspan, leg length and chest circumference to assess their overall aesthetic appeal. A highlight of the AlUla Falcon Cup, the ‘best-in-show’ mazayen beauty pageant took place from January 2 to January 4 and attracted great interest from members of the international falconry community as well as visitors.

Practiced for centuries, falconry has long been an essential part of life throughout many parts of the world. Today, these birds of prey are primarily trained for contests, with falconers showcasing their command of their birds by applying ancient techniques that have been used for generations. The AlUla Falcon Cup welcomed six breeds of falcon, with young and mature birds invited to compete.

Participating species included the Saker, the Peregrine, the Pure Gyr, the Gyr Cross, the Gyr-Peregrine Mix, and the Gyr-hybrid. By using captive-bred falcons, the competition supported international efforts to protect wild falcon populations, which are faced with dwindling numbers because of habitat loss and hunting.

The success of the AlUla Falcon Cup strengthens AlUla’s position as the global home of heritage sports. An opportunity to showcase Saudi identity, the event wowed spectators with a mix of traditional activities and sporting spectacle. The Mugharia Heritage Sports Village was a vibrant, immersive, and family friendly destination throughout the tournament’s nine-day programme.

During the contest, local schoolchildren from the AlUla community were introduced to falconry and its proud roots as a much-loved heritage sport. Youngsters met with champion falconers, seeing their birds up close, and immersing themselves in the traditions and skills of the sport during specially organised tours of Mugharia Heritage Sports Village.

Ziad Al Suhaibani, RCU Chief of Sport, said: “The first-ever edition of the AlUla Falcon Cup was a huge success. The collaboration between the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Saudi Falcons Club helped to ensure this contest attracted the highest calibre of falconers from all around the world who excelled during stiff competition for a record-breaking prize pot.

“Now established as the premier destination for heritage sports, ranging from falconry to equestrian contests, camel racing, and more, AlUla continues to host exciting competitions featuring some of the best teams and practitioners of traditional sporting disciplines. We look forward to the return of the AlUla Falcon Cup and to crowning more champions who have demonstrated incredible feats of avian excellence and the close bond that exists between man and bird.”

Noted for editors:

It is always AlUla / not Al-Ula

About the Royal Commission for AlUla

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia. RCU’s long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. This encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme.

The official X hashtags for the AlUla Falcon Cup are #AlUlaFalconCup and كأس_العلا_للصقور#.
Follow the Royal Commission for AlUla on X for the latest updates @RCU_SA

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