Home Tradeline Events Inaugural Alula Falcon Cup boosts heritage sport status in Saudi with $16...

Inaugural Alula Falcon Cup boosts heritage sport status in Saudi with $16 million in prize money

AlUla Falcon Cup

As part of its goal to conserve and celebrate traditional heritage sports that have deep roots in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the region, and further afield, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is hosting the first-ever AlUla Falcon Cup.

The landmark sporting event, taking place at AlUla’s Mughayra Heritage Sports Village from December 28, 2023, to January 05, 2024, will promote the rich history, carefully practiced skills, and important traditions of falconry to a global audience of visiting falconers and tourists, as well as members of the AlUla community.

The inaugural AlUla Falcon Cup has already set records within the sport by offering an unprecedented total prize pot of SAR60m ($16m), which will be awarded to the winners of various categories and contests, including racing, hunting, and beauty competitions. During races, falcons are timed using high-tech sensors that record their speed and performance. Beauty competitions assess each bird according to certain criteria, with the winner receiving the highest rating from the judges.

Alula Falcon Cup

Highlights of the AlUla Falcon Cup will include the Falcon Race Competition, held daily between 8 am and 5 pm, and the ‘best of breed’ Falcon Mazayen show or Falcon beauty pageant, which will take place from January 2 to January 4 from 8 pm to 10 pm.

Alula Falcon Cup
Saudi-based and international falconers compete for a record total prize pot of SAR 60m at the first-ever AlUla Falcon Cup.

The event follows AlUla’s successful hosting of the Horseback Archery World Cup AND Tent Pegging World Championships at the AlFursan Equestrian Village in November. Held in partnership with the Saudi Arabia Equestrian Federation (SAEF) and World Horseback Archery Federation (WHAF), the international event further showcased AlUla as a hub for traditional equestrian and heritage sports, which aligns with RCU’s long-term ambition to diversify the economy and celebrate the customs and culture of northwest Arabia.

The success of these events complements annual heritage sports competitions such as the AlUla Camel Cup, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, and the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo tournament, which each attract a large and loyal following of local and international spectators as well as competitors to AlUla.

Falconry, along with equestrian sports, enjoys a long history in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is the ancestral home of the Arabian horse breed, with horse riding an integral part of Saudi culture and sport. Practiced for centuries, falconry has long been an essential part of life across the region. 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.

An opportunity to showcase Saudi identity as well as AlUla’s growing status as the premier destination for heritage sport and competitions, the AlUla Falcon Cup will host competitors from neighbouring countries and further afield, while spectators can also enjoy a variety of activities, with Mughayra Heritage Sports Village offering a vibrant, immersive, and family-friendly experience.

Rami AlMoallim, Vice President of Destination Management and Marketing at the Royal Commission for AlUla, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Falcons are deeply rooted in the region’s culture, and we are proud to showcase our ancient heritage and culture to the world through the AlUla Falcon Cup. This event promises thrills to AlUla’s locals and visitors alike, paying homage to our traditions and our commitment to protecting and showcasing this culture globally.”

AlMoallim added, “We are working to introduce this unique relationship between humans and animals in the most creative way, showcasing our culture against the captivating backdrop of AlUla’s scenic landscape.”

Walid AlTaweel, the Official Spokesperson of Saudi Falcons Club said, “We are thrilled to collaborate with The Royal Commission for AlUla to introduce the inaugural AlUla Falcon Cup and showcase this historical culture to the world. Falconry, especially falcon racing, holds deep cultural significance in the kingdom, serving as a bridge between tradition, heritage, and the powerful bond between humans and birds of prey. We look forward to bringing the most thrilling falcon competition to the ancient city of AlUla.”

Ziad Al Suhaibani, RCU Chief of Sport said, “Our community in AlUla, as well as people from across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, share a deep passion for traditional sports such as falconry, horseback riding, camel racing and more. Enjoyed nowadays for the spectacle, thrills, and skills on display, heritage sports were once vital to life around the region. By celebrating their enduring appeal, RCU is strengthening AlUla’s status as the premier destination to promote the culture, customs, and legacy of our ancestors.

“The inaugural AlUla Falcon Cup will be nine days of spectacular action showcasing the unique bond that can exist between birds and human, with some of the most talented falconers and beautiful falcons on show. While the addition of a total prize pot of SAR60m ($16m), which is unprecedented in the sport of falconry, will add another level of excitement to the contest.”