If you're a falcon.
Recently John and I paid a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. No, we haven’t adopted a falcon. There was no ‘falcon emergency’ involving a local falcon and our two cats. It’s just one of several ‘only here’ kind of things you can do here in the Emirates. So we decided to do it.
We bought tickets online and headed out from our apartment for the 10 a.m. tour. The driving directions looked easy. Dead easy. We’d just jump on the road, aptly named Airport Road and head out toward the airport. Then a few exits before the airport, we’d take the exit marked ‘Falcon Hospital’ (in both English AND Arabic ) and bah-da-bing… we should be right there.
Easy peasy, right?
Instead of following the road sign for the airport, we followed the signs for Al Ain, thinking that the road signs would eventually turn into signs for the airport. When I thought we seemed uncomfortably far away from the airport (tipped off by the planes taking off further and further away) I pulled up my map app on my cell phone and discovered that we were pretty much halfway to Al Ain and not anywhere near the airport. Nor the Falcon Hospital.
The thing is, it’s no easy task to just get off on the next exit and turn around around here. Here, there are fly-overs that lead to nowhere, on roads that haven’t been built yet, and there are long, long stretches between exits. Taking a wrong turn is no simple affair. So after pulling over and regrouping, we figured out a way to backtrack, that would take us along the ‘back roads.’
“We have plenty of time,” John said.
But really, we didn’t. The tour started in fifteen minutes. (And I DESPISE being late.)
We started along the back roads which under less time pressures would have been considered pretty interesting. There wasn’t much to see (which can actually be interesting coming from NYC), and at one traffic roundabout, men gathered with their livestock – goats and sheep in the back of Toyota pick-up trucks, doing brisk trade. It all looked so provincial, until we drove a bit further and I saw the sign for the slaughterhouse. At which point I wondered why I haven’t become a vegetarian yet.
Moving along, we got closer the Falcon Hospital, at least according to my Google map app on my cell phone. We were less than a mile away. In fact, we could see the Falcon Hospital’s distinctive steel roof in the distance. Another roundabout and a left turn, followed by a quick right and we’d be right there, we thought.
But we weren't even close.
Unfortunately, the quick right turn actually ended up leading us to some sort of middle-of-nowhere car dealership souq thing. Had we been in the market for a BMW, Land Rover, Ford or Infiniti, we’d have been in the right place. But this area was all boarded in. The place we wanted to get to, that we could see through the slats was the Falcon Hospital.
“It’s right there,” I said. “Probably less than a mile away,” I said.
“Sure, as the falcon flies,” John quipped.
But we couldn’t get there from here.
“Can’t you just… maybe drive across the open land over there,” I asked.
I mean, there was nothing there. Just dirt. Sandy dirt. It was RIGHT THERE. We could see it. Maybe we could just park the damn car and walk across the sand field, I thought. But we don’t know the rules yet about stuff like that. And it was hot. And I had visions of keeling over with dehydration and vaporizing into mere skeletal remains.
So instead, we kept driving around the perimeter roads of the Falcon Hospital. And by perimeter, I’m talking roads within, oh, say, a ten mile radius all with a perfect view of the place we couldn't get to… or so it seemed.
Finally we came up on the main highway that leads to the airport AND the Falcon Hospital.
“There’s the sign for the Falcon Hospital,” I said.
“Is that the sign for the Falcon Hospital,” John asked, joking.
“Yes, this exit. There’s the sign.”
“Yes. Please, this… right. Right here. Right. Here.”
“Are you sure it’s this exit?”
Now, I knew John was just taking the piss.
We made the right, turned in, followed the signs and, ahem, easy peasy, we arrived at the Falcon Hospital, a mere 45 minutes late for the tour.
When we signed in at the desk, they couldn’t have been nicer, or more apologetic about our experience. Despite all the great road signs AND great directions on the website and descriptions on other websites, they told us that it happens quite often, as if there’s some sort of ‘Falcon Hospital Directional Vortex.’
In fact, later, when I shared this tale of the wrong turn with a new friend here, she said she got lost driving to the Falcon Hospital too.
So if you go to the Falcon Hospital, make sure you follow the directions, or take a Toyota Land Cruiser and hire one of those skilled dune-bashing drivers to get you there if you take a wrong turn.
But really, if you make it to the Falcon Hospital, you’re in for a treat. It’s fantastic. We met the ‘falcon patients,’ mostly checked in for minor ailments (we watched a procedure for what I can only describe as a ‘falcon pedicure,’). We also got to hold the falcon, visit their outdoor aery and visit the state-of-the-art falcon operating rooms.
Pretty awesome! Here are some snaps:
|Patients in Waiting|
|Falcon Doctor Readies the Patient|
|Falcon Under Anesthesia|
|The Falcon Hospital is a great place for kids...|
|Even this one!|
When we left, we immediately set the GPS for home.
If you decide to visit the Falcon Hospital, give yourself plenty of time to get there. And just in case, here are directions. You may want to print them out.