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This month on Inside the Middle East

April 2, 2012 -- Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT)
Camels at the Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Camel Festival on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi on February 16, 2012.
Camels at the Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Camel Festival on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi on February 16, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This month, IME focuses on animals and their role in the culture and daily life of the region
  • For centuries animals - from camels to desert falcons - have provided food, transportation, and even companionship in the harsh, isolated land.
  • We visit an animal shelter, a luxury pet hotel, a lion whisperer, a falcon hospital and Cairo's rooftop pigeon fanciers

(CNN) -- For centuries, Bedouins of the Middle East survived a nomadic lifestyle in unforgiving deserts by relying on animals. From camels to desert falcons, animals provided food, transportation, and even companionship in the harsh, isolated land. Today, sports utility vehicles have largely replaced the hump-backed 'ships of the desert' throughout the Middle East. But animals still play a vital role in daily life and the culture of the region.

Beirut's Rescued Animals

We visit an animal shelter in Beirut that has taken up the often overlooked cause of animal abuse and rescue. Encouraging adoption and humane treatment of animals, BETA also helps humans -- the animals are part of a therapy program to help children with special needs. Rima Maktabi takes us there.

Lion Whisperer

Lions, tigers, cheetahs and other exotic and endangered animals are prized pets for many Emiratis for whom it is the ultimate status symbol. When the cubs grow into adulthood and develop violent traits, many are often abandoned and it falls to private individuals and parks to take the animals in and rehabilitate. Schams Elwazer meets the Lion Whisperer Ras Al Khaima as he plays with a rescued lion and visit a woman in Dubai whose home shelters almost 300 animals from tortoises to alpacas to parrots.

Pet Hotel

The United Arab Emirates is known for its luxurious resorts and seven-star hotels -- now the trend has extended to our four-legged companions. A seven-star hotel recently opened in Abu Dhabi caters to cats and dogs with suites that even include plasma screens.

Camelicious

At a trendy café near the world's tallest building, customers sip on camel milk lattes. In the high-end malls of Dubai, camel milk chocolate is a luxury brand. We look into the trend of a modern take on camel products, used by the Bedouins for centuries for transportation, milk and meat. From camel burgers to a high-tech lab processing camel milk for commercial sale in supermarkets, Rima Maktabi looks at how the dromedary is making a modern comeback.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Falcons have been prized for centuries in the Bedouin culture for sport and companionship. More than just pets, they have their own passports, travel in cabins on airlines, and in Abu Dhabi have their own five-star hospital. We look into the passion behind falconry and witness the animals' care from pedicures to surgery.

Cairo's Pigeon Trainers

We take to the rooftops of Cairo where flocks of pigeons weave through the skies above the urban jungle of the Egyptian capital. As Ian Lee finds out, the love for breeding and training homing pigeons transcends class boundaries and political affiliations as over two million pigeon owners escape the streets to continue an ancient tradition in the skies.

Watch the April show at the following times:

Wednesday April 4: 0930, 1630
Saturday April 7: 0430, 1830
Sunday April 8: 1130
Saturday April 14: 1130
Sunday April 15: 0430, 1830

All times GMT

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