Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Cairo's pigeon lovers find escape from political turmoil

From Ian Lee, for CNN
April 13, 2012 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
There are two million pigeon breeders in Egypt, according to breeder Moustafa Hassan. There are two million pigeon breeders in Egypt, according to breeder Moustafa Hassan.
HIDE CAPTION
Cairo's most-loved pigeons
Cairo's most-loved pigeons
Cairo's most-loved pigeons
Cairo's most-loved pigeons
Cairo's most-loved pigeons
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • There are two million pigeon breeders in Egypt, according to Moustafa Hassan
  • Cairo has rooftop pigeon lofts where breeders find escape from the hustle and bustle below
  • Breeders sometimes capture each other's birds if they stray into their territory

Editor's note: Each month, Inside the Middle East takes you behind the headlines to see a different side of this diverse region. Follow us on on Twitter: Presenter Rima Maktabi: @rimamaktabi, producer Jon Jensen: @jonjensen and writer Cat Davies @catrionadavies

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- On a rooftop high above Cairo, Moustafa Hassan tenderly cares for his babies -- all 350 of them.

Hassan keeps a rooftop loft with both racing and "fancy" pigeons, and his birds are like family to him.

Cairo's pigeon breeders

"This is my son," he said, picking up his favorite pigeon. "I deal with all the pigeons like my son or my children."

Hassan's pigeons cost him $600 a month in food alone, but he says it's a hobby that unites people of all backgrounds, rich and poor, conservative and liberal.

"Every type of people in Egypt can breed the pigeon," he said. "It's a hobby and a very good hobby in Egypt."

Hassan is far from alone in his hobby. He says there are two million Egyptians breeding pigeons and that it gives them an escape from the country's political turmoil. The age-old hobby is a constant despite the revolution, protests and elections of the past year and a half.

If I capture a friend's pigeon, I let it go. If he's a competitor, then I keep it
Ramadan Mohamed

"The pigeon is joined with our culture in Egypt," said Hassan. "It is very important in Egypt."

But it is not all peace and harmony between breeders. Some breeders will capture each other's birds if they fly too close.

Ramadan Mohamed, who lives across town, has an elaborate net for catching pigeons that stray into his patch.

"In the hobby of breeding pigeons, there are friends and foes," said Mohamed. "If I capture a friend's pigeon, I let it go. If he's a competitor, then I keep it."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Where better to start a record-breaking solar powered flight than the desert?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Ahmed Eldin is the 18-year-old behind the prog-rock band's new album cover. Shine on you crazy diamond.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0247 GMT (1047 HKT)
At first glance, the UAE seems ill-suited to ice hockey: the only snow and ice to be found is usually in fabricated form in a shopping mall.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0206 GMT (1006 HKT)
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Does faith have a place on the sports field? One Muslim NFL star believes so.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0302 GMT (1102 HKT)
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
A volatile Middle East has changed the tenor of Ramadan programming in Egypt. Now, no topic is too taboo.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 0253 GMT (1053 HKT)
Dubai has got some big animal attractions in its mega malls. But not everyone is wild about the idea.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 0314 GMT (1114 HKT)
Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel Prize-winning author, is neither afraid to confront the human condition nor the state his country is in.
ADVERTISEMENT