Cairo's pigeon lovers find escape from political turmoil

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

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.

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

Cairo's pigeon breeders

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    Cairo's pigeon breeders

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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.

"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."

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