These dovecotes, which resemble lookout towers, are imitations of the rocky cliff faces that were home to wild pigeons before they were domesticated five thousand years ago. Initially raised for food, the pigeons came to be used as message carriers, on account of their determination to return to their home dovecotes. This talent was exploited not only by the Egyptians, but also by the Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Chinese. As late as the Second World War, 16,500 English pigeons were parachuted into France to bring back intelligence. The magnetic sensors the birds carry in their tissue helps them, much like a compass, to know their exact geographical position. Supplanted in our own time by telegraph, telephone, and satellite, pigeons are no longer used for communications. But there is still no shortage of pigeon fanciers–especially in Egypt, where the national dish is suffed pigeon.
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