Public Pigeons

Yeni Camii, 24 August 2012
Two friends from Italy were visiting this past week. One of the things they noticed more than anything else was the pigeons. Beside almost every major mosque in Istanbul, one can find men and women selling birdseed. There simply isn't that kind of micro-infrastructure in Italy -- and to the best that I remember, the roosting of pigeons in certain public or well-trafficked areas is quite often discouraged. They asked me why it was that pigeons seemed so well-loved here and I didn't have a good answer. Perhaps because bird droppings are taken by many to be a sign of good luck.

In practice, I can't necessarily vouch that I've found myself particularly blessed by the birds, but it is some small consolation when I have to wipe a smear off my shirt.


Anonymous said…
Belatedly--I've been thinking about bird infrastructures (crow's nests, gull perches, the kuşevleri on Üsküdar's mosques) of late, and this reminded me of something: the general lack of anti-pigeon infrastructure here, particularly the metal bird spikes so common in London and New York. Like the little piles of cat food on sidewalks & stoops, a reminder that this city is oddly compassionate to some of its creatures.
Timur Hammond said…
Absolutely -- and I think this is why my friend was so surprised when she wandered through Istanbul. One of the things that interests me about Eyüp is the way that the bird pen has steadily shifted -- that as the mosque has become more popular and as the meydan in front has become increasingly important as a space for worship, there have been increasing attempts to fence off the space in which birds might be fed. One of the striking things in old photographs of Eyüp Sultan is the number of pigeons in the courtyard -- which in turn reminds me of something I was helping to translate, a book called "To Be a Pigeon in Eyüp Sultan," or something close. But that's a story for another day...

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