At sunset in towns all across Jordan, you’ll see small, tight flocks of pigeons wheeling overhead. Pigeon-fancying is surprisingly popular, and has taken on something of a shady image, since the point of it is not to race the birds, but rather to kidnap prize specimens from other people’s flocks. In every neighbourhood, as the sun goes down, people emerge onto the flat rooftops and open up their ramshackle pigeon coops, sometimes twirling a lure on a length of rope to keep the flock dipping and swooping, sometimes holding a female bird up so that the males will circle around. Neighbours will often deliberately exercise their flocks at the same time, to try and persuade each other’s birds to defect; similarly, some well-trained flocks can be enticed to fly off to another part of town to bring back new individuals. Newspapers report that enthusiasts gain three or four new birds a week, yet lose roughly the same number. Many fanciers keep their identities secret, since – for obvious reasons – they’re popularly seen as being not entirely trustworthy.

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