Book Reviews

Book review: The Pigeon Wars of Damascus.


Marius Kociejowski, born in Canada of Polish parentage now lives and writes in London. He is a metaphysical journalist in search of echoes rather than analogies.

He loves Middle Eastern cultures, mindset, and especially Syria, more specifically Damascus. This oldest continuously inhabited city of the world, the capital of Syria, is a microcosm of the Arab world with “street philosophers”, and emotional people who love pigeons. They raise them, selectively breed them to improve innate qualities, race them, and subject them to all kinds of treatments westerners would never dream of i.e cutting their wing muscles to make flying impossible for short periods when it gets cold.
Believe it or not, they eat them too according to reports, pigeons are next to chickens in popularity in Syria.

The Pigeon Wars of Damascus is the “fruit” of the author’s second trip to Syria. After his first trip he penned The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool (Sutton Press), and liked the country so much that he felt compelled to return to study and observe the population longer and in more depth.

The book captures the love of Damascenes for pigeons, and deals with the history of this bird in Islam, how it became “holy” and was used as a quick, natural, and unfailing communication “device” by the Muslim clergy, califs, viziers, and ulema.

The author uses all these as metaphors to the political and social situations in the Middle East in particular Syria.

This book describes Oriental cafes (completely different than those in Europe and North America) their regulars, what they drink and how they consume both tea and alcoholic beverages.

Poets, “street philosophers” (one of them he befriends as his translator), writers are all analysed to bring to the fore the Middle Eastern interpretation of western (mainly American) policies and behaviour towards Arab countries, i.e Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Africa.

The writing is captivating and insightful with “side trips” into the political history of the region.

Damascus, the capital of Syria, is smaller than Aleppo, and inhabited by more than two million cosmopolitan people for the three main regions of the region and possibly of the world.

This is a book to read, think about, discuss with like-minded friends, analyse, and dissect.

Keep it as a reference, maybe even use it to prepare for a visit to Syria and the Middle East, both of which seem to become more and more popular with Europeans.

It contains a lot of useful information and is highly recommended!

13 Comments