Egyptian Holiday (part 5): A Pair of Pidgeons.

On the drive to Alexandria where SS grew up, I noticed some large white cone structures with holes all over them. Amongst ourselves we discussed what they might be for. The holes might be for air-conditioning was one idea. We asked our guide who told us that they were for farming pigeons – considered a delicacy. My friend SS commented that pigeon was similar to quail.

In Alexandria, SS’s mother, along with her brother, invited us all out to dinner at an amazing restaurant that once was a palace that belonged to King Farouk’s wife. It was an opulent palace, in some ways a museum, with furniture, art and artifacts from the time of his reign. It had photos of King Farouk as a child on the walls. The menus were amazing with photos throughout of King Farouk in various uniforms. I would have like to have kept one of those. The elegance and grandness of the room in which we dined was impressive.

At the beginning of the dinner SS gave us each a gift – a gold cartouche with our name in Hieroglyphics on it. Her Egyptian friend, NR, who had joined our group, gave each of us a souvenir of Egypt. The generosity of our hosts was overwhelming. We were all quieter than usual. We were tired and I was sick with a bad cough and cold. I can’t speak for the others, but I know I was quiet because I felt somewhat overwhelmed by their generosity.

When it came time to order I saw that they had pigeon on the menu. SS had said it was like quail. I had had pheasant before and it was succulent and delicious. I grew up on a farm in southern Manitoba. As a child one of the things I liked to do was climb up the ladder to the roof of the barn and look at the pigeons nesting there. First to see the eggs. Then to see the newly hatch fledglings. Then to see the ugly awkward babies with their feathers growing in. We never ate them.

Even so, I ordered a ‘pair of pigeons’ from the menu. When my meal came and the waiter put it down before me I was shocked. My friend sitting beside me, who shall remain nameless, leaned over and whispered, “It looks like road kill.” My thought (which I kept to myself) “Exactly!” There were two flat leathery blackish brown or brownish black inkblots on the plate. They looked like they had just been scraped of the road on a hot summer day. I felt very awkward. I did not want to offend my generous and gracious hosts. So I started to eat it. I tried to cut it with a knife and fork. No way, it was too tough. Then I picked it up and tried to separate a limb from the body. With effort I was able to do it. Tender it was not! When I went to take a bite of it all I got was some greasy skin. There was little meat that I could detect. It was not like any quail or pheasant I had tasted. I still did not want to offend my hosts so I pushed the pigeons around my plate for a while. I did not go hungry. The portions were generous and my friends shared their meals with me. After the plates were cleared the waiter brought me a fingerbowl of lemon-scent water to wash my fingers. I was relieved because it meant to me that I was expected to use my hands to eat it. The meal ended with some delicious fresh fruit for dessert.

After some more photos in this luxurious palace we said our good-byes to our wonderful hosts and sauntered back to our hotel.

Well, at least I tried it.


Dr. Bea Mackay

P.S. How often in relationships do we try to avoid offending or hurting others?

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