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Tunisian harissa listed as intangible heritage of humanity

A shopkeeper shows a plate of Tunisian harissa at the central market of the capital Tunis ...   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Harissa, a national condiment in Tunisia made from peppers, was listed on Thursday by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.

Meeting in Rabat, UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, which above all honours traditions to be safeguarded more than the products themselves, announced that it had included in its list of intangible heritage "harissa, knowledge, know-how and culinary and social practices".

Harissa is cooked from sun-dried chillies, freshly prepared spices and olive oil which preserves it and lessens its spiciness. It is found in almost all restaurant plates in Tunisia and is exported to many countries.

"Used as a condiment, ingredient, or even a dish in its own right, harissa is well known throughout Tunisia where it is consumed and produced, especially in regions that grow peppers”, can we read in the file of candidacy presented by Tunisia?

"It is perceived as an identity element of the national culinary heritage, and a factor of social cohesion”, adds the text. "Prepared and consumed throughout Tunisia, harissa is perceived as a unifying element of an entire country”.

Cultural diplomacy

"As an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of all Tunisian society, harissa is most often prepared by women in a friendly family or local setting, festive in nature, marked by remarkable community support. “, explains the application file.

Adopted in October 2003 and ratified by 180 countries, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage promotes the safeguarding of knowledge and skills necessary for traditional craftsmanship.

A tool of cultural diplomacy, it also rewards "cultural practices transmitted from generation to generation, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events or even knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe. ".

The list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity now has more than 530 inscribed elements, 72 of which require urgent safeguarding.

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