While the inclusion of couscous on the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO, is the result of an agreement between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia, the current Moroccan Minister of Culture, Mehdi Bensaid tries to revive the differences around the paternity of this ancestral dish.
Mehdi Bensaid aims to endow the ancestral dish with a Moroccan label. In a recent statement to 2M, he indicated that “the idea is to create a ‘Morocco label’ to end the debate on whether the couscous is Moroccan or Tunisian”, without citing Algeria, with whom the kingdom disputed the paternity of this ancestral dish.
According to the minister, it is a question of defining “what goes into Moroccan heritage” in order, then, “to interact with international institutions including UNESCO in order to obtain international recognition of Moroccan heritage and Moroccan history”. “We asked the director [of the heritage inventory and documentation division at the Moroccan Ministry of Culture] that a list of all the components of Moroccan heritage be drawn up,” he explained.
But this ambition of the minister is viewed with a dim view. “It’s populism. The direction which is supposed to prepare its label file [the heritage inventory and documentation division] is the same one which had prepared between 2018 and 2019 the Moroccan file for the joint application with Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania, ”a source who was involved in the preparation of Morocco’s case told Middle East Eye.
As a reminder, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia had submitted a joint application file “Knowledge, know-how and practices related to the production and consumption of couscous” to include couscous in the intangible heritage of the country. UNESCO. In December 2020, the case was successful, and this ancestral dish became part of the intangible heritage of the UN organization. “It is a strong sign of cultural recognition and it is also a real diplomatic success, on a subject so important and so symbolic for the peoples of this whole region, and far beyond. This consensus shows that cultural heritage can be both personal and exceptional, and transcend borders, ”said Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.