Turkish tea culture is steeped in years of tradition
Turkish tea culture is steeped in years of tradition

3 Unique Food Traditions Make It To UNESCO Living Heritage List

From Ramadan's Iftar to Al-Man’ouché, a breakfast bread from Lebanon - these are the culinary traditions that have been added to UNESCO's intangible heritage list in 2023

At the 20th anniversary of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in Botswana, the Committee, consisting of 24 State members, added 55 new cultural practices to UNESCO's heritage lists. With these additions, UNESCO's living heritage now totals 730 cultural practices from 145 countries.

The Harees of the Middle East - a staple food that carries into cultural storytelling, the tradition of Iftar or Iftari - a community meal culture during the month of Ramadan and Al-Man’ouché, a symbolic culinary practice in Lebanon have been awarded heritage status as cultural traditions that are worth preserving. They were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The list aims to protect cultural traditions, practices and knowledge. The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to safeguard and raise awareness about the "intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned." 

Here are the culinary practices that have been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2023

Harees Practices

Harees, a traditional dish comprising wheat grain, meat, and ghee, holds a significant place in meal routines, commonly enjoyed during breakfast and dinner. Its preparation involves considerable effort in grain processing, often resulting in large batches served in communal dishes. This dish finds prominence at diverse events, especially during Ramadan, social gatherings, weddings, and pilgrimage seasons due to its simplicity in catering to large groups. In the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, Harees intertwines deeply with cultural elements like folklore, sayings, and poetry. Passed down through generations and taught across various platforms, its preparation embodies values of hospitality and generosity. Beyond its culinary significance, Harees serves as a cultural adhesive, fostering connections among individuals and communities, and enriching their shared cultural heritage.

Iftar/Iftari during Ramadan

Iftar is the tradition of community meals after fasting
Iftar is the tradition of community meals after fasting© Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts (IMCHTH), 2022

Iftar, observed by Muslims during Ramadan at sunset, marks the end of fasting each day. It's a time for prayer followed by activities like storytelling, music, and preparing traditional meals. These gatherings strengthen family and community bonds, promoting charity and social connections. The Committee awarded the inscription to the socio-cultural value the event brings to communities of Azerbaijan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Türkiye and Uzbekistan. At these communal events, people gather for the familiarity of traditions, sometimes even those not fasting, take part in these ceremonies. Families pass down knowledge through oral tradition at these gatherings.

Al-Man’ouché of Lebanon

A breakfast dish signifying family bonds
A breakfast dish signifying family bondsPexels

Al-Man’ouché, a traditional Lebanese breakfast, is a flatbread enjoyed by everyone, made at home or in specialized bakeries. The dough is pressed and topped with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and olive oil before being cooked. Additional toppings like soft cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and mint can be added. Women often make it at home, while in small bakeries, both men and women or family members collectively prepare it. Prayers are said while preparing the dough, and the process is often passed down within families. Gender-based tasks are common in family participation. The aroma of al-Man’ouché, also called Manakesh in some places, is nostalgic, recalling traditional morning gatherings that foster social connections. The bread is the actual earner of many families here.

More Such Interesting Traditions in The World

Tea culture in Türkiye and Azerbaijan

Turkish tea culture is steeped in years of tradition
Turkish tea culture is steeped in years of traditionShutterstock

The culture of tea practised in Türkiye and Azerbaijan was recognised by UNESCO as a symbol of "identity, hospitality and social interaction" in 2022. In Turkey, tea is prepared in small samovars and served in small, tulip-shaped glasses. In Azerbaijan, people sometimes add spices and herbs to the tea, such as cinnamon, ginger and thyme. 

Tunisia's Spicy Harissa

A Tunisian woman preparing hot red pepper to make Harissa
A Tunisian woman preparing hot red pepper to make HarissaWikimedia Commons

A paste made with sun-dried hot peppers, fresh spices and olive oil, harissa can be found across Tunisia. The country's application for the status notes that harissa is "an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society". It is used as a condiment, an ingredient and even as a dish in its own right and usually prepared in a family or community setting.

Serbia's Plum Brandy

Serbian plum brandy sljivovica (pronounced SHLI’-vuh-vitsah)
Serbian plum brandy sljivovica (pronounced SHLI’-vuh-vitsah)Wikimedia Commons

Come September, you will come across the aroma of fermented fruits in villages in Serbia as cauldrons produce the magic potion - plum brandy or sljivovica, as it is known. This traditional plum brandy was added to the list of intangible cultural heritage as "a cherished tradition to be preserved by humanity."

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