The Tunisian harissa has been included in the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity by Unesco. A dish that is much more than a simple pepper paste...
Sun-dried peppers, then ground with fresh spices — cumin, coriander, caraway or even dried tomatoes — and olive oil… The secret of preparing Tunisian harissa is undoubtedly what makes it so particular. And what marked the members of the UNESCO committee responsible, in Rabat, Morocco, for choosing the newcomers to the list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity of the international organization.
New listing on the List of #Intangible heritage : Harissa, knowledge, know-how and culinary and social practices.
Congratulations to the #Tunisia 🇹🇳!
- UNESCO in French (@UNESCO_fr) December 1, 2022
Impossible, for Tunisians, not to have a pot or a tube of harissa in the kitchen. We find this ingredient in most dishes, but not only. "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 in particular in regions that grow peppers", indicates Tunisia in its file addressed to the Unesco, adding that the harissa "is perceived as an identity element of the national culinary heritage, and a factor of social cohesion", but also "a unifying element of an entire country".
Tunisia wanted to highlight the role of Tunisian women. "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. », Indicates the Tunisian application file.
Algerian raï at the party
The origin of harissa still remains tinged with mystery. The chilli paste would be of Tunisian origin, even if some attribute it to Andalusia. Be that as it may, it was in the XNUMXth century that it made its appearance. Since then, she has traveled through North Africa but also to Israel, where Tunisian Jews arrived with the recipe in their luggage.
Harissa is therefore more than a food. It is, according to the members of the committee, a tool for social cohesion. Unesco has indicated that it has added to its list of intangible heritage "harissa, knowledge, know-how and culinary and social practices".
In 2020, Tunisia had jointly requested the inclusion of couscous in the list with Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco. This year, besides harissa, Algerian raï, as a tradition, also joins the list. “It's living heritage. The big difference between this list of intangible heritage and the list of world (tangible) heritage is that here it is communities who are represented and who are the protagonists of this safeguard,” Ernesto Ottone told AFP. Deputy Director General for Culture of Unesco.