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North African rivals end their beef and unite for couscous

North African countries have in the past clashed over ownership of couscous [AFP]

Date of publication: 1 April, 2019

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Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania have joined hands in a rare show of unity to have couscous named on a UNESCO cultural heritage list.

North Africa rivals Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania have banded together to have couscous - the hearty semolina staple enjoyed by millions in North Africans - added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

In submitting the unified bid, rivals Algeria and Morocco put their differences aside in a rare show of unity between the feuding neighbours.

"It's the first time that four North African countries have come together to file a joint application," Morocco's ambassador to Unesco Zohour Alaoui told her country's MAP news agency enthusiastically.

Tunisia's UNESCO envoy Ghazi Gherairi also hailed the cooperation.

As with the "hummus wars" that have long roiled the Middle East - and West Africa's furious debate over who makes the best jollof rice - couscous is the subject of intense rivalry with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia all claiming to be the home of the dish.

In 2016, Algeria sparked outrage in Morocco after announcing a solo bid to win protected status for couscous.

Last year, traditional Egyptian hand puppetry featured in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, while Syrian shadow play and the knowledge and skills of Algerian water bailiffs were added to the body's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

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