Warming ties: North Africa unites behind UNESCO couscous bid

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Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia on Friday swallowed their differences and presented a joint bid to secure coveted UN heritage status for couscous, UNESCO announced.

The four countries applied to have the hearty dish added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which showcases the world’s most treasured cultural practices, the Paris-based UN culture agency said.

Doing so required overcoming years of antagonism between neighbors and rivals Algeria and Morocco.

“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.

“Couscous, the catalyst of North African unity,” he tweeted.

The application will be examined at the next meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Colombia’s capital Bogota in December.

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 announced a solo bid to win protected status for the dish – sparking outrage in Morocco.

Last year, it emerged that several countries were cooking up a new, joint bid.

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