Unesco has released its Intangible Cultural Heritage List for 2023, and it features many traditions from the Middle East. Through these inclusions, the organization aims to promote not only the significance of the traditions but also their preservation via the ‘In Need of Urgent Safeguarding’ category. Read on to learn more about some of the cultural practices that have been added to the list.
From the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, the popular dish of harees made with wheat grain, meat, and ghee has been added to the list. “In the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia, Harees is present in many social and cultural elements such as folk stories, sayings and poetry,” reads the Unesco description. “The related skills and knowledge are passed on from mothers to daughters, in educational institutes, restaurants and hotels, and through the media and official institutions. Preparing and serving harees is viewed as a sign of hospitality and generosity. A means of promoting social connection, the practice strengthens bonds between people and communities while enhancing cultural affinity in the societies concerned.”
Dabke, “a popular group dance in Palestine that is accompanied by traditional wind instruments and popular singing,” has been added to the Humanity category of the list. “Most Palestinians know the dabke dance and practice it as a means of sharing their joy with family, friends and neighbors,” says Unesco. “The lyrics of the accompanying folk songs are in local dialects and express emotions related to the occasion, such as courage, strength, and love.”
Traditional Syrian glassblowing
In the ‘Need of Urgent Safeguarding’ category, Unesco describes traditional glassblowing in Damascus, Syria as an “artisanal craft of creating glass objects using pieces of waste glass.” The description also reads: “In the past, the practice remained within specific families, with the father passing on the secrets of the craft to his children. Today, the related knowledge and skills are passed down informally through hands-on practice and instruction in workshops. A source of livelihood for artisans, Damascene glassblowing contributes to a sense of continuity and belonging. It is also associated with social, spiritual, and historical spaces and with the practices that take place therein.”
Another culinary tradition from the region on the list is the man’ouche flatbread from Lebanon. Unesco describes it as a “quintessential Lebanese breakfast prepared in homes and specialized bakeries, and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds.” It adds: “The techniques of preparing Man’ouché and its toppings are usually transmitted informally from parents to children.”