Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.40

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Lebanon has nominated Al-Man’ouché, an emblematic culinary practice in Lebanon (No. 02000) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Al-Man’ouché is a flatbread prepared in homes and specialized bakeries, and enjoyed during breakfast by people of all backgrounds in Lebanon. The dough is indented using the fingertips and topped with a mixture of thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, salt and olive oil. Once cooked, a second garnish can be added, such as soft cheese (labne), tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and mint leaves. Al-Man’ouché is prepared by women for domestic consumption and by men, women or all members of the same family in small Man’ouché bakeries. While preparing the dough, the practitioners pray that it will rise, with Muslims reciting the beginning of Fatiha and Christians reciting several prayers and making the sign of the cross before letting the dough rest. The techniques of preparing Man’ouché and its toppings are usually transmitted informally from parents to children. When members of the same family participate in making al-Man’ouché, there is a division of tasks according to gender. The aroma of al-Man’ouché is a strong identifying factor that evokes traditional morning gatherings, or sobhhiyé, key moments of social interaction. The preparation of al-Man’ouché for sale in small bakeries also contributes to local economic development.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The element involves the making of flatbread garnished with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and other garnishes. Bearers and practitioners include the women who prepare the Man’ouché for domestic consumption and men, women or all members of the same family in small Man’ouché bakeries. The preparation of the Man’ouché dough and topping requires knowledge and skills that are generally passed down from generation to generation and among peers. The techniques are learned through observation, participation and imitation. When all the members of the same family participate in making al-Man’ouché, there is a division of family tasks according to gender. The element’s social functions and cultural meanings are mainly connected to morning gatherings that are associated with eating the bread. They take place in homes and bakeries. The culinary practice is part of a traditional breakfast in Lebanon, bringing families and neighbours together and strengthening social bonds while serving as a source of livelihood.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would increase visibility of the element as part of the country’s culinary practices. Nationally, the element would confer a sense of belonging and encourage the adoption of a cultural policy on intangible cultural heritage, providing visibility to the 2003 Convention. Internationally, transmission of the element would be strenghtened and gain visibility. Dialogue among communities in Lebanon and in the diaspora would also be enhanced through inscription. The creativity inherent in the evolving preparation and consumption of the flatbread would be recognized, as would the creativity of the broad range of knowledge and skills associated with the element.

R.3:   The viability of the element is ensured by its repeated practice and local sourcing of ingredients. In response to the threat of ingredient shortages and high prices, the government has been committed to regulating the price of wheat and fighting the use of harmful ingredients such as sawdust. The proposed safeguarding measures include facilitating transmission of knowledge and skills, documentation, research and awareness raising. The nomination file also identifies threats - such as those dealing with over-commercialization, counterfeiting of ingredients, unsustainable ingredient cultivation and decontextualization - and proposes measures to mitigate them. State support in future safeguarding of the element mainly revolves around ensuring the flatbread’s affordability. The communities, groups and individuals concerned were involved in recommending safeguarding measures and have committed to the continued transmission of the element. There is little information provided on the methodology of community involvement in proposing the measures.

R.4:   Al-Man’ouché practitioners and bearers, representatives of social enterprise Souk el-Tayeb and the Bakers Union participated in the preparation of the nomination file. An inventory process was carried out throughout Lebanon by members of local communities. Identified practitioners and bearers of the element helped to prepare the nomination file. They agreed to join a working group led by intangible cultural heritage experts and bringing together community members. The group was tasked with exchanging or clarifying information and with examining the proposals and opinions formulated by the various bearers of the element and the different organizations involved. The handwritten consent letters attached to the file include letters from the Bakers Union and from various bakery owners and practitioners.

R.5:   Since October 2021, Al-Man’ouché is included in the ‘National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The Ministry of Culture and the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO are responsible for this Inventory. Inclusion in the inventory follows four steps: (a) mobilizing and training the involved communities; (b) inventorying; (c) entering collected data in a database, based on community consent; and (d) official inscription in the inventory. The frequency or modalities for updating the inventory and the elements inscribed on the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage have not yet been determined.

  1. Decides to inscribe Al-Man’ouché, an emblematic culinary practice in Lebanon on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Recalls the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding expressions which may suggest claims of ownership.