Algeria’s Minister for Culture and the Arts, Malika Bendouda, has drawn irk across the North African country after she suggested that all women should have the skills to prepare couscous, a traditional dish in the country and a staple in the Maghreb region.
Alegria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania had presented a joint bid for the dish to be listed on the UNESCO list of world’s intangible cultural heritage. On Wednesday, the UN agency granted the country’s bid.
Speaking at an event celebrating UNESCO’s decision to list the traditional dish as a heritage of humanity, Bendouda had said; “I particularly greet the women, from Numidia, who prepare this dish which is couscous. I salute the girls and women who continue to roll couscous and prepare this dish, this is an important question. I particularly salute the women, especially the new generation who continue to roll couscous.”
She added, “… Couscous is not just a dish. It’s a long story, that of the peoples of the region and their attachment to wheat. Our region was throughout history the main exporter of wheat to the Roman Empire. The women had the ingenuity to transform the wheat, to consume it throughout the year.”
And then concluded, “…Women who are unable to prepare couscous are a threat to our families.”
One angry internet user said Bendouda’s comments are “shameful” and “unacceptable.”
Another female user responded: “I admit here I am not able to prepare couscous. Is that so serious”, and questioned the skills of the minister herself in preparing the famous dish.