New year festival Nevruz, filo pastry and lavash get UN approval

Filo pastry (T-L),the Nevruz festival (B-L) and lavash are now a part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. (FILE Photos)
Filo pastry (T-L),the Nevruz festival (B-L) and lavash are now a part of UNESCO's "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" list. (FILE Photos)

UNESCO is officially adding filo pastry and lavash to the list of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity."

The two delicacies are now on par with French gastronomy by securing a place on the global list of traditions worthy of protection.

Phyllo or filo pastry are paper-thin translucent sheets of pastry commonly used in Middle Eastern and eastern European cuisines.

Meanwhile, lavash, a traditional thin flatbread widely consumed in Armenia, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, was already on the listbut as as an element of Armenian culture only. But with Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan's submission this year, the lavash is now recognized as part of the common heritage of these countries.

This year's additions to the list also include the Mangal Shobhajatra festival in Bangladesh that celebrates the Bengali New Year. Last year, Arabic coffee and the bagpipe culture in Slovakia gained entry.

Staying on the festive theme, the World Heritage Committee also enshrined Nevruz, the new year's celebrations of 12 countries stretching from Turkey to India that fall on the March 21 vernal equinox.

Besides Turkey and India, Iran, Balkan countries and Central Asia also celebrate the arrival of spring with the Nevruz festival. It is called Nowruz in Persian, Novruz in Azerbaijani language and Newroze in the Kurdish language. The word comes from the Persian words meaning "new day," symbolizing the new year.

Cuba's sensual rumba dance and Belgium's thriving beer culture also brought a new exuberance to UNESCO's prestigious list.

The UN body gave the nod to the rumba, which it said evokes "grace, sensuality and joy", while it said "making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage... throughout Belgium," which has more than 1,500 types.

The Cuban delegation to UNESCO talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa dedicated the rumba's selection to longtime leader Fidel Castro, who died on Friday aged 90.

UNESCO said the rumba sprang from poor communities where the dance is an enduring "expression of resistance and self-esteem".

On Tuesday, the UN body also designated Ugandan traditional music, which is dying out partly because it requires materials from endangered species, as intangible heritage "in urgent need of safeguarding".

The list of "intangible" cultural treasures was created in 2008 for traditional events, rituals and social practices, mainly to increase awareness about them, while UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect them.

To be considered, the tradition should be passed down through generations and give those involved a sense of identity

Inclusion on the list confers on the state an obligation to safeguard the tradition. UNESCO also has a separate list of heritage in need of urgent safeguard, for which there were five applicants this year.

UNESCO began compiling a list for cultural and natural world heritage -- physical properties such as Cambodia's Angkor Wat or the Grand Canyon in the United States -- in 1972.

The list now comprises 814 cultural sites, 203 natural ones and 35 with both natural and cultural qualities such as Australia's Uluru National Park, formerly known as Ayer's Rock.

The committee winds up its review of nominations to the Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list on Thursday.

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