The Moroccan Ministry of Culture has lodged “a complaint” with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after Algeria used a photo of a Moroccan kaftan in its candidacy to include the “Gandoura” and “M’lehfa” (traditional Algerian long tunics) on the list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The Moroccan Ministry contacted the UNESCO representation in Rabat to take the necessary steps in the complaint procedure before the UNESCO evaluation committee (which will study the Algerian candidacy in 2024), a source from the Moroccan Ministry of Culture explained to EFE.
The same source indicated that Morocco’s protest is related to one of the photos presented by the Algerian side in its candidacy, which depicts a black velvet caftan (long tunic) with gold-coloured floral embroidery, similar to the well-known “N’taa caftan”, a traditional garment typical of Fez (central Morocco).
“We will go all the way (with the claim),” said the source, who recalled that Morocco submitted a month ago its candidacy to register the kaftan on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage, which will be examined in 2025.
In Morocco, the kaftan is considered to be the gala dress par excellence, and is worn by women at various social, family and religious events and festivities. Moroccan dressmakers and designers have also been adapting this traditional garment to the latest fashion trends.
Recently, the garment was the subject of a controversy on social networks between influencers and artists from both countries over the paternity of the garment.
Moroccan sociologist Somaya Naamane Guessous lamented in a recent article published on the le360 portal the exchange of insults between Moroccan and Algerian internet users over this controversy while defending the kaftan’s Moroccan origin.
“The kaftan appeared in Morocco in the 12th century with the Almohads. According to other sources, it was in the 13th century with the Merinids. It has no link with the Ottoman kaftan. Here, it is worn by women. For the Turks, who colonised Algeria for more than three centuries (1515-1830), it is a man’s garment,” she explained.