Intangible Cultural Heritage

©UNESCO / Gehanne Abdel-Malek

Safeguarding intangible heritage is the protection of cultural identities and therefore the cultural diversity of humankind.  Intangible Heritage includes but not limited to traditional festivals, oral traditions, oral epics, customs, ways of life, traditional crafts, etc.  It has become one of the priorities of UNESCO in the cultural domain.

The notion of cultural heritage has broadened considerably during the last century.  With UNESCO's remarkable contribution to this expansion, it now includes landscapes, industrial remains, and other various forms with the notion of World Heritage or heritage common to humankind.  This particularly fragile form of heritage, often under threat of extinction, had not until now enjoyed sufficient sustained attention.  

Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage in Egypt

©UNESCO / Gehanne Abdel-Malek

In parallel with the protection and promotion of its world famous monuments, Egypt carries out efforts to protect and promote its extremely rich and endangered intangible heritage.  Egypt has been one of the first signatories of the Convention on the Protection of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  Also, it was one of the first countries to contribute to the List of Intangible Heritage Masterpieces with the inscription of the Sirah Al-Hilaliyya oral epic.  The goal is to preserve its cultural identity and to use this intangible heritage as a driving force for sustainable economic development of local populations. 

Implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Egypt and Safeguarding and developing national capacities has been a main priority.  The activity has until now concentrated on the safeguard and promotion of traditional Egyptian festivals.   The reason behind that is that they include all aspects of intangible heritage from religious, seasonal traditions to dance, oral poetry, music, street puppet theatre, handicrafts and traditional cuisine recipes.

A first recording and mapping of Egyptian traditional festivals has been carried out.  This will benefit researchers, tour operators and the general public in Egypt and in foreign countries.  A database has been constituted and a code of conduct for the preservation and cultural tourism development of these festivals. 

The First “Festival of Traditional Egyptian Festivals” has been held in Emir Taz Palace in Cairo on 5, 6, and 7 March 2009.  It gathered a vast audience, over 700 people for its three day duration.  Egyptian festivals are also to be included in the Network of Traditional Festivals of the Mediterranean (UNESCO Mediterranean Programme).



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