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Issue 36
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Changing food rituals: An anthropological approach to hospitality in Tunisia
Issue 36

Abdulkarim Barahimi

Tunisian hospitality is based on respect for the guest and on providing the guest with care, protection, food and shelter in accordance with a set of norms and traditions that developed over time. However, hospitality varies by region, social class and lifestyle, and hospitality in rural areas differs from that in the cities.

The rituals and foods associated with hospitality in Tunisia have changed. The variety of dishes offered, including couscous, has also changed.
For example, instead of everyone eating from the same plate, the host will now offer each guest their own plate. Now men and women eat together rather than separately, signifying the end of patriarchal dominance.

Tea used to be the preferred beverage, but now other drinks are also made available. There has been a change in cooking styles; Tunisians now prefer to grill or steam food rather than boiling it.

These changes reflect the changeability of food-related rituals in Tunisian society, and their relationship to historical and societal changes. Despite these changes, people in rural areas of Tunisia still take hospitality very seriously; hospitality is now accorded less importance in the cities.

People place more emphasis on hospitality at celebrations involving large numbers of people, because hospitality is a common practice in Arab and Islamic culture.