Though predominantly Arab and Muslim, Tunisia's long history as a European colony, dating back to Roman times, and more recently as a protectorate of France, has added to the Mediterranean and North African culinary influences found in Tunisian cuisine.
The proliferation of religious activities from one corner of the city to another is the pride of the people of Kairouan but in no way prevents them from enjoying life... If Kairouan experienced the first dawn of Islam and welcomed those who had been close to the Prophet; and if tradition says that it is the only place where, when visited seven times, one can fulfill the rite of pilgrimage to Mecca, all this has not turned the heads of the people of Kairouan. One only has to witness the joyous occasion of Mouled, the Prophet's birthday. From everywhere, distant cities and even neighboring countries, pilgrims come to participate in the light-hearted celebration. Kairouan decks itself out in carpets and garlands, the souks are brightly lit both day and night to welcome the endless streams of promenaders, strolling in happy procession.
Mouled is also a gourmet's treat. In addition to the makroudh (small cakes made of a hard wheat paste stuffed with dates and soaked in honey) that are a year-long speciality of Kairouan, the Kairouan women excel in the preparation of Assida, a sweet dish which everyone eats the morning of Mouled to mark the beginning of festivities. This traditional dish can be prepared in two ways: the simple and popular assida is a kind of pudding made of fine semolina or flour, sprinkled with oil or butter and honey. The more refined version, probably introduced by the Turks, is a pudding made of crushed pine seeds, topped with a thick layer of white cream and decorated with hazel-nuts, pine seeds, pistachios and crushed almonds.
Mouled, as well as other Moslem religious feasts, fall according to the lunar months and vary in relation to the Gregorian Calendar.
Information provided by the Tunisia National Tourist Office.
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This page modified January 2007
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