Background- International Food Fair

Alexandria no longer reflects the cosmopolitan city it once was, nor does its cuisine. Although there remains a cosmopolitan spirit, various political and economic factors have caused the city to look within instead of embracing the diversity the Mediterranean region represents, meaning Alexandria’s once rich gastronomy has become hidden. Many of the foreign communities that once defined cosmopolitanism have emigrated, leaving very little in which to gauge the achievements of multiculturalism. The city once boasted a rich array of gastronomical influences, incorporating elements from, among others, French, Italian, Lebanese and Greek cuisine in addition to its own unique Alexandrian flavor. Using food as the vehicle for introducing the diverse and vibrant cultures of the Mediterranean, this project will encourage Alexandrians and Mediterranean communities to initiate dialogue between each other based around a theme of cuisine whilst being able to see and read about the history of each other’s food as well as being given the opportunity to directly contribute to the project.

The Project

The Alexandria Mediterranean Research Center (AlexMed) was awarded a grant covering 80% of the cost of the project from the EC Delegation to Egypt under the local cultural activities programme for its proposal, Gastronomy in Alexandria: a cosmopolitan flavor in the Mediterranean.
The project’s duration is twelve months and has five primary objectives:

The project will incorporate three activities:

A two-day open air food fair in the gardens of the Villa Antoniadis. This event will aim to encourage all factions of the Alexandrian community, from all ages and backgrounds, to come and present their cuisine and share and exchange their dishes, ingredients and recipes with fellow Alexandrians and restaurants. The event will be open air but a ‘food court’ will be hosted in a large tent on the first day, where the food stalls will be set-up and where visitors and cooks can wander, sampling the many dishes that will be categorized into nationalities. The event will also feature various entertainment including live bands, cooking demonstrations and a photographic exhibition of Alexandrian produce and individuals. The second day of the event will focus on cooking competitions for both the community and professional organizations.

A cook book exploring the varying communities of Alexandria through their cuisine. Through interviewing representatives from each community, the book will document and display the traditional recipes and etiquette from the kitchens and dining rooms of Alexandrian communities including Italian, Spanish, French, Lebanese, and Greek etc. The recipes will be combined with the history of the individual and community therefore creating a publication, not only concerned with food, but with the social history of the city. Individual stories, their relationship with food and their homeland, gastronomic influences will be incorporated in order to produce a very colorful cook book allowing the reader to learn about Mediterranean gastronomy as well as the numerous communities living and working side by side. In addition to the book, the information gathered will be displayed on a website which will also contain a discussion board. This will allow the information to reach a wider audience, enabling people outside Egypt to experience and learn about Alexandria’ gastronomy and shared culture whilst contributing themselves.

1001 Actions For Dialogue

The food fair is registered as an action in the Anna Lindh Foundation’s 1001 Actions for Dialogue. Under the general framework of the EU European Year of Intercultural dialogue 2008, the ‘1001 Actions’ is a major campaign initiated by the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation and its network of over one thousand civil society organizations, for the mobilization of people and actions dedicated to the promotion of mutual knowledge and respect in the region.
The campaign runs throughout 2008, which has been designated the Euro-Mediterranean Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and aims to promote the role of intercultural dialogue to:

We believe that we can promote our values and key messages through our action. Throughout the twelve months actions for dialogue will take place across the Euro-Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal to Lebanon and Turkey, from Latvia and Poland to Greece and Egypt. Actions will be diverse in terms of size and thematic but will all focus on promoting knowledge of the other. The key event of the campaign will be the Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue Night on 22 May 2008. The event, which will be held in synchronization in thirty-seven countries, will be an opportunity for people of the Euro-Med region to unite in one common voice for dialogue. European Year 1001actions