Jenn and I met up with Laurie in San Vito lo Capo, Sicily just in time for the 14th
annual Couscous Festival. For this 6 day festival, the town streets were flooded with people from all over the Mediterranean visiting tents that showcased wines, cheeses, olives and specialties from various countries throughout the region. There were street vendors set up selling knock off handbags, jewelry, and clothes of all sorts and men called “marquinos” trying to sell their random goods as they walked from person to person. The streets were also filled with live muscisians. In the Piazza, in front of the church, a large stage was set up where comedians, musicians and talk shows took place throughout the evenings.
This particular year the theme for the Couscous Festival was Peace. Couscous is a staple food in cultures throughout the Mediterranean. Each year the festival brings people together that share different backgrounds and cultures to celebrate a common dish, couscous. Couscous in a way symbolizes the innate human spirit and the various ways it is prepared represent the diversity and differences that exist through cultures, not only throughout the Mediterranean, but also throughout the world. The president of the
Sicily region summed this idea up best then he said, “The humble dish of couscous, with its Maghreb origins, has become a symbol of unity among peoples and a common ground for different races, cultures, and religions.”
The first few nights the Café Le Cous Cous hosted guests for a series of debates, including, Vladimir Luxuria, a famous transgender woman with a frank and courageous spirit.
During this festival 9 countries came together to compete in the international Couscous Competition. There were tents set up all throughout the beach town of San Vito lo Capo serving bowls of the various entries from around the Mediterranean. For 10 Euros you could get a large bowl of couscous of your choice, a glass of wine and a crème. I had the chance to try numerous kinds and all had their own unique spin. The Couscous from Senegal was lush with rich sauces, vegetables and beef. It reminded me of a very moist and delectable pot roast. The Couscous from Morocco was by far a favorite; it had a sweet creamy taste and was full of chickpeas, duck, and topped with some sort of dried sweet fruit.
Though not many people spoke English, it was relatively easy to maneuver our way though the streets, order food, and chat with people in the crowds.
One night we were invited to the Casa Del Couse Cous Del Maghreb E Del Biologico which was a tent where were guests had to specifically be invited to attend by the mayor. Here we were able to try many different types of couscous, spiagia (an Italian style doughnut), prickly pears, and all of the wine and champagne we could drink. We sat under tents decorated in deep colorful fabrics of gold and maroon that draped along the backdrop of the tents which all opened to face the to sea. There were candles and floor lamps casting shadows over the carpets on the floor and faces of the guests. We sat on cushions and with pillows, and listened to the festive music while belly dancers performed in blissful vigor.
After dinner that same night, we tried to get into the hookah lounge that was set up on the beach, but it was packed and the waiting line went around the boardwalk. We opted to walk along to dark
seashore and enjoy the calm, warm evening.
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