The Maltese flattened sourdough bread, best known as the ftira, will be the first local product on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. 

The ftira was one of 42 submissions made by various countries to be added to the list this year, which ranged from camel racing in the United Arab Emirates to sauna culture in Finland. 

It is the first Maltese addition to the UNESCO list, which seeks to recognise and protect items, events and traditions which form part of a culture's heritage. 

In its application, the Culture Ministry highlighted the bread's cultural impact, saying it "fosters a shared identity in Malta, bringing people together in homes and workplaces," and noted that the bread required skilled bakers to shape it by hand. 

‘This is just the beginning of safeguarding the Maltese ftira’

Food historian Noel Buttigieg, who submitted the ftira as a nominee, told Times of Malta that making the list is just the 'prologue'. 

“Our work to ensure that the way ftira is made is safeguarded and the prestige around the bread begins now. It is crucial that the Maltese and Maltese bakers adopt a certain mindset when we produce the ftira, to ensure that the quality remains up to standards.”

He said that by improving the Maltese ftira, the quality of other Maltese bread and food will also improve, as there will be a bigger push for good quality local products.

Buttigieg said that for centuries, the ftira has been an integral part of Malta’s food pattern.

“There have been references throughout history about how important the ftira is in our culture, and we still see this today.”

He said that both tourists and locals see a strong connection between the bread and Maltese culture, and that this is something UNESCO looks out for.

“This sense of identity and culture in such a small object is something which UNESCO take note.”

Now that ftira is on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it is crucial for the Maltese to understand their past, and how that affects the future. “Such an achievement is an important mark for us to take recognition of our past, where were are today and how we can improve our future.”

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