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Paris cafés seek UNESCO 'world heritage' status

Maximilien Lamy, AFP | Les Deux Magots café in Paris

A French lobby has launched a campaign for UNESCO to award cultural heritage status to Paris’s bistros and café terraces, pointing to the role they played in bringing people together in the aftermath of the November 13, 2015 terror attacks.

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An association – made up of bistro owners, actors and other private individuals – has been set up to apply for “protected” status and to be put on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.

The dossier will be handed in September to the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for submitting such applications to UNESCO, the organisers said on Thursday.

The association said it wants to raise awareness both in France and abroad of "the role that bistros and café terraces play in bringing people and cultures together, and their role as intellectual and artistic melting pots".

The new association argued that following the attacks on November 13, 2015, "Parisians crowded onto the terraces... to show that they regarded them as places of cultural cross-fertilisation, of freedom and of the art of living."

The atrocities carried out by gunman loyal to the Islamic State group were the worst such attacks in France's history and left the capital and wider country deeply traumatised.

Jihadists armed with assault rifles and suicide vests struck outside a France-Germany football match at the national stadium, cafés and bars, and the Bataclan concert hall in a coordinated assault that left 130 people dead and more than 350 wounded.

The association said that the culture of Paris' world-famous cafés and bistros was increasingly "under threat", not only from soaring rents in the French capital, but also from powerful multi-nationals in the food and drinks sector.

"In a society that is becoming increasingly standardised, there are still places for families that make a real contribution to popular culture," said the association's head, Alain Fontaine, who owns the Masturet bistro, near the city's former stock exchange.

Similar campaigns have recently been started to put both the French baguette and the iconic green "bouquinisites" book stalls that line the river Seine in Paris – and are said to make up the world's largest open-air bookshop – on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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