The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mecca-Cola vs Uncle Sam

Dakar, April 16 (Reuters): Sarr Elyse took a sip from a plastic cup. Like a practised wine taster, she swilled the dark liquid around in her mouth then swallowed.

“I love Coca-Cola and this is not Coca-Cola,” she said with a slight grimace.

It certainly wasn’t and that’s the point of Mecca-Cola — a soft drink named after Islam’s holiest shrine and created to protest against US foreign policy in West Asia.

Senegal is one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to put Mecca-Cola on the market, and it’s an obvious choice.

The population is 95 per cent Muslim and opposition to the war in Iraq has been more vocal here than elsewhere in the region. Thousands took to the streets to protest against the fighting in Iraq and now Mecca-Cola, which has sales of about five million bottles in Europe, will give thirsty Senegalese a thought-provoking, alternative thirst slaker to the US brand.

“Being a Muslim, I was attracted by the name Mecca-Cola,” said Hassane Brahim Fardoun, the businessman behind the drink’s distribution in Senegal. “I will do my best to penetrate the Senegalese market with this new product.”

The first six-packs of Mecca-Cola were delivered to two shops in Senegal’s capital Dakar the same week US troops stormed Baghdad. More will follow if it sells well.

At first glance, the 1.5-litre Mecca-Cola bottles look just like Coca-Cola. But closer study shows a green mosque, Arabic writing on one side and the sales pitch in French and Arabic: “No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment.”

Fardoun’s son Ibrahim frenetically supervises the first deliveries in a noisy, narrow Dakar street. He says the advertising campaign has not yet started because posters have not arrived from France.

Elyse is one of the first to taste the new beverage at a tiny shop in the city centre.

Unfortunately for Fardoun, she is Catholic, and a little reticent about whole-heartedly backing the political viewpoints behind Mecca-Cola’s existence.

“Why not Roma-Cola'” she said, sounding a little miffed.

Mecca-Cola has already found fans in Africa, as well as in Europe. The cola with a crusade is the brainchild of French businessman Tawfik Mathlouthi, who launched the drink last November in France.

Mathlouthi says 10 per cent of the profits will go to help Palestinian children and another 10 per cent to European charities.

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