At the top of my travel bucket list is a trip to Portugal. I’ve tried for years to get a layover on our way to Morocco that stops in Lisbon but have been unsuccessful. One of the first trips I plan to take once we’re settled in Marrkech is to this country. Today’s post is a guest post from Katie, a blogger who loves to travel, she believes that wherever she goes, experiencing the culture and learning about the local history makes her adventures even more delightful. You can find her on twitter @delightsomeblog.
Moorish influences can be seen throughout the world – and perhaps nowhere more so than in Portugal. One of our family’s favourite destinations, Portugal is one of Europe’s oldest countries so is steeped in history. Invaded by the Moors in 711, who established a capital at Shelb – now called Silves –Arabic influences can still be seen today. In everything from some of Portugal’s biggest attractions, to the littlest touches, it’s fascinating to spot remnants of this country’s colourful heritage:
It goes without saying that Silves Castle should be first on our list. We’ve whiled away many an overcast day here. The perfect place to explore when the weather isn’t Portugal’s usual wall-to-wall sunshine, Silves Castle was once at the heart of the Algarve’s Moorish capital. Restored in 1835, this imposing structure sits amid pretty cobbled, pedestrianized streets, with stunning views of orange and almond groves stretching as far as the eye can see.
Flor da Laranja
We haven’t visited Morocco yet. So when we do, we may gain a new favourite Moroccan restaurant. But, up until then, this is it. A cosy gem of a place sitting in the tangle of streets which make up the trendy Bairro Alto neighbourhood of Lisbon, it serves up generous portions of home cooked Moroccan food. We usually opt for dolmas followed by delectable lemon chicken and delicious lamb tagine.
Go to any restaurant in Portugal and you’ll usually be offered couvert – a selection of breads and snacks to nibble while you look at the menu. It usually consists of olives, sardine pate and cheese spread, along with marinated carrots. Immersed in olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic and cinnamon, it’s a dish that’s very similar to recipes for Moroccan spiced carrots, which usually have the addition of cumin, paprika and lemon juice.
Wander around the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of Elvas and you’ll spot a plethora of Moorish influences. With its Roman-Moorish castle, white-washed houses, intricate ironwork and Moorish city gates, with their characteristic horseshoe-arched profile, a trip to Elvas is like stepping back in time.
It may have now been turned into a church, but Mértola Mosque’s origins stand out in its striking architecture. Even though the interior has been modified, you can still see the Mihrab, a semicircular niche in the wall, which indicates the direction of Mecca, hence the direction Muslims should face when praying. There are also three horseshoe shaped arches with an alfiz, a typically Islamic decorative feature.
It’s one of Portugal’s most popular package holiday spots so there are plenty of all-inclusive summer deals to be had. It owes its name to the Moors, originally called Baltum by the Romans, the Moors gave it the name Albufeira, Arabic for Castle of the Sea. And, though an earthquake in 1755 destroyed much of the town, there’s still a Moorish feel to parts of central Albufeira, with its narrow streets and mosaic-style tiling. Meandering around Albufeira’s pretty streets and fitting in a spot of shopping before dining in one of its many restaurants makes the perfect day trip. For a special end to our holiday, we often treat ourselves to a meal at the Aldar. Fittingly for a country which is a historical melting pot, the Aldar blends Moroccan and Mediterranean influences. Delicacies such as Tajine Tfaya with chicken, olives and preserved lemons are served up along with panoramic views of the ocean.