Saturday, March 24, 2012

moorish footprints

The stoic fortress atop the highest hill in Mértola was originally a Moorish construction, but its current form is a reconstruction by Christians— the main tower being completed around 1292. The Alentejo region of Portugal has a Moorish history that is still evident in some of the architectural choices by the Southern Portuguese, notably in the whitewashed squarish houses, trimmed in blue. Every two years, the municipality of Mértola celebrates its Moorish history with a festival of theatre, dance, music, art and food, squeezing people from all over the world into the town's tiny streets.

The Museu de Mértola's Islamic Centre boasts a humble yet intriguing collection of Islamic ceramics, which includes many gorgeous bowls with unusual designs— the first one below almost seemed prehistoric, rather than Moorish or Islamic. I've never seen such detailed and linear abstractions of animals in Islamic ceramics. Please forgive the blurriness of the photos— I was having some technical difficulties...

Mértola's main church was originally a 12th century mosque, later converted into a church during the Christian conquest in 1238. The church still has a mihrab, which faces east, toward Mecca.

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