Geographical Doppelgänger 

Portugal hardly ever seems in the news. I never gave the little country next to Spain much thought. Recently, however, a writer friend of mine and his wife first told me about Algarve, a largely undiscovered coastal region of Portugal.

I haven’t seen refugees from North Africa or the Middle East yet. However, I guess you could say my British friends – born and bred “white Kenyans” – are refugees sorts. They’ve fled Kenya’s current violence and uncertain future to establish roots in Portugal’s peaceful pastures.

Along the coastline sand dunes harbor fishing villages. Clusters of simple white-washed buildings with over-lapping terraces resemble heaps of sugar cubes. One town, has earned the nicknamed the  “The Cubist town”. The odd thing is some of these villages resemble those along the Kenya coast – especially Lamu – but not a mosque in sight.

As a colonists the Portuguese were all over the place. They famously plundered most of East Africa in the 15th century.

The Atlantic sea divides Portugal from North Africa – just 700 miles between Portugal’s capital of Lisbon and Tangier in Morocco, roughly the distance between New York City and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Romans occupied Portugal followed by the “Arabic occupation” between the 8th and 13th centuries.

The “Christian Conquest” fixed all that a few centuries later, a crusade not unlike how onward Christian soldiers today appear to be “correcting” parts of Africa endowed with oil and minerals that happen to be Islamic. Churches were built where mosques once stood.

Local travel guides – propaganda lite – strenuously emphasize that while some buildings have a Moorish influence the style had nothing to do with the “Arabic occupation”. Rather it was consequence of more recent “migratory contacts” with territories in North Africa.  

Olhao, Algarve region, Portugal

Real gypsies!

 

Categories: Images, PassportTags: , , ,

Margot Kiser | Conflict in Context

I am a Kenya-based American correspondent, focusing on conflict in East Africa. I have contributed to Newsweek, Al Jazeera, The Daily Beast, among others.

Follow me on Twitter: @margotkiser1

Best long read ByLiner 2011 for my Newsweek feature, 'Pirates in Paradise' http://byliner.com/margot-kiser/stories
http://www.newsweek.com/authors/margot-kiser

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