From the top of the castle, one can enjoy the view over the Mouraria. It extends by three streets, an alley and a square in the central zone, where the number 11 in its interior can be seen a well nozzle of century XIV. It is a rare material vestige of the Islamic past around which the small nucleus of the museum of Moura dedicated to that period is organized.

It was precisely from the Islamic castle, that came the first occupants of the mouraria, expelled following the reconquest of the city,  in 1232. Reinstated shortly afterwards in the southwestern outskirts of the fortification, the Moors now under Christian rule (Moorish or Moorish linings ) will enjoy relative protection for almost two centuries, conferred by the legal system of the charter of D. Dinis, 1296.

With a population of scarce hundreds of inhabitants, the commune will live long time closed on itself, confined to a kind of ghetto. Men are obliged to wear ales and robes and  wear a crescent to the chest, to distinguish themselves from Christians. They are responsible for the self-sufficiency of the commune. They are mainly craftsmen: they mold or weave mats, rugs, blankets, copper, iron, filigree and pottery. There are still cobblers, barbers, butchers, bakers. If the man is the lord of the street, the modest space of the house is the world of the woman, who only leaves during his or her furtive and circumscribed journeys to the cemetery, the public baths or the mosque, to the Friday prayer. Within the commune cohabit its main protagonists, the mayor (al-qaid), the maximum authority of the commune; the imam (al-imam), the religious chief; the almotacé (al-muthasib), the market inspector.

This order, however, had the days counted by the edict of forced expulsion or conversion signed by D. Manuel I in 1496. The converts who remain in the commune will see the transformation of the mouraria into a Christian quarter. In the middle of the seventeenth century, the construction of the new walls determines its partial demolition with important impacts in the neighborhood.

We know, for example, that the dwellings that endured have little to do with the traditional typology of the Islamic house, organized around a courtyard. We also note that the neighborhood has seen its last artisans disappear not yet two decades ago and has slowly transformed into a living space.

Despite the changes, much of the memory is still alive:  the lime of the mud walls, the chimneys sometimes cover the entire façade, the narrow and irregular streets, the backyards with wells and plants of oriental origin (orange trees, lemon trees, fig trees, pomegranates and nesper trees), the Zélia grocery store , where there is no shortage of customers, the Alentejo choir that sounds from the Liberato’s tavern, the taverns and the barbers with exclusively male clientele, idle and chattering men who play the air of disinclination who only lifts a finger if it is to drink a glass of wine or a little “poejinho” (alcoholic version of mint tea).

All this constitutes the soul of this special place. Mouraria is a lively and affectionate neighborhood. With people and stories inside. A qasbah, a small labyrinth of streets and emotions where we lose ourselves with pleasure.

Source: Filipe Sousa (ADCMoura – Associação para o Desenvolvimento do Concelho de Moura)