Jun 07

Quality Lisbon Busking, II: Lisbon celebrates its Arabic roots

by in What to see

Lisbon was an Arab city before Portugal even existed. The Moors held Al-Isbunah, as they called it, from 711 until D. Afonso Henriques and the crusaders drove them out in late 1147.

And even then their influence remained. From the twisting streets of the Alfama (Arabic: al-hama, for fountain or bath), to the still-standing remains of the old Cerca Moura (Moorish wall), to the lofty minaret-like spires of the Manueline architecture at the Rossio train staion and the Belem tower, Lisbon often tips her hat to her Moorish ancestors. The collection of Islamic art at the Gulbenkian Museum highlights these Arabic influences as well.

Belly Dancing Buskers remind us of Lisbon's Arabic past

Belly Dancing Buskers remind us of Lisbon’s Arabic past

Legend has it that, long ago, poor unmarried women would dance for money in the streets (and then sew the coins onto their dance scarves for safekeeping), until they had earned enough for a dowery. But once they were married, they could only dance for their husbands.

So it seemed fitting when I saw these dancers… Surely some other woman danced these same dances on a Lisbon street, almost 1000 years ago?

Belly dancer – Lisbon’s Arabic roots

Sword dancer – Lisbon’s Arabic roots

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