Our trail through the sun-baked lanes of Olhão in the Eastern Algarve is coloured by the azulejos which cover many a wall. No two designs are the same, some are crumbling but all are still beautiful. They decorate houses, shops, corners, churches, and surround windows and grates.
In the market, they tell the story of how fishing sustains this town.
Azulejos have old Moorish origins (the word azulejo comes from the ancient Arabic word az-zulayj which means “polished stone”). They were first introduced into Portugal in the 16th century after Manuel I had admired their beauty in Seville and Granada.
Initially they consisted solely of geometric patterns (the Islamic law of the Moors preventing the portrayal of the human form). Gradually, the Portuguese adopted the artwork as their own and began to show stories through the tiles. It’s still a very popular way to tell a tale.