We were in Beja, which was new to us, staying in the wonderful Pousada Sao Francisco there, and set off to explore the surrounding areas as well. It was an easy and attractive drive to Moura, another of those sites in Portugal which has been inhabited for thousands of years. Most ‘recently’ this was an Arab town, retaken by the Portuguese in the 13C.
We parked in a very busy town and walked into the centre, down a tree-lined street of elegant houses.
The Arabs started building today’s Castle in the 11C-12C and ongoing excavations show remains of the early buildings inside the walls.
There is a church inside the walls of the castle, the former Convent of the Dominicans, which started building in 1562. The Convent is now in ruins and yet again the church was locked when we visited!
From the Castle you look down on the Convent of the Carmelites (originally called the Monastery of Santa Maria). This was the first Carmelite convent founded in Portugal, indeed on the Iberian Peninsula, in 1251.
The Church of St John the Baptist, the parish church, was built in the 16C and the interior is beautifully tiled, with an impressive marble pulpit.
The Garden of Dr Santiago is next to the Church and alongside the castle. The park dates from the 1800s and provides views over the countryside, and shade.
The Arab Quarter, the Mouraria, is apparently one of the best-preserved in Portugal – if you know Portugal well would you agree? I would have thought there are areas like this in towns in the Algarve… It is an attractive area, under the Castle walls and good for a wander. There is a little museum but you have to time your visit to match opening hours.
The main street, empty over lunchtime, led back to the car.
This was only a brief walk around some of the town but I am sure the town, and the surrounding countryside, would repay a longer return visit.