In the Algarve’s legends, the Moorish maidens are either incredibly beautiful or are dangerously seductive princesses, who promise treasures to whoever can free them from the magic spells that bind them.
Centuries of narratives and oral tradition have created countless legends in which these Moorish maidens are depicted as the guardians of treasures hidden in places affected by magic spells: springs, fountains, rivers, caves or castles.
The legend of Mareares in Aljezur Castle, or the one about the Moorish maiden of Salir Castle, both describe the conquering and reconquering of the two castles.
Conversely, the legend of the Moorish maiden of the noria in Rio Seco, Faro, tells of a fine Lusitanian knight who fell hopelessly in love but was unable to break the spell binding his loved one, cast over her by her father after the city was taken by the Christians.
In a land of fishermen and sailors, a common myth tells of the beautiful Floripes, rising up out of the waves and demanding demonstrations of bravery and courage from Olhão’s sailors on nights when the moon was full, if they wanted to be saved.
The Legend of Praia da Rocha tells of a mermaid who flirted with a fisherman, son of the sea, and a farmer, son of the uplands. After numerous reversals of circumstances, the furious uplands sent huge rocks rolling down to the sea which, in turn, raged night and day, throwing itself against the rocks. Unable to decide between the two, the mermaid turned into fine, golden sand, allowing her to receive homage from both of her eternal, giant suitors.
Every year, almond blossom announces the arrival of spring and brings to mind the Nordic princess who was so homesick for snow that her husband, the king, ordered hundreds of almond trees to be planted.
Memories also live on at the promontory of Cape St Vincent, where a temple dedicated to Hercules once stood. From pagan worship to Muslim and then Christian beliefs, the promontory has retained its mysticism.
The legend says that crows accompanied the body of St Vincent from Valencia to the Algarve, standing guard in the dome of the church and then following the body to Lisbon when it was transported there on the orders of Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.
The line between legend and myth is a thin one, and is only recognised by those who recount them, as they journey through the memories of Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and Moors.