Monday, March 23, 2009

A Short History of Silves Portugal

A town which formerly rivalled Lisbon in prosperity and influence, Silves on the Algarve, Portugal was known as Xelb by the Moors and was their stronghold in the region, having a huge fortress and a population of around 30,000 by the 12th century. Silves was an important trading town with boats arriving via the River Arade and leaving packed with cargoes of citrus fruit, figs and cork, the town was a buzzing community filled with mosques, bazaars and minarets. This all came to an end in 1189, when the town was subjected to a siege by Sancho I together with a band of English crusaders. After holding out for some months, the Moorish occupants finally surrendered due to a lack of water, the town was subsequently sacked and many of its citizens killed. Silves today is a busy town, still important for citrus fruits, figs and cork, but with an emphasis on tourism, its attractive old town, a maze of narrow, cobbled streets dotted with caf├ęs, restaurants and souvenir shops, its castle and a number of its older buildings, survived the 1755 earthquake. Silves Map.