Marvão, the most beautiful medieval town of the northern Alentejo, hosts every first weekend of October the Almossassa (meaning "foundation," in the Arabic language). It is a festival during which the city's white streets are filled with thousand colors, and the Arabic music takes the visitor back in time- back when Marvão was under Muslim control.
Medieval feasts are now very popular everywhere, and many towns have them. However, this one is special. It actually takes place in two cities from two different countries, but not far away from each other: Marvão (Portugal) and Badajoz (Spain). What do they have in common? Well, they were both founded by Ibn Marwan, a rebel from the IXth century. He rose up against the Califa of Córdoba and created his own army. In Badajoz, he built what today is the biggest Arabic castle in the world. In Marvão, he constructed an impregnable fortress. Both places are, to this day, very well preserved. Therefore, this medieval feast could not have a better place to be held. They are celebrated on two weekends in a row.
Let’s focus on the Marvão celebration. If you don’t like crowded places but still feel curious to learn about Almossassa, you’d better go there in the morning. It will be easier for you to park your car -outside Marvão, of course, don’t even try to get inside because it’s closed to the public- and you can walk around its streets. However, there are no spectacles -only shops. On the other hand, if you want to experience the festive ambiance, try going in the evening. Probably you will have to let your car at the bottom of the hill, but no worries; a bus will take you all the way up. That is when the spectacles are held: Arabic dances, medieval live music, theatre in the castle, and much more. Snake enchanters pace the streets up and down, and prey birds are there for you to admire and (if you dare) touch. The square where you can eat looks like it's taken out of a movie: wooden tables and benches supported by bails of hay.
The products that you can find there are similar to the ones you would find in a Moroccan bazar: leather backpacks, dry fruits, henna tattoos, tea haimas. However, no matter where you go, the smell of the excellent food will be chasing you. The food is not very Muslim-like: an Iberian pig will be roasting in the main square and served along with traditional Portuguese food (bread and chouriço baked in the oven) and some old beverages (mead). No worries, you can also find the drinks that have never stopped being popular: beer and wine! Enjoy your medieval meal while listening to live music.
A piece of advice: be sure to book your stay at least one month ahead. This festival is becoming increasingly popular! It is worth a visit both for couples and families: the kids surely will enjoy playing with the wooden arches and swords -some things never go out of fashion!
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