You can’t help but notice just how many homes and commercial buildings across the Algarve are topped with ornate chimneys, whether working or not. These chimneys are a unique feature of the Algarve’s culture that have been brought forward from it’s Moorish past into modern times.
When Spain and the Algarve were conquered by Muslims over a thousand years ago many new technologies and plants were brought to the region. Castles were built to defend against invaders of all sorts, whether marauding Vikings or Crusaders en route to the Holy Land to save Christianity from Islam. Housing and public buildings were built in a style more familiar to North Africa. Citrus trees, almonds and other plants were introduced to the area. And ornate chimneys topped homes.
The Algarve still retains citrus trees, ancient castles, almond trees and the beloved Moorish chimneys. You can see examples that are very old as well as those that are clearly right out of a modern factory. Some are rustic with layers of old paint. Others are pristine white highlighted by blues, yellows and occasionally reds to match house trims.
Some chimneys are topped by wind vanes, cockerels or other ornamentation. I’ve found that as you travel east of Albufeira you are more likely to find chimneys topped with cockerels and other devices. However fancy or humble, it is always fun to drive around seeking out the most ornate chimneys around, to discover which house owners spend most time matching their chimney to the paint job and overall design of their home.
The anthropologist and psychologist in me thinking about what a great research study it would be to map choice of chimney to a person’s beliefs and commitment to a traditional or more modern lifestyle. For me, so often the really fascinating things about travel are the small distinctions that the locals take so much for granted but that we newcomers see as unique, distinct, idiosyncratic, playful and downright quirky. Here’s to the joy of quirkiness. The Algarveans do it well in so many ways, most publicly with their Moorish chimneys.