Mértola was the capital of a Muslim kingdom in the Islamic period and the first seat of the Knights of Santiago.
The period of the Arab occupation which began in the 8th century lasted almost 500 years in the south of Portugal. With this Portugal inhereted farming techniques, harvesting systems and water supply , eating habits , several hundred words, building techniques , decorative tastes , artistic styles , urban environments . Muslims are the archetypes of many of our castles and several Christian churches were rebuilt on primitive mosques . Mértola is Portugal´s most Arab town , the right place to understand this heritage .
As the last river port inside the Guadiana , Mértola was an asset trading center since pre -Roman prestigious municipium during the Roman occupation , the capital of a Muslim kingdom in the Islamic period and the first seat of the Knights of Santiago. People settled here , circled the products of far away places from the ancient Mediterranean world, tradded bread and olive oil, Beja´s clays and ores from Aljustrel and S. Domingos. .
The mosque , later adapted to Christian church , is the only Arab religious space preserved in our country . The Islamic Museum Center , with a valuable collection from 20 years of research , provides us with the best evidence and most educational lesson about the importance and richness of the period of the Arab occupation of southern Portugal .
But not only the mosque and this core , to which are added various other themes around the village , which justify the visit Mértola . What makes it unique is that all its Historical Center is an active field of archeological work . Thanks to the daily efforts of a team of researchers and technicians , we can see live how history unfolds , archaeologists find in the street around their excavations and make contact with potential new discoveries . The way this project turned the impoverished village in to a multi-cultural landmark in Europe and worldwide itineraries makes Mértola experience demonstrative , with a dimension perhaps unique in the country , the role that culture can play in sustainable development a place .