The pleasantly provincial town of MOURA, 50km south of Monsaraz, is a surprisingly opulent place full of grand mansions, pretty squares and pedestrianized shopping streets. It’s also the closest town to the controversial Alqueva dam. The Moors occupied the town from the eighth century until 1232 – an Arabic well still survives in the old town – and Moura is named after a Moorish maiden, Moura Saluquia, who ostensibly threw herself from the castle tower in despair when Christians murdered her betrothed and overran the town. The discovery of naturally carbonated thermal springs in the late nineteenth century prompted Moura’s eventual prosperity; the spa water still dribbles from the Fonte das Três Bicas (Fountain of Three Spouts), but the spa no longer operates. Nevertheless, the adjacent Jardim Doutor Santiago gardens make a pleasant place to stroll, with lots of shady trees. West of here rises the Manueline Igreja de São João Baptista, with the entrance to the castle beyond, just past the large market building.

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