The event, free to enter, is organised by Mértola municipality with the goal of divulging “Mértola’s history and patrimony, particularly from the Islamic period,” in which it was known as Martulah.

“In tandem with the cultural dimension, the festival also affirms our commitment to promote the values of peace, tolerance, humanism and citizenship to all,” the mayor, Mário Tomé, reinforced to Lusa.

According to the Alentejo politician, “it’s the genuine, original, cosmopolitan, intercultural, communitarian and humanist character of the Islamic Festival that has made the event a success.”

For that reason, Mário Tomé continued, “an edition with a lot of participation from the public, and from invited promoters, local businesses, artists and entities” is expected.

The elected representative also highlighted that, for Mértola, the Islamic Festival “is the biggest opportunity to communicate as a territory with culture and heritage, to attract tourists, to generate economic wealth and to grow new partnerships.”

He added that “This festival integrates a strategy for the development of a ‘muslim friendly’ cultural touristic offer, a niche in the market in growth and with a great potential for returns.”

The 12th edition of the Mértola Islamic Festival starts off Thursday and carries on into Sunday, with the big “highlight” being the traditional ‘souk’, an Arabic market that will “fill” the streets of the historic centre of town with the Maghreb’s scents and tastes.

The festival will close with a show scheduled for 7pm on Sunday, gathering on stage the groups Gnawa Trans, Coral Guadiana de Mértola, Coral da Mina de São Domingos, the Orquestra Tocá Rufar, the Rancho de Cantadores de Aldeia Nova de São Bento, and musician Tozé Bexiga.

The Mértola Islamic Fair’s programme also includes workshops in chordophone making, dance, Arabic language and script, basket-weaving, Alentejo singing, halal gastronomy and Moroccan cuisine, among others.