Spaces and lifestyles from the Portuguese period in Northern Africa: cities and towns of the “Overseas Gharb” (15th to 17th centuries)



Start  . 2016

Duration . 36 months

Principal InvestigatorJorge Correia (CHAM)


Funding Entity

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

CHAM — Centro de Humanidades

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Universidade do Minho



Laboratório de Paisagens, Património e Território / Universidade do Minho



This project is in the “Overseas Gharb”, a territory strongly influenced by the Portuguese in the southern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, a key region throughout centuries, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean shores, Europe and Africa continents. The Portuguese presence began here with the conquest of Ceuta in 1415, stretching through the 15th century to Ksar Seghir, Asilah and Tangier. This was also the starting point for the Portuguese overseas expansion as a natural extension of the “Reconquista” of the Iberian Peninsula, having a fundamental role in the building of Portuguese history in the Late Medieval and Early Modern times. This panorama has changed in mid-1500s with the withdrawal from two of those strongholds. The end of Portuguese presence came during the middle of 17th century, within the context of the re-establishment of Independence.

In spite of the pioneering works on the subject of Robert Ricard, David Lopes, Magalhães Godinho, Dias Farinha, and others, after a more careful analysis, it is essential to foster a new approach to the Portuguese presence in the so-called “Overseas Algarve”: to look at the territory as source and document for the knowledge of spaces and lifestyles. This project wishes to research and reflect over the urban landscape and tissues, the architectural evidence and the archaeological remains, in order to propose a tentative material and immaterial “cartography” of the four cities involved in this region. Furthermore, several aspects will be considered vis-à-vis this strategy which relates to the central theme proposed: the appropriation of Arab and Muslim cities by a new power, the Portuguese, and creed, the Christian one. 

The project will be developed in a trans-disciplinary methodology crossing knowledge from the historical, archaeological, architectural and natural sciences fields. These three main areas must be understood in a close relation with tools coming from art history, linguistics, chemistry, geology and design ways of observing and interpreting the case studies. This body of interdisciplinary scholarship is designed to review Portuguese cultural heritage current knowledge in northern Morocco.

Hence, a strategy, which will enable the exchange of knowledge and information between Portuguese, Moroccan and Spanish researchers working in this field, has been adopted. It is essential to create a solid comparative base with the coeval Spanish establishments. 




As far as spaces are concerned, this research aims at studying cities’ dimension and shape, urban display, military architecture evolution, public buildings and domesticity levels, as well as the inherent construction technique and systems. On the other hand, lifestyles require a close reflexion regarding the country/city relationship, social metamorphosis and these urban assemblages’ supply and logistics, together with Mediterranean and Atlantic networks. 

Nevertheless, those case studies present asymmetrical working data which will imply a case by case programme assessment. In spite of generally looking to all four cities, Ceuta and Tangier already provide important information. The first has been receiving historical, archaeological or urban studies, which need to be completed and integrated in global perspective. The second one presents a more difficult physical approach to its Portuguese legacy yet beneficiating from some survey records. 

In this sense, Asilah is a well preserved fortified medina with little research and thus potentially constituting raw material for pursuing those objectives. Finally, Ksar Seghir emerges as the key case for the interpretation of the Portuguese/Muslim clash and city appropriation, since it is the only one which has survived as an archaeological field, where all the previous fields of knowledge will merge. The contexts revealed by the American archaeological mission of the late 1970s require a thorough and diversified analysis and interpretation.







Jorge Correia   .   Coordenator

Abdelatif El Boudjay (DRCTT)
Alberto Darias Príncipe (ULL)
Ana Lopes (UMinho)
André Teixeira (CHAM)
António Bravo
António Manuel Clemente Lázaro
Fernando Enrique Villada-Paredes
Frédéric Trément
Gonçalo Correia Lopes (CHAM)
Helena Araújo
Javier Garcia Iñañez (GPAC / UPV)
Joana Bento Torres (CHAM)
Luis Salas Almela (UCO)
Luís Serrão Gil (CHAM)
Maria Augusta Lima Cruz (CHAM)
Patrice Cressier (CNRS)
Rafael Moreira (CHAM)