Monday, January 30, 2023

A Gateway to the Slave Market- Lagos


The streets of Lagos decorated for Christmas
Perched at the mouth of the Bensafrim River along the Atlantic Ocean lies the pretty town of Lagos in the Algarve region of Portugal. It is an ancient maritime town with more than 2000 years of history. The city was colonized by the Romans, Byzantines, and Moors at different periods of history. The place is also associated with one of the greatest voyages Christopher Columbus, Magellan, Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama set sail under the stewardship of Henry the Navigator to discover the different parts of the world such as America, The Cape of Good Hope and India. On a sunny day in December, closer to Christmas, we set off from Faro for a 90 km drive to this little town, The scenic lush green orchards of Oranges were overflowing with fruit on either side of the highway. In less than two hours we landed in the quaint silent town which was decked up for Christmas with buntings, and hundreds of small illuminating lights shimmering from the small houses and shops.

The pretty cobbled streets of Lagos
The town is endowed with a rich history in form of towering forts, cathedrals and churches, a Slave Museum (Yes! You read it right- The Slave Museum!) beside sparkling beaches, grottos, limestone formations and much more. A special mention needs to be made about this unique Slave Museum which is one of its kind. 
A toiling slave at Mercado de Escravos or the Slave Market
It is called Mercado de Escravos or the Slave Market. The market is dated 1444 but the present building has stood the test of time since the 17th century. This emphasizes the connection of Lagos to the idea of the first sale of Slaves in Europe. This was the place where the slaves acquired from adjoining Africa were sold. The stories of the gruesome lives led by the slaves are so well depicted that it sends a chill down the spine. The exhibits of chains, ropes and wristbands make the horror alive even after the ages. Currently, this monument has been used as a Museum but has been a Customs House and a military administrative centre in other periods. The Slave routes from where the slaves were brought to Lagos to be sold include Africa, Goa, Malaca and Macau. One has to be strong-hearted to read the heart-wrenching narratives and view the atrocities inflicted.

The Potato beach at Lagos

There are endless options to admire the natural beauty including beaches such as Praia de Camilo, and Potato Beach right in the middle of the town offering some lovely views and the turquoise blue sea covered with bobbing boats tethered alongside or tied to buoys. We were blessed to see a white rainbow appear over the sky when we were strolling at the Potato beach

A White Rainbow
Colourful buildings, cobblestone streets, seafood restaurants, laid back cafeterias are good reasons to explore the beauty of this town. The city centre is really charming. A nice place to stretch tired legs is Jardinm da Constituciao which offers a green shade and a whiff of beautiful flowers. The park is bordered by the stone walls of Fort Ponta da Banderia across the street with a picturesque setting of the sea in the backdrop. A tour of the waterfront along the fort walls is a ‘must’ when in Lagos.

Igrejia de Santa Antonio
Among other top attractions are the Igrejia de Santa Antonio (the church), a dolphin-watching cruise and rock tunnels. According to a fable King Sebastian granted the title of city to Lagos in 1573. He disappeared in 1578 when he was on a military mission to Morocco. Some locals believe that he would return one day. The statute of the king is located at the main city centre at Plaza Gil Eannes opposite the Town Hall.
The statue of King Sebastian

We had to give miss the Dolphin watching and visiting the rock tunnels due to the paucity of time and we had to set the course to see Sagris a place where Europe begins in the latter part of the day. I will narrate more about Sagris in the next post

PS- All pics are mine


  1. White rainbow is like an oxymoron :) anything to do with slave history is so sad and gut wrenching .... to think that humans could be so heartless and self centred !

  2. Ha! ha Jaish. Indeed a white rainbow is an oxymoron. A peek into the slave history was something I had read in school but all the memoriess came alive there. Thanks for reading and good to see you again here after a while:)

  3. Beautifully captured in pictures and words.

  4. What an interesting town. I couldn’t visit the slave museum though... so painful to read about all that...