The traditional architecture of Algarve region has a strong Arab influence with its whitewashed or white painted houses, with Moorish tile on the roofs, roof terraces (açoteias), parapets (platibandas) and the famous ornamental chimneys that many times remind us of miniature minarets. No one seems to know the exact history of these beautiful, laced chimneys. Although they look like mini-minarets of mosques and have characteristics of northern Africa or the Arab world, they only started appearing in Algarve in the 17th Century, long after the moors had left or had been assimilated into Portugal. Arab architecture did not even have chimneys.
The oldest known remaining such chimney, built in 1713, is located in Porches and it is in great condition still today.
The Açoteias (roof terraces) so prominent in the Algarve, are used to dry the traditional fruits (like figs) and nuts like almonds used in the traditional sweets, collect water and of course as a relaxing terrace where people sit and enjoy the view and cool off during the hot summer nights.
The parapets (platibandas) are strictly decorative and are mostly used to hide the roof. In Algarve these beautiful parapets delimit the terraces and serve to protect the collecting of the rain water, with the help of a gutter and inside face.
These decorative chimneys and roofs are symbols of popular art, evidence of the skill of the mason and a source of pride for the owner.