Now that we are leaving the winter beyond us, and the beginning of spring is upon us, I look out of my window and I see a carpet of beautiful white and light pink flowers, on trees with hardly any leaves. The air is fragrant with a light perfume. It is peaceful; I feel I’m living a dream.
I look out and embrace the almond blossoms, the oxalis flowers, and many, many more interesting flora. It is a beautiful experience; it’s tempting to take long walks in nature, or even just along one of our many beaches. On return from one of my walks through the fields covered with almond blossoms, I chat to one of my friends in the UK, that is currently snowed under a blanket of thick snow, not sure if she will be able to get out the door tomorrow morning … and I felt sorry for her.
Here I am, in Lagos, enjoying fantastic weather, welcoming the spring season with temperature around 19 – 20 degrees, and there she is … stuck in a very cold place with below zero temperatures. To warm her up, and entice her to come and pay us a visit, I recounted one of my childhood folktales told by my grandparents – the Algarvean Legend of the Almond Blossoms.
It is true that the almond blossom heralds the beginning of spring, but do you know why we have so many almond trees in the Algarve?
Legend has it that many moons ago, long before the Algarve was part of the Portuguese territory, there was a young caliph in Silves called Ibn-Almundim, who fell in love with a northern princess called Gilda.
She was the daughter of a nobleman from the North of Europe and whom the caliph had defeated in a battle. What was nice was that the love was mutual between the two. So, after courting for a while, they proceeded and got married. Their wedding was celebrated with all the traditional fanfare and feast and after the ceremony they made their home in Silves in the Algarve. But after a couple of years, the princess got sick, and got into a deep depression that nobody, nor nothing could get her out of.
The caliph called all the best doctors, magicians and wise men from all over the world, but none could find a cure for her sadness and nobody could get her out of her depression …Until one day when an old Nordic man told the king that Gilda was longing for the white snow-covered fields of her homeland.
On hearing that, the caliph then ordered thousands of almond trees to be planted outside the windows of the palace, which, when they were in blossom, covered the land with white flower petals.
One morning, when the first trees were in flower, the Caliph took the princess to her window of her room, and on seeing all the white flowers on the barren trees, the princess Gilda, cried and felt at home for the first time, thinking it was snow.
The illusion cured her depression and she was full of life once again. And every year thereafter she could not wait for the beginning of February to relieve her passion for snow.
Once the caliph realized that his loved one was cured, he ordered that Almond trees be planted all over the Algarve, so that if his beloved wife went traveling she would always have the flowers near her. And that is why today the Algarve is blessed with so many almond trees.
Lagos is an example with its hills and its nature abounding with almond trees, but in fact you can’t drive anywhere in the Algarve without being confronted with either its white blooms or its pink blooms.
Now that you know why we have so many almond blossoms, just like the princess in this story, you too can enjoy the illusion of snow in a much warmer climate, one were you can do all the things that the snow and cold stops you from doing back at home.