Silves’ ancient Islamic walls at risk of collapse

A struggle to establish who is in charge of Silves’ Islamic walls and who should pay to renovate them has eclipsed the fact that some sections are dangerously “at risk of collapsing” and others have already crumbled.

The threat is all too evident as a section of the wall in the western part of the town was recently closed off by civil protection services as stones collapsed into the street.

Silves council dubs the situation“worrying” but claims it doesn’t have “enough money” to fix the problem and wants the government to help.

But the Algarve culture board (DRCAlg) says the walls are out of its jurisdiction – although it accepts that they need sorting.

Culture boss Alexandra Gonçalves says a solution is either to “wait for community funding” (which could take years), or think ‘outside the box’ and use alternative measures, such as the use of ticket revenue from Silves castle to undertake the work.

Another issue is that no one seems to know who is in charge of managing the walls, which are a significant part of the town’s Muslim heritage, believed to date back to the 11th century.

Municipal archaeologist Maria Gonçalves says that while it was thought for many years that the walls belonged to the State, “several documents suggest they belong to the municipality”.

Official clarification has been requested, but time is moving swiftly on.

And whoever ends up with the job of shoring up the ancient walls will have to negotiate with property owners – as a number of sections border people’s properties.

“Some have even built gardens around the walls, which obviously isn’t good for its conservation,” Gonçalves explained.

Hopes are that a solution will be found soon, as the walls show no signs of righting themselves on their own.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]