We were able to catch the Feira da Ladra, or Thieves' Market, on our last day in Lisbon. Just like in any other flea market, there's lots of junk, cheap souvenirs and clothes. But there are also wonderful antiques, old books, prints and ceramics. In Lisbon's flea market, the most exciting thing for me are the azulejos (pronounced azoo-leh-zhos)-- the handpainted tiles that are used extensively in Portuguese buildings and interiors.
The origin of tiles in Portugal actually come from the Arabs. The word "azulejos" has nothing to do with "azul" or "blue", but comes from an Arab word, al-zuleique. The older azulejos were blue, yellow, green and white. It's only later in the 16th century that Chinese influence would create a preference for mostly blue and white.
Many of the buildings in Lisbon are still covered, inside and out, with these beautiful tiles. Stores sell them as souvenirs too, together with other hand-painted ceramic pieces--but it's always more fun to hunt for them in the flea market.
Hand painted ceramics in souvenir shops
In the flea market, the tiles cost about 10 to 20 euros each. Antique shops around the city sell a lot of the old ones from condemned (?) buildings. Or they are probably even pried off existing buildings. It's a good thing the Philippines is not known for azulejos, even if we have some, otherswise they might be stripped from our old churches by unscrupulous people (like myself).
It was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, and we headed to the airport with our handcarry four tiles heavier. Now that I look at these photos, I like the ones in the pictures more than the ones I took home.
It seems the tiles are always bluer on the other side... oh well.