Are you ready to wander around, guided by locals, through the streets and restaurants of Portugal? Choosing only one of our many deals will not be easy, be warned! Portugal has its heart and doors open to welcome guests, readily revealing them how to get the best of the nation, so, whatever option you might choose, trust you’ll be in good hands.
It’s Saturday and, since there’s so much to choose from, we came over to explore Lisbon’s African Roots and to meet its creator, Naky.
The meeting point has a lot to be said about. Come hell or high water, Naky stands firm awaiting for those who will walk with him for the following five hours, right at the heart of Praça do Comércio, a key point in the development of the Portuguese slave market in the 15th century.
It’s not a charming sunny day, so Naky carries an umbrella. “We might get lucky”, he utters, while we wait for the three tourists who’ll join us in this experience. Then and there arrive Lisa and Dave, a friendly American couple, and Bau, an architectural dutch photographer.
Everybody glances at the clouds overlaying the famous light of Lisbon, albeit throughout the day the rain will no longer be a concern since we will delve into the streams of enthusiasm naturally conveyed by our guide.
We were ready to begin this journey through the History of the African Roots in Lisbon. The gastronomy of the African continent is heavily represented in the streets of the city and today we’re having the chance to have Naky presenting it.
Original from Togo, he began this adventure of information sharing and gastronomic appraisal three years ago. He came to Lisbon to pursue a love from the past and eventually fell in love with the streets and the sidewalks of the “alfacinhas”. “The weather makes me feel at home. Today’s not a good example, but the sun brings good memories”, he explains as he smiles.
The climate has its relevance, but Naky admits it’s far more than that.
“Lisbon is metropolitan, it has a very pronounced African rib. When I arrived here and saw so many Africans in the streets, I felt a tremendous difference compared to Germany or Spain. Obviously, there’s also racism here, but it’s incomparable to other places”.
The music of different corners of the world, the Portuguese cuisine and the wide variety of international gastronomy were also an important factor for him to choose Lisbon as a home for the next years. Being naturally curious and a history lover, it took him less than a year to begin his research on the African history in Lisbon.
As he is a born communicator, a subject he explored while in college in Togo, he has all eyes on him.
The tour will pass through some of the most important places of the African culture in downtown Lisbon, and the five-hour walk doesn’t feel tiresome for we are walking at a slow pace, and in-between the descriptions and the arrival to the Cape Verdean restaurant, we stop to share craft beers, visit the Church of São Domingos and experiment African flavors in an African market.
Somewhere along the tour, Naky remarks that the Portuguese are unaware of the historical structure of African communities in the city. On his Facebook page, people have written not so positive comments just because they don’t understand or have never tried his work.
Naky explains where he had the idea for the tour when he arrived in Portugal and astonishingly realized the number of Africans in Lisbon. “I knew a bit of history, but every time I went out with friends we ended up in a place owned by Africans, music and African food, and I thought this was interesting. Then I shared an apartment with a DJ who also played African music and because he was very open, we exchanged lots of information”, he tells us. Naky, at the time, faced a problem with the residency status and since he refused to be unemployed, he wanted to create his own project, respecting his passions. “I am not a historian, I am curious and I also found people to help me gather all this information, in particular, a Portuguese teacher and historian specialized in this area, Isabel Castro Henriques.”
Our guide guarantees that this tour is nothing like a teacher’s class, but rather a horizontal interaction where everyone participates and adds value to the experience.
The afternoon in Naky’s company is filled with colors, different aromas, mixtures of flavors and exotic refreshments. We all shared words and by now Dave and Lisa, who are going to stay for about a month in Portugal, have a list of recommendations of what to try and visit. Bau photographs whenever something strikes his attention.
Our legs are not acknowledging fatigue, but having comfortable footwear is a minimum requirement to enjoy this cultural tour. About to finish the tour, we’ll now grab a bite in a Cape Verdean restaurant.
It’s difficult to decide what to choose, but the music and the Grogue toasts make it easier.
With a full stomach, as good foodies that we are, we come to the Ribeira Market to discuss what we have seen, tasted and heard. The opinion is unanimous among the participants: “What a wonderful afternoon, thank you”, says Lisa Fuschillo while Naky stares at Dave while he smiles. Naky says “see you soon”. But it’s not just his face smiling when the tour ends. The tummy, the mind, and the soul are also grateful for the experience; after all, it’s good to have so much so close.
If you are visiting Lisbon, can’t skip the chance to learn more about Lisbon’s African Roots. Join Naky on the next walking tour and explore the secret behind the streets, visit local African markets and taste traditional African food (vegetarian options available). Book it now!
About the author
Hungry travelers always ready to find and taste new cuisines. We love to explore a place through its gastronomic culture and to share it with other foodie travelers.