Looking through the window, the Atlantic Ocean came into view. The rising sun was like orange paint on a blue canvas. Its depth and beauty were begging for my attention. It was spring there; the scent of daises and lavender was spirit-lifting. Pillow-shaped clouds gliding across the sky lazily. Battlement scars of the harsh winter it faced were visible as if telling us that they faded into memories. The sky turned from foggy gray to bright blue. A smile crept its way through as I thought of all the adventures I’ll be having here in Portugal.
My legs were sore, aching. It’s been a long journey to Quinta da Regaleira but worth it nonetheless. The 30 meters tower stood proudly, welcoming its eager visitors. The mixture of its Moorish, Gothic, and Egyptian architecture was alluring. It was as if the history this tower contains was what’s been holding it together all these years. The feeling of anticipation consumed me as I stepped into the tower.
Being a student, I’m always exposed to information about history and religion. And being my naturally curious self, I’m always seeking for adventures. I knew I could not be satisfied with the information a website provides. So, I thought, what better adventure there is from traveling?
The Knights Templar have left a lot of mysteries behind. So much history but so much wrong beliefs they’ve spread about Muslims and Islam. The reason I’m standing here, about to step into the tower, is my huge interest in finding the truth. I wanted to see for myself who the Knights Templar were. I wanted to see everything because trusting what I read about History from some website or book was no longer a given.
Quinta da Regaleira is located in Sintra. A secret hidden in pine-covered hills. A Portuguese wonder containing a lot of magical palaces and extravagant villas. Famous for its beautiful gardens like the enchanting garden in the tower. Families posing behind the trees taking selfies with each other, people taking pictures of every angle as if afraid to miss a single detail, it was a spirit-lifting sight in front of me.
Reaching the last floor – the 9th– I found an enthralling well which some believed is an allegory representing the journey through rebirth in mother Earth’s womb. It was a place full of mysteries and hidden riddles to unlock. Every single detail, you will find, has significance and meaning behind; the floor, walls and architectural objects all hiding hundreds of years worth of secrets. During earlier years, people used to think that those worthy of joining the Knights Templar were able to walk on the water of that well to reach the chapel. Of course, it was impossible, so I did not risk trying it. Entering the chapel, I found the place where they welcomed people into the brotherhood that fought Muslims, claiming that Muslims have attacked European pilgrims when they were going to Jerusalem.
Going to the Sintra bus station and taking the 434-bus route then walking for approximately 20 minutes lead me to Quinta da Regaleira. It was the cheapest way to reach the location and the most accommodating. That 20-minute walk was a mesmerizing one. My eyes only met with nature, trees, flowers, gardens, and fountains. A breathtaking view that leads to an even more breathtaking one.
Traveling to Portugal in the spring was a great choice. Not only was the weather warm and tickets cheap but the tourists weren’t crowding the streets. It made it easier for me to enjoy my surroundings at any given time.
No wonder tripadvisor.com described this place as a place that cannot be missed! It has been rated a solid 4.8; not a doubt it hasn’t been overrated. However, Sintra is not only known for Quinta da Regaleira. It is also quite known for its enchanting and romantic gardens. You simply cannot leave Sintra without visiting Monserrate Park, Pena Park and Regaleira Park. Each was designed to hold so much authenticity and character that has stolen the breaths of millions of tourists
Finally returning home, I felt a surge of disappointed creeping through me. It’s been a great experience; one of the best so far. I had to keep an open mind, though. Knowing that history has been falsified, degrading Islam is really frustrating. I had to dig in through a lot of reliable websites and books to find out, later on, about the truth. That’s what’s been my ambition all along. Learning about others’ beliefs and discovering what Islam thinks of it. Following through what everyone thinks is never a choice. We have to inquire about everything and anything until we formulate our own notions. We certainly can’t be fooled by anything people say. How? We search for the truth…always.
Leen Haboubati a 13 years old MYP 3 student at Al-Hayat International School. She has always been interested in learning about history, religions, geography, and cultures. She is an avid reader and currently learning Spanish and Italian. Her goal is to learn all about her religion (Islam) and change people’s negative and false notions about it.