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Posted by portugalpress on January 04, 2018

Music, dance, art, yoga and healthy food live happily under the same roof at Aljezur’s newest cultural hub – Moagem. Opened on June 21, the day of the summer solstice, Moagem (which translates as ‘mill’) is a multifaceted project comprising the cultural association Moagem de Ideias, the vegetarian Mó Bistro and a concert and activity room called Celeiro (Barn).

“Our goal was to create a cultural and community hub combined with a healthy food eatery serving local, fresh, and whenever possible, organic produce. We aim to become a meeting point and a beacon of knowledge that tries to keep up with the changes within a new, more eco-friendly society,” says Rita Belo, Moagem’s creative director.

Originally from Porto, Rita is one of the association’s founders alongside Lisbonite Diogo Ruivo and Sintra native Isabel Gonçalves. Definitely not newcomers in the creative industry, the three friends met while working at the Boom festival in Portugal’s inland town of Idanha-a-Nova.

By 2015, the trio was living in the Vicentine Coast and hosting their first joint gastronomic event. But it was only when they found the building that would later become Moagem – and which Rita describes as “beautiful and charismatic” –, that they moved forward with the project.

The building’s role was such that the venture was named after its headquarters, a former wheat mill located on Rua João Dias Mendes street in Aljezur.

Having started in January 2017, the renovation works took place with the help of some very special characters – the Wandergesellen, a group of German carpenters who work in special uniforms dating back to the Middle Age. According to tradition, apprentices would have to travel and hone their skills for a number of years before becoming masters at their profession. The special clothes made them recognisable by their peers and prevented them from being mistaken for homeless people.

While the workers attracted plenty of attention to the project even before its conclusion, the new Moagem building now shines in its own right. With its exposed brick walls and rustic atmosphere, the space is inviting and honours Portuguese tradition while maintaining a contemporary edge.

As a truly multifunctional space that filled a gap in the Western Algarve market, it’s not surprising that the feedback so far has been very positive: “Many of our friends said that there was a gap in the market for a good vegetarian restaurant and a meeting point for those who live in the outskirts of Aljezur; a place where you can exchange ideas or simply have a drink in a welcoming atmosphere. Places like this are scarce, especially in the so-called low season,” stresses Rita.

One of the highlights of the project is undoubtedly its restaurant – Mó Bistro –, which serves authentic dishes with an emphasis on “nutritious, delicious and vibrant food”.

Cooked with fresh, healthy, local, and whenever possible, organic produce, the colourful veggie meals are prepared by co-founder and chef Isabel, who leads Mó’s kitchen.

But there is more to Moagem than delicious food. With a wide range of activities – from weekly yoga and capoeira classes to monthly Kirtan sessions, a type of music based on ancient chants –, Rita says it’s extremely challenging to please the many different people who live in the area. “As we get to know people and listen to their suggestions and opinions, we adjust our event offering to be as comprehensive as possible,” she explains.

Besides starting a new dance group, the founders of Moagem are also planning on hosting a monthly market where clothes and other items will be exchanged, and which will include upcycling workshops as well as stands by local artisans, designers and producers. Comprising live music, children’s activities and a massage corner, hopes are that the community event will appeal especially to families. “Another monthly event is the À Mesa na Moagem (At Moagem’s Table) supper club,” says Rita, adding that the association is also keen on promoting a number of lectures on permaculture, eco-literacy and eco-psychology.

However, the one plan that will bring the project full circle is the renovation of one of Moagem’s old mills: “This way we can show people how flour was made and approach the subject of bread and food in general – producing food in the light of climate change is a hot topic that concerns us all.” A hot topic for Aljezur’s newest hotspot.

For more information on Moagem’s opening hours and events, visit the Facebook page


Photos: Isabel Gonçalves/Commemorare