PTEN

Geography

 

 

The lowlands of the Tagus River are extended under the name of Lezíria Ribatejana (Ribatejo Wetlands) as well as those of the Sorraia and Almansor rivers, when passing the Benavente, Salvaterra de Magos, Vila Franca de Xira, Azambuja, and Coruche districts.

 

Fertile alluvial earth since the dawn of the world, which is why these are lands of inundation, regularly flooded by the rivers bursting their banks.

 

They are long and green plains, with wide horizons and never ending fields crossed by fighting bulls and Lusitano and Sorraia horses.

 

With the never ending fields and present water at all times, this is a land of farmers and fishermen, cowboys and boatmen, a unique and original population who learnt more than any other to respect nature’s rhythms and whims in order to acquire their living and richness from the land and water.

History

 

 

Ribatejo has always been intensely occupied thus its beginnings have long been forgotten. This area of great natural richness has been searched since the pre-historic times by groups of huntsmen, fishermen, and gatherers. There are countless archaeological stations in the area with pre-historic traces, since the Palaeolithic times, the most ancient and greater era of human history. In the district of Salvaterra de Magos you will particularly find the Muge Mesolithic Complex, one of the most important Mesolithic complexes in Europe with a priceless scientific value and classified as a National Monument.

 

During the Roman occupation of Portugal, the city of Scalabis grew – currently Santarém -, which fell under the Arab League in 715 until it was conquered by Afonso Henriques, in 1147. After the Arabs left Ribatejo fell under the protection of the Order of the Knights Templar whose headquarters were in Tomar, where it would then be replaced by the Order of Christ. The courts met many times in this area since Almeirim had the favourite residence of the last kings in the second dynasty.

 

A land of wheat and melon, wild cattle and horses, Lezíria Ribatejana has always been linked to the Kingdom Capital by means of Tagus’ great water road. After the definite establishment of rice in the late 19th century, the image of the land changed. Great liquid mirrors occupied its flatness with their green geometry, as well as the human hands of Ribatejo through an ever-present demand.

 

New cultivation techniques, such as land preparation, sown seeds, weeding and filling, cutting and threshing became the routine and reality of Lezíria Ribatejana. During the harvest times, when cars were still rare in Portugal, the streets were turned into long threshing floors where the grains of the Carolino Rice were drying out in the sun.

 

Nowadays, since the plough, animal traction, hoe and the hook are nothing but distant memories for the elder while the youth harvest using a fleet of last generation harvesters, it seems like the history of a century has changed the region forever.

 

But the truth is that, in spite of the fantastic technology that pushed productivity and quality onto never dreamt of levels, nothing changed fundamentally. The rice producer from Ribatejo still produces the most famous rice in Portugal with all his passion and pride. And is still as moved as his ancestors by the sunrise in Lezíria Ribatejana and the smell of fresh rice pudding.

Fauna and Flora

 

 

A green, aquatic, plain, and homogeneous world. An environment-respecting agriculture. What life is hiding behind Lezíria Ribatejana?

 

The marshes, bogs, and the wetlands of the Tagus Estuary actually contain such significant biodiversity that their inclusion in the Special Protection Area was justified as well as the Natural Reserve of the Tagus Estuary. Starting with the insects, which are extremely important for natural pest control and pollination, and ending with mammals such as the otter, which has reappeared in this area.

 

But the world of birds is where its habitat turns out to be stunning. Countless bird species nest in the lands, channels, and constructions of the Tagus wetlands, where the most observed ones include the Corn Bunting, Barn Swallow, Mallard Duck, Quail, Coot, and also the Purple Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Marsh Harrier and the Kentish Plovers. In the winter, the variety of birds in the Lezírias is overall the most abundant and of greater diversity. During this time of the year there tend to be over thirty bird species, among which are the Cattle Egret, Barn Owl, Snipe and the Kestrel.

 

However, for six wader bird species the Tagus Estuary is a shelter of international importance: the Grey Plover, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, and the Dunlin find food and protection in these lands during their migratory times. This gave the region the name of Ramsar Site, which is an important place for the Convention on Wetlands.

 

And this is the area – one of the last preserved and naturally protected areas in national territory – where Orivárzea produces the rice that you eat. Feel free to help yourself. There is not much food as natural as our rice.