Portuguese Culture

An air of mystery

Created by the bioco - a 17th century piece of clothing

If you have been in Olhão da Restauração a hundred years ago then it would not just have been the cubes that you reminded you of the middle east. A heavy and long cloak which was worn by some of the women may have also have struck you as more eastern than western. Since the cloak was accompanied by a black shawl which completely covered the head, and created a conical tube over the face from which the woman could look out.

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Taken by photographer – Artur Pastor

The cloak and shawl was called the Bioco and it reminds me of the Niqab and Persian chador. However unlike the chador, which dates back to at least the 6th century and can still be seen today, the bioco is no longer worn. It was banned by the Governor of Faro in 1892, only a couple of hundred years or so after the bioco first came into existence. It would seem the Governor banned women from wearing the bioco because of the freedom of travel it gave women!

Following the ban it was rare to see a woman in a bioco in the Algarve, except in Olhão where, perhaps unsurprisingly given the history of this town, they were a bit more rebellious. Here it was frequently worn up until the 1940s, which explains why it appears in some many paintings and sketches of Olhão.

If you pop along to the museum there is a rather lovely video of someone wearing one, and you can almost imagine the air of mystery that must have surrounded the women who wore them. They could look upon us but we, despite us hearing them in their slippers, wouldn’t have been able to see them. Mysterious


14 comments on “An air of mystery

  1. I agree the cloak would make the wearer appear sinister, almost like something alien from Dr Who! A fascinating post about the tradition though. I’m not surprised they were banned from a use, you’d have no clue who was inside, could be up to anything!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Got to say I love historical titbit articles like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a bit creepy isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel said the same! I rather liked it when I watched the film but now I’m seeing what you both are and am not so sure!!!


  4. They would come in handy right now in UK with theses nasty bitter winds!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That looks very sinister. I would hate to have to wear that.

    Liked by 1 person

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