The whitewashed Portuguese town of Mertola has revealed much about the historical coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in Portugal [Marta Vidal/Al Jazeera]

Lisbon, Portugal – After fleeing war in his native Iraq, Abdulsattar risked his life on a perilous boat trip from Turkey to Greece.

Once in Greece, he was offered resettlement in Portugal, a country he knew very little about. But he was able to find some familiar features.

“I found many common words,” he explains before beginning to list them. Some relate to food, others to cities or regions. Then there is the expression “oxala” (pronounced oshallah), a direct descendent of the Arabic “inshallah”. Both mean “God willing”.

No more foreign

It should not be too surprising that Arabic influences

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