In Search of Al-Andalus: Granada

I merge with the throng of bodies, and allow the surge of movement to direct my first tentative exploration of Granada. Soon I find myself at the bottom of the hill on which the Alhambra, like a vision from my dreams, perch. Around me, tourists and locals swirl into a colourful mass with beggars, street musicians, and informal pedlars. Granada is a shock to the senses, especially after spending time in sleepy Córdoba, and I can feel my knuckles whiten as I clutch my camera closer to my body, just as haunting guitar music floats down towards me, soothing my soul. Sitting on his tiny balcony across the river Darro, which really is only a trickling stream, the musician is hoping to sell his CDs nestling in a tattered box on the wall with a note and an unwavering belief in honesty.

It is almost impossible to move through Granada without constant reminders of the last strong-hold of Moorish Spain, before the Reconquista sent Boabdil into exile, and the page on a new chapter in Spain’s rich history was turned. These glimpses entice not only the eye, but radiate a magnetic pull on the soul.

Modern-day mosque gazing towards the past and what some consider to have been a golden age

The Albaycin, although steeped in a long history, is no longer the neighbourhood of Moorish times, yet the narrow lanes, winding their way up the hill, curling in on themselves and spilling into small plazas, are full of charm.

Granada is a place to discover on foot, despite the many steep inclines. The buses are plentiful and easy to use, but so much of the charm, detail, and energy of this city is missed when rushing past narrow lanes and hidden corners.

After gazing at the honey-coloured walls of the Alhambra for days, to allow anticipation to build, my head was left spinning from all the beauty, when I, at last, visited.

Important dates:

1492 – Granada falls, the Jews are expelled from Spain, and Columbus discovers America

1526 – Moors (now called Moriscos) are forced to convert and are banned from reading and writing Arabic

1568 – Morisco revolt begins in the Alpujarras

1609 – Moriscos expelled from Spain

NOTES:

  1. When visiting the Alhambra do not spend your money on buying expensive water inside, but drink from the many water fountains that dot the grounds.
  2. Rather spend your money on a cup of coffee, glass of wine or beer, whilst gazing out towards the Albaycin and enjoy the antics of the resident cats who will become best friends with you if you accidentally drop a little titbit.
  3. Book online in advance, and do not miss the Nasrid Palaces. Exchange your ticket the day before to avoid long queues, and remember to have your credit or debit card with which you paid online with you, as you will be asked for it. While on the hill visit the beautiful gardens of Carmen de los Mârtires, which is free, and close to the entrance to the Alhambra.

BOOKS TO READ:

  1. Tales of the Alhambra – Washington Irving
  2. Seville, Córdoba, and Granada – Elizabeth Nash
  3. Andalus: Unlocking the Secrets of Moorish Spain – Jason Webster

The following 3 novels brilliantly bring history to life:

  1. Leo the African – Amin Maalouf
  2. The Heretic – Lewis M Weinstein
  3. The Last Jew – Noah Gordon

Visited: September 2016

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