Recuerdos de la Alhambra

*Memories of La Alhambra – Also a classical guitar piece by Francisco Tarrega.

This week is kind of a special week for the Spaniard (or the lazy Spaniards as said rather wryly to me by Karina, the young proprietress of Apr RamCat in Barcelona – where the unofficial weekends begin on Thursday nights) , when 6th and 8th Dec are Catholic holidays.

The last day in Barcelona was spent in Parc Guell, another quirky, fantastical playground of Gaudi.
And suddenly, after a flurry of phone calls, I find myself in Granada after flying Spanair nonetheless, with a ticket booked mere hours before the actual flight. And I have God to thank for it, and for getting me into the La Alhambra against all odds.

Granada airport looks like a bus-stop, and with 2 luggage belts, I was afraid that I took the wrong flight to some other unknown place. Finally found the way to the Pension Zacatin, a first floor pension sandwiched between souvenir shops, with its store-owners giving me curious stares at every turn.

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Moorish kitsch springs up from many corners of the twisted streets of the Barrio Albaycin, the oldest and best preserved Arabic Quarter.  Granada gladly plays up the orientalist in every European (and strangely Asians are also drawn to it), and it never becomes more apparent with the wares that the tiny stores hawk at every turn. The Calderia Nueva (below) is its epitome, crammed with Teterias (Tea houses)  charged with a Moroccan atmosphere and arabic decor.

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But I love it. It must be the cold, cold weather.

The Alhambra overwhelmed me with a splendorous interior and its intricate carvings. It is Moorish Spain at its finest, bordered by low lying hills and the Sierra Nevada, built in several stages that testifies of a tentative co-exsistence between the Christian and the Islamic faith.  How so, one might ask? For every Islamic carving it seems that the later Christian rulers demanded an Christian symbol to be near it, or rather, a “delicate balance and expression of faiths” as so diplomatically put by the audio guide I carried along.

Yet all those who are flabbergasted at the sheer beauty are mesmerised more by the Islamic craftsmanship. Roughly consisting of the fortress (Alcazaba), the Sultan’s Palace (Nazaries) and the Sultan’s gardens (El Generalife), the entire complex is in itself a self-contained city (medina), and a thorough visit to each of the grounds will take up half a day.

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