You have probably heard about Madrid, capital of the movida, with its majestic and colourful squares and streets; you know everything about Barcelona, the postmodern city where lots of artists live and where you can both climb a mountain and go to the beach.
We will then talk about a particular region, Andalucía, which is in the South of Spain and offers an intense experience to all the foreigners who visit it.
Andalucía is the most populated community, and it is the place of origin of most of the images associated to the country. However this is not appreciated by all the andaluces.
A lot of tourists in Andalucia see only the burning sun, the extended beaches, flamenco and sevillanas, white houses, sangría… most of the foreigners close their eyes in front of the dramatic aspects of the South: the economic discrepancy between the region and the rest of Europe, the persistent agrarian despotism and the necessity of social help in the most of that part of the country.
Without forgetting its social reality, it is certain that Andalucía is a land of heat, the cradle of flamenco and sevillanas, birthplace of poets and swirl of passions in its parties and religious traditions.
The visitor always feels like he is in a very special corner of Europe, a place possessed by magic, and a passion and joy of living that seems to be part of an ancient past.
In Andalucía these forces are still alive nowadays.
The Arab and Jewish legacy are powerfully expressed in Andalucía.
After its glory, Al-Ándalus (the name of the part of the Iberian Peninsula governed by Muslims at various times between 711 and 1492) turned for the Christians and the Muslims into a sort of myth, the remembrance of a golden age now lost.
Córdoba, Granada and Sevilla are three cities where you can highly recognise the millenary traces of Arabs, Jewish and Christians in Europe.
Córdoba has been the capital of a powerful reign that dominated the Peninsula more than a thousand years ago. There, you can visit a monumental mosque whose labyrinth has more than 850 columns made of granite, jasper and marble and that still enchant lots of visitors every day. Out of the city you find the ancient city-palace of Medina Azahara.
Granada was the capital of the nazarí reign, the last Muslim reign of Spain (1238-1492). In the neighbourhood of Albaicín you can walk between the cármenes, houses decorated according to the Muslim inspiration.
There you can also find the Bañuelo, an hamam (Turkish bath) of the XI century in perfect conditions. In the opposite hill there are the ancient palaces of the nazarí dynasty.
The luxurious Alhambra contains lounges, patios and gardens known for their sensual, relaxing and sophisticated use of light and water. In the North, the Generalife is an estate that was used by the king to retire, a refuge from the noise of the city and the court’s intrigues.
Close to the Albaicín you can see the Sacromonte hill, where the gypsies of Granada used to live, inside caves.
At the beginning of the XIX century, lots of visitors went to Sacromonte to see the gypsies dancing flamenco. Despite the poverty of the place, Hollywood artists, Nobel Prize winners and politicians and royal families from all over the world have visited the caves.
Somebody believes that that is the place where the flamenco was born. It is probably not certain, but Sacromonte has certainly contributed to the worldwide popularity of that dance.
Sevilla gained importance during the Christian domination, and is nowadays the capital of Andalucía.
A wonderful cathedral was built above an ancient mosque.
The famous Giralda in the past used to be a minaret; from its tower the Muezzin called the devoted Muslim to pray. At present, the Giralda is a bell tower 315 feet high (as tall as the Big Ben!), and the building is the highest of the city from more than 800 years.
Close to the cathedral you can find the picturesque neighborhood of the Santa Cruz, the ancient Jewish quarter.
It is a small labyrinth of very narrow streets, disposed to prevent the sunlight.
Beside you find the Real Alcázar, a Muslim palace which has been converted by the Spanish kings into their residence in the South of the country.
Ready to leave for this fantastic land?