stepped in spanish history

flamenco dancing spainStrategically located with a view over the city below, the Alhambra is a highlight of any visit to Spain, but as Intrepid’s Christophe Rooseboom explains, there is even more to explore in Granada…

“Created originally as a fortress, palace and small city, there’s no doubt the Alhambra is the place to visit. Many enjoyable hours can be spent exploring the palace complex, with its distinctive architecture and beautiful central gardens known as the Generalife. Locals refer more commonly to the Alhambra as the Red Fortress. Funnily the complex isn’t red, but one explanation for the name is because it lies at the end of the Sierra Nevada, the mountain range which contains a lot of iron.

In my opinion, while a visit to the Alhambra is a must, more interesting is to walk around in El Albaicin.

That is the name given to the once walled city bordered by the Alhambra, Sacromonte, the Plaza Nueve and the Calle Elvira. The Puerta de Elvira is well over 1000 years old and is the last remaining city gate. The locals call it barrio arabe, the Arab neighbourhood, and it’s one of the most fascinating areas in Granada.

After the conquest of Granada the Moorish residents left the area and their mosques were destroyed or converted to Catholic churches. This old Arab quarter is a labyrinth of crooked streets with alleyways, fountains, plazas, whitewashed houses and villas. As you walk up the narrow streets it is easy to lose all sense of time and direction, then suddenly you will come to a small busy plaza, and find your way back to your route and to this century.

You are bound to meet some colourfully dressed local women giving out rosemary branches. As soon as you accept it they take your hand and start reading your fortune, in Spanish of course. You are likely to also run into the barefoot or sandalled ‘blackfeet’. This is the local nickname for the hippies who visited Spain in the 1960s and 70s and stuck around. They will be playing a guitar or performing tricks to entertain the tourists and make some money.

I think I would be hesitant to walk along some of the quiet streets at night, preferring to stick to the busy well-lit areas, but I recommend an evening visit to the souk and the tea shops where you will feel that you are in North Africa instead of Spain. The atmosphere and flavour of Granada is intoxicating and taking it all in at walking pace is ideal.”

Tour Spain with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Moorish Spain – 15 days
France and Spain – 29 days

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* photo by Tes Follett – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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I, too, loved this area of Granada when I was there at Christmas time, 2005. I climbed to the viewpoint, where a tattooed motorcyclist dressed in leather, started chatting with me and someone took our photo on the wall overlooking Granada. I had trouble finding somewhere to have dinner that evening, as all the restaurants were closed while families had Christmas dinner together. fortunately, the Muslim restaurants were open and I enjoyed a delicious dinner in one of these not far from the Alhambra. The weather was quite cold, but the visit was amazing. i was travelling on my own via the excellent bus system in Spain. Robyn.

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