Andalucia boasts a fascinating mix of Islamic, Christian and Jewish heritage. The three faiths were able to co-exist under the Islamic rule from 711-1492 AD–which is pretty remarkable for the time even if Christians and Jews were considered “second-class” citizens. By now, Spain has been predomenently Catholic for hundreds of years, but evidence of the Islamic influence can be seen throughout city of Granada in the architecture and well-known historical sites.
One of the most famous of these sites is a district called Albaicin, which was an old Islamic section of the city. It retains the narrow winding streets from the days when the Moors ruled Spain and contains shops and restuarants that look like they might belong across the Gibraltar in Morocco.
Our tour was lead by a professor from the University of Granada. I listened for the first 10 or 15 minutes while he pointed out the old palace, baths and courthouse, but I am still at the point in my Spanish studies where I have to translate everything as it is spoken, and I gave up after awhile and simply enjoyed what I was seeing for their asthetic instead of historical value.
Albaicin flows down over a hill that overlooks neighboring Alhambra (situated on the next hill over) and the modern city below. The view from the top of Albaicin was extraordinary and by the time we got there the day had cooled off enough to allow us to sit and simply enjoy the view. A group of two guitar players and a singer began busking while we were there and I sat down beside a guy from our group to listen. After awhile he got up (I assumed to go look for his girlfriend) and I continued to sit and listen. Presently a beautiful Spanish woman from the crowd began to dance to the music in what I think was a mix of traditional and modern movements. She had long dark hair that she was wearing loose and a deep orange dress which seemed to add to her sensual and exuberant performance. I was entralled and didn’t notice until she had finished that my group was nowhere to be seen.
I asked around if anyone had seen a group of 20+ American students wandering around anywhere, but Albaicin is a very popular tourist destination and everyone I asked looked at me increduously. I made my way back down to the plaza where the tour had started and waited for a few minutes but the group didn’t return and I decided to take advantage of the hour before dinner I unexpectedly had to myself to explore streets I had not yet been down before returning home.
I ran across several groups of people busking in the plazas, but my favorite by far was a trio of two violinists and a chellist playing beautiful classical music in front of the downtown Burger King. The irony in seeing two symbols of high and low culture (classical music and fast food respectively) placed in juxtaposition to one another struck me as I stood there and listened. To the right of the musicians, two small children danced. Their movements seemed slightly off first–they wiggled and jumped to Mozart and Bach–but then it occured to me that maybe wiggling to Mozart is a good thing in a world where classical music and Burger King have converged to coexist and thrive.
Apparently, once a year about this time, Granada puts on a free rock music festival called El Festival de Rock del Zaidin. We were urged by several of our teachers at the Lenguas Modernas to attend the festival and lured by the prospect of free music, most of us from EMU went. Earlier in the day, during the tour to Albacin, we had met two girls from New York named Diane and Claire whom we invited to come with us. They met us at the bus stop in front of Roberto and Alex’s apartment and then the 15 odd of us trecked across town to the football stadium where the festival was held.
There was a children’s festival happening cocurrently with the music that was in full swing still when we arrived at the stadium around 11. The people our age probably hadn’t even left their homes yet and certainly did not really begin arriving until midnight so we were a bit early, and went to get drinks before returning to listen and dance. For most of the night I was with Mattie, Diane and Phil. Mattie is fairly reserved and simply swayed to the music as it moved her, but Diane, Phil and I all have soemwhat more high-spirited personalities and we danced with abandon for most of the night. Roberto joined us mid-way through the night and by the time the 5 of us left my back was aching and hips were sore from the full day.
We were planning on walking the 40 minutes home, but we were tired and it began to rain before we had gotten too far. I ended up asking a middle-aged woman (who must have been coming from the festival too with her two t
eenage sons) to point out where we were in the map. By this time it was around 3:30 in the morning and the skies were threatening to truly open on us as we stood there. Not only that but we had been walking in the wrong direction and had added probably 10 minutes to our already long walk home. The kind woman ( who did not speak any English) not only called two taxi’s for us (Phil lived on the opposite side of town from the rest of us) but stayed with us until the taxi’s had arrived to take us home.
- Young Lovers/ Los amantes (drawingforsmiles.com