The Arabs conquered southern Spain at the beginning of VIII century. They created a wonderful culture and happily lived here until the thirteenth century. Then the Christians began to push them out the Andalusia. At first Christians took Seville, Cadiz and Cordoba, and in 1492 the last bastion – Granada fell along with Malaga and Almeria. This last phase of the destruction of Islamic culture is associated with Queen Isabella of Castile. She is worshiped here and monuments were built not only due to the fact that she expelled the Moors from Spain. She also sent Columbus to America, got married with Ferdinand – the ruler of Aragon-Catalonia and created the Spanish state. The Moors left their cultural heritage, such as poetry, chess, pottery and various sciences, including castles and temples in Andalusia. Some of these works have not been destroyed by the Christians and remain until the present day. At the beginning Christians began their constructions of large and small churches. Main mosques were destructed to build enormous cathedrals. This happened in Seville. Mosques were always larger in the circumference than the Catholic churches. Because of that – really huge buildings were built. The later architecture has not avoided other Arabic influences – Arabic decor ornaments, that adorn the ceiling, portals, walls and even the Arabic tiles. One of the most perfect examples of such a mix is St. Bartholomew’s Church in Cordoba, Alhambra in Granada and the Palace of the King in Seville. Current Andalusia – flamenco, sherry, bull fighting, religious processions, rock houses, fiesta and siesta, Carmen and Don Juan, temperament and passion. Andalusia is the largest of the 17 autonomous regions of Spain by its population. The region has more than 8 million residents. Only 5 percent of population is not Andalusians and even smaller percentage of those who are not even Spanish. In addition to the local population you can meet some British, Moroccans and visitors from Latin America.
Granada is unique not only for Gitano playing the guitar, Alhambra, sensuous flamenco, but also for its narrow and steep streets and labyrinths which all lead to the caves of Sacromonte, where the Gypsies used to live in the past, and now theatrical gypsy flamenco performances are held. Taking a walk in Granada with a map is quite a serious challenge, because the narrow streets of the Old Town are so short that are not even marked. The city can be viewed by traveling with local buses and it’s strongly recommended to avoid driving a car. The city center has a very confusing street system. The streets are narrow, mostly with one-way traffic or only for public transport. Parking system is also very complex. In short, save your nerves and avoid the central part of the city if you are driving a car.
Flamenco is a passionate and seductive form of art, a mysterious culture. A unique blend of music and culture that appeared several hundred years ago and today has thousands of enthusiasts around the world. Although considered a part of the culture of Spain, flamenco actually originates from one region of Spain: Andalusia. It is acknowledged that flamenco grew out of a unique blend of Arab, Andalusian, Jewish and Gypsy cultural interaction that existed in Andalusia prior to and after the Spanish invasion. Flamenco involves musical and cultural tradition – dancing and singing involves guitar and rhythmically slapped palms. The questions are not only about the origins of flamenco music and dance, but also about the word “flamenco”. George Borrow thinks the word ‘flemenc’ is synonymous to ‘gypsy ‘. Flamenco artists: dancer (bailador), singer (cantador) and guitarist (toquador). Contemporary choreographers are very interested in flamenco music, as these rhythms allow them to improvise a lot and to make innovations, leaving freedom of creativity. Flamenco is wrapped in mystery for many years and only recently became known. It is still not fully understood. Hundreds of writers from all over the world talk about gypsies and their colorful live music, dancing, Duende – spirit. Flamenco enchants with its inner deepness, dramatic effect and emotional primitiveness. Flamenco is not only a folk dance. It’s an expression of feelings using mimic and movement. And yet – it is a dance of a single person. The body tells the story of loneliness. Flamenco is regardless of age, body type or hair color.
Cordoba is also known as anise city, it is famous for its anise – flavored liqueur and pies. Its fame was earned by silversmiths and dressers but it is very difficult to find master products nowadays. Andalusia is famous for being a real mix of cultures. Here alongside one another live Muslims, Christians and Jews, but perhaps the most noticeable is the contribution of Arabs. It is because until the Reconquista, the region belonged to the Arabs and their capital was located in Cordoba. That is why you can find so many Arabian style buildings, narrow streets and goods imported from Morocco in Andalusia. While the new part of Cordoba does not offer anything special, the old town is just fantastic and really worth a visit. Cordoba once could boast of an impressive number of mosques but now most of them are destroyed. However, the third largest mosque in the world still remains in Cordoba. The funny thing is that it was converted into a Catholic cathedral in the thirteenth century, but retained many Arabic elements. Particularly fascinating fact is that the columns that were used for the construction of the mosque are a thousand years older than the mosque itself and has been built by the Romans. For the construction of the mosque the Arabs brought columns from the nearby former temple. The columns are of different sizes, different patterns and shades, and looks really impressive.
Ronda is located high on the limestone cliffs and gorges and it is one of the white villages of Spain, also known as Pueblos Blancos. The old and the new part of Ronda are connected by Puente Nuevo – an impressive New Bridge built in eighteenth century. On one side you will find La Ciudad district – a typical Moorish city with its narrow streets, dazzling white plastered houses, decorated with ceramic mosaics and lattice windows. On the other side – the new city El Mercadillo with its Spanish pride – one of the oldest bullring in Spain, restaurants, bars, squares and churches. The bridge of Puente Nuevo has long been a symbol of Ronda. Even legends are created about this fabulous bridge. It is apparent from a distance and Ronda looks like a white city hung in the air.
Gibraltar is the place where Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. The old continent of Europe and the coast of Africa are separated by only a hundred kilometers. This is one of the most exotic places in Andalusia, which became a colony of England since the start of the eighteenth century. Here cars have English numbers, English radio, English inscriptions, English money and everything else is in English. The only difference from the UK – the movement of cars is on the right. The city is located in a small headland with a huge rock in the middle. A national park is located at the top which is the home of monkeys. It is the largest and most important tourist attraction in Gibraltar.
Southern Spain is heavily influenced by the Arabs and their eating habits. Rice, lemons, oranges, olives and a wide variety of spices is the heritage of the Moors of Andalusia. Today meat is usually grilled. Saffron and cumin are the main ingredients for sauces. Grinded almonds are used to make sweets. ‘Fritura de pescado’ – a typical meal of Málaga and Cádiz, made of fried fish and squid. ‘Pescado a la sal’ is a fish baked in salt, often served with garlic mayonnaise and parsley sauce. ‘Huevos a la Flamenca’ – a Gypsy dish made of eggs, vegetables and the chouriço pork sausage. Alhambra is a delicate piece of architecture, which combines light, space and water elements. By building the palace, the king of Nasrid implemented his idea of earthly paradise. The castle was built on the plateau and was the last defensive location of Moorish kings of Granada. The Citadel had very strong protective walls with 23 towers and four gates.