Dishing up the magic of Granada
Granada is my spiritual home. For me, its Arabic-Islamic monuments are some of the world’s best, and the Alhambra, with its fortress, palaces and gardens, is the greatest in Spain. To walk the Alhambra hill is a joy, particularly in the early morning when there are usually few people about but the cicadas, birds and brooks are in full song.
While the Alhambra’s gardens don’t resemble those of the old Andalusian rulers, their pools and fountains are of that time. The water-filled handrail of the escalera de agua (water staircase) is a masterpiece. Water, its sights and sounds, was precious to the Arabs, but later regimes pushed much of the Darro and Genil rivers underground.
My favourite monument in Granada is the near-intact El Banuelo (baths), the best preserved of its kind in Spain. Easily accessible on foot, it can often be enjoyed alone, its cool interior with a starry ceiling a welcome respite from the searing Granada summer. If you walk in the old Arab market by the cathedral after dark you can sense the atmosphere of the past when Muslims, Jews and Christians traded side by side harmoniously.
Federico García Lorca, the great Granadine poet and playwright murdered near the city during the Spanish Civil War, pioneered the performance of flamenco as art at the Alhambra. One of three house-museums dedicated to his memory lies in town.
My evenings are spent in Albaicin, Granada’s historic hillside quarter where the main square affords a magnificent view of the sun setting over the great palace. Hamra is Arabic for red. The palace stonework is pale pink, but at sunset it turns crimson, recalling the Alhambra’s original name, believed to have been qasr al hamra (the red palace). Despite repressing the Muslims (and Jews) after reconquering Granada, the Spanish retained many of the city’s Islamic names.
On my last night, I dine at an outdoor restaurant by the Darro where I can continue savouring the Alhambra, lit artificially and by the full moon, an immense orange orb floating directly overhead. Having settled my bill, I pause for one last contemplation. “Que maravilla (wonderful),” I murmur to the waiter, my eyes fixed on the vision behind him as he approaches to farewell me.
“Glad you liked it,” he says. “It’s a new dish but already proving popular.” I don’t have the heart to disabuse him. Send your 400-word contribution, with full postal address, to: email@example.com. Columnists will receive a selection from Australian stationer Notemaker that includes a MiGoals passport wallet ($29.95), Delfonics canvas pencil case ($16.95) and a clothbound Moleskine Voyageur notebook ($44.95). More: notemaker.com.au.