Dish­ing up the magic of Granada

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - MARY HAIRE AN­NAN­DALE, NSW

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: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. 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.

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