Granada is the epitome of Andalusia in my eyes. Everything about it captures the mysterious grandiose Moorish dream…those orange blossoms, the blooming jasmine, the plaintive wail of a Roma gypsy, the swish of a flamenco dress, glimpses of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, and a bedazzling castle. It is a city which seems to have been made for the intriguing Andalusian essence of “duende”. The elusive spirit that drives through most things Spanish, as the flamenco, ‘duende’ can be loosely translated as a moment of heightened emotion that hurls you out of your spirit. This soul awakening (and goose-bump inducing) experience can be felt at an artistic performance, a poetry recital, an arousing speech or at Granada at the right places at the right time. You feel ‘duende’ while watching clouds race over the spectacular Alhambra, listening to the flamenco dancer’s footsteps quicken with passion, and gazing at stunning mosaics of San Jeronimo Monastery. ‘Duende’ is evoked by the exquisite details of the Nasrid Palace, the timeless Arab quarters of Albaicin, and the way sunsets paint Daro river almost orange.
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Granada is a heady mix of the exotic and the modern
We felt all these and more in Granada. For instance, our first experience of Granada was its edgy, gritty modern side and we got hopelessly lost in its gridlock of streets. It is a compelling city, which brings most of its visitors to their knees and you have no choice but to be awed by it. Granada sprawls like a giant at the foot of the mighty Sierra Nevada and bears the important legacy of being the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors. This legacy draws most visitors like bees to honey and they go home with strong impressions of an energetic, huge city where serene Islamic architecture mingle seamlessly with monumental churches, buzzing tapas bars and Arab influenced street life. Thought-provoking graffiti splash Granada’s public places and Arab inspired mint tea is served in landscaped gardens. There is a lot happening in Granada at any given time and on the weekends, the city feels like a mega carnival. Its strong student population pour into the bars, cafes, dives, and the locals mix with the tourists in sampling the endless tapas platters in town. The strumming of guitar ring from cave flamenco bars in Sacromonte and the stars crowd over Granada to witness the city’s eternal spectacle.
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Granada is the epitome of the Andalusian appeal
A huge part of Granada’s (and entire Andalusia’s) appeal can be credited to the exotic mix of Islamic Christianity essences. Left to jostle for importance for eight centuries in Andalusia, the volatile cross-fertilization of these two faiths have shaped Granada and this city is made up of layers which can be easily separated. Some of Granada’s most beautiful churches bear tale-tell signs of ancient mosques, the cuisine is infused with North African spices, hammams (Arab baths) and teterías (tea houses) invoke a Moorish lifestyle, and the vast palace complex is filled with exquisite stucco designs of Arabesque patterns. Stunning murals of Arab design adorn the local pottery and Granada’s glory lies in them all. Though you can separate the different aspects, taking them apart would destroy Granada and the crown jewel of Andalusian Spain would lose its ‘duende’ invoking aura.
This is not just a Moorish dream, but a tale of survival