Islamic Voice
Shawwal/Zul-Qada 1422
January 2002
Volume 15-01 No:181

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Spanish Journey

Spanish Journey

The Muslim Moorish rule in Spain has been swept away like many other affluent nations before it, who had grown arrogant of power

Spanish Journey1

Spanish Journey2

Spanish Journey3

By Jaffer Ahmed

It was a clear, sunny day on ctober 29, 2001, over Spainís city of Malaga. My Monark Airlines flight from London had taken three hours. Spainís bright Sun had come as a welcome break after two months of dreary, overcast weather of London.

My companion and cousin Charles Knight, who lives in Southall and works at Heathrow Airport had accompanied me on the flight. (I reverted to Islam some 20 years ago.) Though the history of Muslim Spain had fascinated me since adolescence, Knight and my Spain-based cousin primarily coaxed me into undertaking a sojourn to Spain.

From Malaga, we travelled to Cadis by car. Cadis skirts the Mediterranean sea and Gibraltar, a British colony is the place where the stormy Atlantic meets an almost tideless Mediterranean sea. Though we did not enter Gibraltar, the Mediterranean was just before our eyes. Commander of the Muslim forces Tariq had entered the Iberian peninsula from Gibraltar, hence the name Jabalut Tariq (a rock near the shore is named after Tariq). It got corrupted into Gibraltar. My cousin Gwen Docherty leads a serene pensionerís life in Lalinia in Cadis. I was filled with excitement as I was nearing my destination, Granada (formerly Gharnatha), the heart of Muslim Spain where Muslims had ruled from 711 to 1492.

Our train journey to Granada began at the Sanroque station. The train was empty by Indian standards. The landscape seen through windows was scenic. Stations were small, but well maintained with orange trees growing on the platforms. Olive and cork trees seemed to fill the orchards on the way. Often cork tree trunks could be seen sliced neatly. Spain and Portugal produce most of the worldís cork. As you know rubbery cork is used for capping bottles.

The train dropped us at the beautiful station of Granada. The city stood before me bathed in resplendent Sun. The first look itself suggested that Granada is a very modern city with posh malls, avenues and gardens. Spaniards seem to be very friendly people who insist on speaking Spanish. We stayed in a small, but extremely snug hotel richly embellished with flowers. Most streets in Spain have flower-beds on the two sides. Next came our ascent to Alhambra Palace, the seat of the Muslim power for nearly eight centuries. A ten-minute bus ride took us to the Alhambra Palace. It is actually a Spanish corruption of Al Qalaul Hamra or the Red Palace. Actually red clay was used to build it. It is a fine specimen of Islamic architecture. It assumed significance in 1238 when Mohammed Bin Al-Hamar made himself Master of Granada. It was he who brought water from the river Daro to the top of this hill and transformed the barren land into gardens and Palaces which for two and half centuries witnessed the glory of power. Within its protective cover, he built gleaming palaces and gardens perfumed with roses, jasmine and myrtle. Without his magical creative gifts, Granada would today be known only to archaeologists.

On passing through the gateway to the Alhambra the urban surroundings change into woodlands full of shadows, chirping of birds and the murmur of the brooks. You pass by the Charles V fountain. A semi- circular bastion put in the fading years of Moorish dominance is an emplacement for artillery and signifies its military purpose. There are also underground prisons used by the Moors.

When you enter the court of the Lions, you will know that this is the most beautiful part of the Alhambra. Such is the sensation we feel before this Granadian court. It has arcades all around, a pavilion at the eastern end has crenellated roof and a cupola of glass mosaic. Further up the columns amidst the breathtaking art is Arabic calligraphy, perhaps of verses of the Holy Quran proclaiming strict monotheism. The old mosque was demolished by the Christians and a church built on it.

The towers stand out magnificently, though much has been restored, but still present a ruinous appearances. The Alhambra continues its existence by a sheer miracle. To the east you see the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. To the south is Torres Bermejas or the Crimson Towers, a name derived from reddish mortar used in its constructions.

Though Alhambra stands, the Muslim Moorish rule in Spain has been swept away like many other affluent nations before it who had grown arrogant of power. If it wasnít for tourism and the revenue it attracts, the Alhambra would have been brought down much earlier. I came away from Alhambra with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Spain is alluring for many of its aspects. Fish and olive are popular foods. They come in hundreds of varieties. Spanish coffee is extraordinary and restaurants serve freshly ground coffee. Sunday markets in Spanish towns are things to see. There is a worth mentioning tradition of Spain. People who go to restaurants throw the cigarette butts, empty sachets, napkins on the restaurant floor. More the refuse on the floor, more popular is the restaurant. Another worth mentioning thing about Spain are the salesgirls on skates in shopping malls. They roll on the floor and deliver goods to the shoppers. I flew back to London after four days of visit to Granada. But its memories still linger on.

As told to Islamic Voice. Jaffer Ahmed was manager at Islamic Voice till August, 2001. He was recently in England and Spain.


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