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A experience in the Albayzín

Here you have an experience written by a philippine visitor of Granada about the Albayzín, that really touched us so deep:

“Perched atop the hills of the old city of Granada in Spain is the quiet village of the Albayzin.

It appears without warning, secretively opening its paths only to a certain kind of wanderer and keeping the rest out, as it had once done in the middle ages, when the last emirs fought off the Castilians who were kept off by the hills and the precipice near which it sits.

Today, the intrepid tourist will find his way here by leaving the gothic town center, and following the twisted, medieval alleyways lined by the two-storey, white washed dwellings typical of Southern Spain. The paths may not be very inviting to the infirm, the old, the cardiac patient, the coward, but the higher one goes, the more beautiful this place becomes, as it unveils its manto revealing its little secrets.

The Albayzin was a casbah, and back in its heyday it served as the commercial center in Andalucía of Moorish Spain. Much of its old Arabic character remains. Its homes, called carmen granadito, are in the Arabic style of house surrounded by a garden.

Its coiling paths crisscross each other, angrily competing for right of way, making it a task to walk about. There is the old convent with its high walls that argue with the vines that surround the carmens. There too, the tower of the old mosque that announces the evening calls to prayers.

The mirador de San Nicolas is one of my favorite spots in the world. On the Albayzin’s highest point, it is a noiseless focal point, a sleepy corner separate from the world.

Except for the gypsy’s flamenco, there is nothing to bother the quiet. The view from across the ravine, the star of the show: the Alhambra, the old citadel that protected the last emirs. From an angle and around dusk, the fortress seems to float in the horizon. The air is crisp, clean and smells of pine from the Sierra Nevada, off in the distance.

I am sitting dozing off on the ledge, when a young man suddenly pokes me in my ribs: “Oye tio, te vas a caer,” Hey guy, you’re gonna fall. I half open my eyes, but before I see him the smell of frying anchovies, bulinao, taunts my hungry stomach. Who is this man that reeks of fish? His name is Luis Alejandro Moreno, a half-breed gypsy, and he is curious about my camera. I explain to him what it was, and he said he’s never seen a camera like that and would I like to photograph him for some sort of talent agency?

No Antonio

He claims that he is a matador, a bullfighter (I thought, yeah that’s just bull). But he insists: I will pay you, if you agree. I relent, and he takes me out to where he rehearses, in his mother’s farm, with the donkey and a thousand goats. He changes into the traditional garb: pink stockings, tight pants, a really fabulous cape. But the tradition of bullfighting in Spain is not for the effeminate, for in a traditional Spanish bullfight, six large mammals are put to death for an afternoon’s entertainment, all in the glory of the macho Iberian temperament. Luis strikes a pose with his fake bull, and gives me stupid Antonio Banderas faces, and finishes the practice session with a flourish of his cape. Meet me at the town square tomorrow night at 6 p.m. so I can give you your prints.

The next day, I met with some friends and dine al fresco under the traditional,
interlacing vines of a garden in one of the Moorish carmens of legend, hurrying up some bottles of white from the coast. Today the morning light casts ghastly figures on the walls of the garden, and their eyes send me secret messages. Maybe I need coffee.

The host, a well-known poet, shows off his recent work of literature, but more importantly, he lays down a plate of Iberian ham. The ham from pig that is fed with acorn found in a specific region, he goes on blah blah blah about the meat. But the meat is beautiful, it sings in my mouth, the flavor of earth, leaves, peppers, wood, a hint of cyprus. Then I realize that it is dark, and the Albayzin reposes, mute and quiet. I have a meeting with Luis, the matador. The poet laughs, you’ve been ripped off by a tourist swindler.

Inexplicable attraction

There are places in the world that I would like to be able to return to, visit more than twice in my life. There is a beach town in the Costa Brava that reminds me of Ginatilan, Cebu. That is one of them. The Albayzin, I have visited twice. There is some ineffable quality about it, some haunting energy that incessantly tugs at me.

Why am I attracted to this sort of undefined? It is all over my photography, my paintings and my writing. It’s something I can not fathom, this little phantom twinge, but for now, I shall leave it behind for I have unfinished business.

At the photo lab, the girl gathers my prints, and she looks at me with a questioning expression. She looks at the photographs, as if recognizing somebody from her past.

She asks, do you know who this is? I said, that is the matador that I met at the San Nicolas. Yes, she replies, and with a nervous swallow, she reveals Luis is dead, has been for the last three years, longingly, passionately dead.”


Source: Dale Santos Jabagat (SunStar)