Granada: Moorish Sighs in Andalusian Spain

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More than 500 years have passed since the fall of the final caliphate in Andalusian Spain, but the Moorish influence still whispers down backstreets and echoes off tiled courtyards. You’ll see it in the city’s architecture and taste it in the local cuisine. You’ll hear it in the plucked-string sounds of Flamenco played in hidden corners.

Until the mid-8th century, the Umayyads ruled the Islamic empire, a swathe of territory that covered much of the modern-day Middle East as well as the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 A.D., and the young Umayyad prince fled across the Straights of Gibraltar to form a new capital in exile at Cordoba, in southern Spain. This began the Moorish reign in Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the Iberian terrain, a period of time marked by artistic excellence and scientific progress.

But Andalusia was an embattled region, and in 1492 the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella drove the final Moorish ruler from Granada. The deposed sultan stopped at a pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—the Pass of the Moor’s Sigh—to gaze back at his lost city a final time.

Yet Moorish culture in Southern Spain did not die with the departure of the caliph. In Granada, the massive palace-fortress complex of the Alhambra attests to the enduring beauty of Moorish artistic tastes. Glazed tiles decorate courtyards where fountains gurgle and intricate arabesques crown stone archways. The Moors introduced spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron—that made their way into the paellas and buñuelos of Andalusian cuisine. The Moorish lute contributed to the plaintive and passionate sounds of Flamenco. As you walk the streets of Granada, let your senses guide you. You will discover the sights, scents and sounds of a culture whose influence still lingers.
Charlotte Deforet

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