Experience the romance of Al-Andalus with me

 

'In the 18th and 19th centuries, many countries from the North of Europe went through the process of industrialisation. This process therefore rendered the contemporary man a rootless being due to the constant population movements from the countryside to the cities'.

-Viajeros Romanticos

 

In the young upper-classes, this inspired travel overseas, to Spain, Italy and Greece. They sought natural landscapes and archeological remains to feed their spirits. Sharing their experiences through writing and art earned them the title 'Viajeros Romanticos', romantic travellers.

 

When you visit places like Andalusia, you realise just how soul-less the large concrete metropolises we inhabit can be, and therefore, being immersed in nature combined with history, can feed the soul in ways that are unfamiliar.

 

My desire to revisit Andalusia came about last year. After four years of no travel post Covid, my confidence felt knocked slightly, however, following the spiritual revelations I received last year, which led to my exploration of Sufism, I felt a calling to travel East. With a love for Islamic architecture, I'd already experienced the astonishing Moorish style in the great Alhambra Palace, in Granada and the Mezquita (mosque), in Cordoba, thirteen years earlier, but i'd only appreciated these aesthetically rather than spiritually. This time I wanted to view Andalusia with different eyes and truly from the heart.

 

The minute I arrived, knowing of my love for Sufism, I was gifted (by friends), the book 'Ibn 'Arabi, Sufi's of Andalusia', based on the life of Arab Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic, poet, and philosopher, born in 1165. The book names and describes seventy one Sufi's who Ibn Arabi met throughout his life and who lived in the region.

 

Wow, the scene was set and this, kicked off my trip beautifully.

Ibn Arabi

The journey began in a forest

Up in the mountations, in Europes fourth largest forest, lies a beautiful finca (a peice of rural, agricultural land with a house built within it). This is where I stayed. Cut off from the world, with no shop or restaurant in sight. Only mountains and forest with Morocco and Gibraltar, in the far distance.

 

One afternoon, as I was walking through the plantation, I saw a stag looking directly at me. It didn't even run upon seeing me. Just amazing! I felt as though I was in, what I imagine to have been the garden of Eden, surrounded by tropical plants and fruit wherever you cast your eyes. To eat, I enjoyed fresh figs, custard apples, chinese lanterns and bananas that tasted like candies, all cultivated on the land. Fruits i'd never tasted or had tasted but without near as much flavour.

 

Staying in nature like this, felt mystical. On a vibrational frequency, I could sense it's power and aliveness. Sounds crazy but it was as though the towering trees with huge branches swaying in the breeze resembled humans. That's how intense their life force was, and the divinity within. With my friends, we took walks to the top of the mountains overlooking vast green forest. One day we visited the local river. After wading through thorned bushes and climbing over towering rocks we arrived at the most beautiful oasis, resembling a lagoon. Peace everywhere and no one to be seen. What a treat! I kept my internet usage to a bare minimum wanting to focus on what was infront and around me including the people I was physically with rather than virtually.

Images from the finca

A place rooted in faith

Spain like most places has a tumultuous religious history. What has been left by its rulers, is a rich legacy of magnificent Rennaisance/Baroque churches and cathedrals and, delectable Moorish mosques and palaces.

Churches have grand solid structures and oppulently gilded gold and silver altars. Externally, they're set amongst beautiful Plazas.

At dusk, when the church bells would ring over the voices of children and adults speaking in Spanish, it somehow felt like being in a Federico Fellini movie- a little surreal.

Wrong country, I know! But you get the picture!

Cadiz, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Ronda

The Moors

I adore Islamic architecture, art and design. Therefore for me, Moorish style is a feast for the senses; geometrical shapes, fluid arabesques, corniches, arches, domes, symmetrical gardens, water fountains and not forgetting, the most sophisticated use of colour. This can also be seen in Ottoman and Persian styles.

 

The Moors were Muslim armies from North Africa who ruled Andalusia between 710-1492 AD. Under Moorish rule, Spains, Cordoba became the largest and wealthiest city in Europe and a prominent center of education and learning of the world, producing numerous philosophers and scientists.

 

The Moors, quite clearly had a love for beauty and sensuality, which can be seen in their design and rich architectural legacy. I think that the gift the Moors give to someone like me is the permisssion to view the world romantically, underpinned by love. For those of us who have deep, creative and sensitive souls, there is often a disconnect between us and the world around us. A world in which survival means shutting off our romanticism and conforming to the rigidity that is expected. Stepping into a world like the one the Moors created, allows the feminine in our spirits to roam free for a while. Add to that the Sufi mystical, philosophical teachings and be careful, you may become a loving, gushy, hopeless romantic. That's the point though, being a gushy romantic is a beautiful thing and something to be embraced and cherished.

Banos Arabes and Palacio de Mondragon, Ronda

And finally...Ronda

Ronda, Ronda, Ronda- what can I say. You truly stole my heart.

 

Dating back to the Neolithic age, Ronda sits on the 100 metre deep Tajo gorge underneath which, runs the Guadalevín river. This can be observed from the Puente Nuevo bridge (see picture).

 

The combination of the natural landscape, the old Arab Medina/monuments and the more modern areas of the town make for a holistically soul enriching experience. Walking through the cobbled streets of Ronda, again made me feel like I was on a movie set.

Not surprising why musicians, poets and artists were so enthralled by the town.  

El Tajo & Puente Nuevo, Ronda

And there it is, my two weeks of romance in Andulusia.

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