Spain & Morocco
I visited Spain last year but I was unable to visit Seville and writing about this country's Islamic era wouldn't be justified without a visit to Seville. So I decided to visit Malaga, Seville and Gibraltar and then wanted to take ferry to Morocco.
Most of the things were planned in advance but there was a plenty of room for unexpected adventure, so here we go;
I reached bust stop at 4.16am, however there was no bus till 4.30am. While I was there, a taxi driver came over and asked if I wanted to take taxi for the price of Air coach? It had been raining and it was a cold Morning so I didn’t see anything wrong with it so I decided to go ahead with the driver.
I told driver that I wasn’t going to pay more than €7. He was fine with this and let me get inside the taxi. Then came another passenger at the bus stop, the driver went over to him as well and after a brief conversation, this new guy took the front seat. There were three more people at the stop. The driver asked them if they wanted to take the taxi but they had purchased bus ticket in advance.
While he was talking to those passengers, three more people arrived there. He asked them if they were interested to share a taxi? They agreed to take it. It was a van so driver wanted to have maximum number of passenger inside in order to maximise his profit. I had seen this practise before and Air coach drivers were never happy with taxi drivers taking their business. At the end of the day, it was up to the passengers to decide if they wanted to wait for the bus or take a taxi?
The driver dropped all of us at terminal one and told us to walk to the terminal two. It was strange because nearly all of the passengers were going to the terminal number two. I didn’t have exact change to pay the fare so I gave him a note of €50, driver gave me the change but when I counted it. It was more than what should I had. I returned his extra money and he was more than happy to take it.
It was quiet at Aer Lingus check in desk. I requested window seat. The lady behind the counter told me that there was only the last one available and she was more than helpful to accommodate me. She also mentioned that most people would book their window seats well in advance.
From check in area, I went to the left hand side to take an escalator to the first floor. There was a gentleman who was walking almost parallel to me. He wanted me to take the escalator first. Out of courtesy, I told him to go ahead first but he stepped back and pointed towards the escalator. I thanked him and took the escalator.
On this floor was security check, I showed my boarding pass and after following the crowd in the queue it brought me to the screening machine. Everything was ok till a security guard pointed to a green bag and asked about the owner.
I told him that it was mine but he wanted to know what was inside? I told him that I had mobile phone charger, GPS, Kindle, chargers and connection cables. He asked me to open the bag so he could have a look inside. I opened the bag and security guy was satisfied that there was nothing to be suspicious of. He re-scanned the bag and brought it over to me. He also thanked me for being patient. I didn't have any problem with that in any case because the guy was doing his job. I came to an open area with few empty seats; I took one of the chairs and started to read my notes. The gate was going to be open at 6:10am and boarding was to be started at 6.30am. I made my way to the gate at 6:15am and took my seat beside the window, the plane left Dublin airport at 7:05am.
Inside the plane, there wasn't much going on as it was too early and most of the people, including myself were struggling to stay awake? After few minutes, staff came with headphones and they were asking passengers if they were interested to rent them? It cost €1.50 and must be returned at the end of the flight. Few times breakfast or air deli as Aer Lingus would call it, passed through some of the passengers bought teas and coffees.
Then captain announced that they were getting ready to land at the Malaga airport. The lights for seat belt came on and air hostesses took their seats for landing. When passengers started to leave, a guy behind me came on one side and asked another guy in front of me if he was the father of a certain person? The older guy (second person) confirmed that it was the case.
Then the younger guy introduced himself and told him that he used to work with his son at the Aishling Hotel in Dublin and they were also flat mates. They older guy became more excited. Both had a little chat and both liked the idea of “small world”. Even the air hostess joined the conversation.
When we came out, it was 10:30am. The queue at the immigration control started to swell up but it started to move very fast because most people were just showing their passports. It was my first time since I received Irish citizenship. I came to the immigration counter, showed my passport with front side first and then the inside with picture and moved on.
I came to belt number 26 to collect the luggage. It was clear that there was going to be a delay in baggage arrival because a Spanish security guard who was sitting at the belt with radio in his hand. After waiting for few minutes, the red light beside the belt came on and security the guy stood up. In the beginning only four or five bags came at the belt then belt stopped. The people were becoming bit loud. At belt number 25, the people were collecting their bags. That flight came from Cork (Ireland). However, There were two things common in them, first was that both flights originated in Ireland and second was that the age of the passengers. Most of them were middle aged or elderly. I could guess that majority of the people had houses on Costa del Sol. May be those people were the lucky ones. They sold their houses during Irish economic boom or property boom as few would call it, bought holiday homes in Spain. In those times, the difference between the prices was huge so people not only could afford to buy homes in Spain and they could also leave some money in their bank accounts for the rainy day (though it rains less in Spain then Ireland). Now things were very different in Ireland.
My bag arrived at 11:20. After taking the bag I started to walk towards Hertz car hire. It was located in the basement of the airport.
When I approached the counter, the guy asked me if I was interested in upgrading the car? He told me that with this upgrade, I didn’t need to pay collision damage waiver.
I asked him about the price difference? He didn't answer instead he printed a paper and told me to sign at the bottom. I asked him about €302 charge on the paper? He told me that this was the new price for the car. In all fairness, this was little too much for four days' car hire. I told him that he didn’t inform me of price change and the difference was too much. I had already prepaid the car and I was happy to accept the car I had reserved. He became little defensive and reluctantly printed a new paper.
He also informed me that I needed to pay airport fee of €40 and a drop off fee plus taxes at Algeciras. I didn’t have any problem with this. Then he told me that Hyundai car which I had reserved wasn’t available. So he was going to give me Fiat instead. I have nothing against Italians but I never liked the Fiat cars. As some people would call them FIAT (Fix It Again Tomorrow). The directions I was given to the car park were very misleading so I ended up at the ground level again. I asked a guy for correct direction. He told me to go to the basement again and then turned left instead of far right as the guy at the counter had informed me. Funny enough, the guy at the terminal also told me that car hire guys often gave misleading directions. So in this case, I wasn’t the first one who couldn’t find his way out.
Car was parked at Hertz number 20. Found the car, but there was a problem, suitcase wouldn't fit in the boot. I could leave on the back sea but it was going to cause problem when I wanted to park car at the public car park in La Linea. I had no option but to go back to the car hire desk again. This time they were sympathetic and one of the staff upgraded the car for free for the hassle I had been through. I came back to the car happily (not a big smile, to be honest), put luggage inside and turned on the GPS so I could drive to the hotel in Malaga. Because the car was parked in the basement, there was no GPS coverage. So I drove out of the car park and came on the ground level. On my left hand side was main road which I was meant to take. I decided to stop the car on the small road so I could enter hotel details. In front of me, there was another car and driver was juggling with the GPS, probably he was going through the same thing.
Finding the hotel
I was unable to enter hotel address in GPS so I clicked city centre Malaga and drove off. After driving for few minutes, I saw Malaga cathedral’s tower from distance. So I knew I was on right track but I needed to put correct address in the GPS otherwise I would end up in wrong area. So I decided to take a right turn which brought me on to a smaller street and I managed to find a car parking space on the street. I tried my luck with GPS once more, this time it accepted the address. As it turned out I was putting details incorrectly. I was back on the main road but going in opposite direction (it was a one way road). I was heading back to the airport again. I kept driving because I was waiting for a roundabout or a slip road so I could come off the main road but there was a problem, some work was being carried out on the main road and diversions were in place, so it was impossible to follow GPS's route. I came off the main road; in front of me was a roundabout. Took a left turn and I was heading back to city once again. Happy days!
I reached Paseo Reding and saw a sign for the hotel but left turn wasn’t allowed. So I carried on driving, I took right turn to come off the main road. Two more right turns and it brought me to a T junction. The main road was in front of me and I took left turn. Now I was driving towards the hotel. Took right turn and parked in front of the hotel entrance. I was given room 204 after necessary paper work. I parked the car in designated area and took lift to come to the second floor. As I was entering the room, there was a house keeping girl inside who was still cleaning the room. She told me something in Spanish which I was unable to understand. She rang Reception and with hand signal she told me to go reception.
At reception, I was told that I could get another room because this room was going to be ready in ten minutes. I decided to wait. After ten minutes, I went upstairs, the girl who was cleaning the room, was just leaving. When I walked inside the room, my footprints were all over the floor. The floor had white tiles and they were wet. I cleaned the floor with one of the towels.
It was almost 2:30pm now. I came to the reception and asked if Mercado de Atarazanas was still open? The girl at the reception told me that it closed every day at 2pm. I informed her that according to my information, it was meant to be closed at 3pm but she wasn’t going to give in that easily. She told me I could try my luck but it would be closed already. I took a city map from the reception and left the hotel. It was a hot day in Malaga (as per Dublin's standards). I walked under the beautiful palm trees of Paseo Parque. Flowers, palm trees and ocean breeze altogether were making a beautiful afternoon in Malaga.
I reached Mercado at 2:45pm. Some of the shops were closed already but few were still open. I was more than happy to capture few shots of this magnificent structure. There was very strong smell of sea food, which was being sold there.
About the building
Muslim shipyard, built in the reign of Muhammad V (1354-1391). The main entrance, an imposing horseshoe archway in off-white marble, is in fact the only remaining part of what was once a grand seven-arched shipyard. It had written WA la ghalib illa Allah (there is no conqueror except of God) on it. Amazingly, even as late as the 18th century the sea reached right up to the present-day market.
From shipyard to market, Ataranzanas underwent many transformations over the centuries. Following the fall of the city to the Catholics in 1487, a convent was set up there. Then it was turned into a huge military fort for storing weapons. Later, it became a hospital and even housed a medical school. Sadly, by the 19th century the original structure had largely fallen into disrepair and in 1868 the revolutionary government of the time ordered the remaining ruins to be pulled down to make way for a modern and spacious market. The last horseshoe arch was saved by Joaquin Rucoba. He rebuilt this, placing it at the centre of the southern façade, and then completed the building in Arabic style.
From the market I walked to the Malaga Cathedral. There were few horse drawn carriages parked beside it. At the entrance of the cathedral, there were few gypsies beggars and tourists were wondering around. Beside one of the door, was a guy who was playing a violin and two dogs were sitting peacefully beside him.
About the building
Malaga´s cathedral was built between 1528 and 1782 on the site of a former mosque. While original plans had allowed for two towers, but lack of funds ( donated to American Independence) resulted in the completion of only one, giving rise to the name by which the cathedral is affectionately referred to, La Manquita, loosely interpreted as "one armed woman".
Then I went to Alcazbilla Street. I wanted to buy combo ticket for Alcazaba and Gibralfaro. The attendant told me that I could buy it from the machine. He left his desk and showed me how to use the machine. On one side of the room, was a model of Malaga fortification of the medieval times. It was inside a large glass cover.
About the Building
Alcazaba is Malaga's most important landmark, and overlooks the city from a hilltop inland. It is one of two Moorish fortresses in the city, the other being the Castillo de Gibralfaro, situated above. The Alcazaba is the best-preserved Moorish fortress palace in Spain.
Constructed on the ruins of a Roman fortification during the reign of Abd al-Rehman I, the first Emir of Cordoba, in around 756-780AD, the Alcazaba's original purpose was as a defence against pirates, thanks to its commanding position with views over the city and down to the sea.
The fortress was rebuilt by the Sultan of Granada, Badis Al-Ziri, from 1057-1063AD, while the fortified double walls that connect the Alcazaba to the neighbouring Castillo de Gibralfaro, over the Coracha ridge, were built by the Nasrid ruler Yusuf I in the 14th century, when most of the inner palace was also refurbished. As a palace, it was home to a number of Moorish rulers.
The Alcazaba has a distinct feel from its more famous, younger neighbours, the Alcazar of Seville and the Alhambra of Granada. It was already three centuries old when the others were build. After the reconquest, it fell into decay until restoration work began in 1933, and continues slowly today. Two of its original three walls remain, as well as over 100 towers and three palaces.
The fortress's entrance area, which is close to the Plaza de Aduana and the Roman theatre in Calle Alcabazilla, formed part of the city walls. I passed through the Puerta de la Bóveda (Gate of the Vault). This door could also be accessed via lifts. Then I passed through the Puerta de la Columnas (Gate of the Columns), which was built using Roman marble columns to hold up the Moorish horseshoe arches.
Then I entered the lower precincts of the Alcazaba, via the second puerta en recodo under the Torre del Cristo (Christ's Tower). This was where the first mass was celebrated following the victory over the town by the Reyes Catolicos (The Catholic Monarchs). While I was overlooking Alcazaba wall, I met two American girls. Who told me that they were here to celebrate friend’s birthday and they were staying somewhere at Costa del Sol.
One of them asked me, where I came from?
Are you going to spend many days in Spain?
Just few days, then I will be taking boat to go to Morocco.
Morocco, that's very nice. Why few days in Spain? Spain is beautiful, isn't? Yes, it is, other one replied.
I agree with you but I was in Spain last year so I have already seen few parts of Andalucía.
Did you go to Alhambra?
Yes, I did.
How was it? She was clearly excited.
It was unbelievably beautiful. Put this way, it is the most visited monument in whole Spain. I continued.
Wow, we would like to go to the Alhambra as well, but we have heard it is very hard to get tickets?
Yes, that's true. You needed to book your tickets well in advance.
We were unable to find online tickets. One of them said with a sad face.
I am sorry to hear that.
Then one of them beamed, you know what, we are going to take a gamble. We will go to Grenada and if we are lucky we might be able to get tickets.
I wished them good luck.
As I tried to leave them. One of them asked me. What else we could do in Spain?
Now I smelled something fishy. Either they were thinking that I was a tour guide or they had too much time on their hand?
You can visit Cordoba. It has one of the most beautiful mosques. Now it is being used as a church. One of them said, we will go to Cordoba with train.
They thanked me for my time and wished me good luck for the rest of my holidays. View from the Alcazaba was breath-taking. The lower precinct followed the contours of the hill, and it brought me to place, where I could see the Plaza de Armas, which is now a garden with fountains and a bastion on the south side which once defended the coast. On Right hand side were mountains. On left hand side was Gibralfaro.
As I was walking around, I saw renovation work was being carried out on one of the towers. After following the little cobbled paths through the Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada (Gate of the Halls of Granada, which lead into the upper precinct where the pathway passes through attractive landscaped gardens. One of the gardens was beautiful so I decided to take a photo of it. To make it picture perfect, I thought that it would make a better photo if there were no people inside. I waited and waited but no luck I took the photo anyway.
Inside the Alcazaba, the Archaeological Museum and the Ceramics Museum have been installed in the Cuarto de Granadas. Inside the Nazari palace, at the top of the fortress, there was a courtyard, three in fact: the Patio de los Surtidores (Courtyard of the Fountains), which featured a row of caliphal arches leading to the Torre de la Armadura Mudéjar (Mudejar Armoury Tower) with its 16th-century carved wooden ceiling. The Torre de Maldonaldo (Maldonado Tower), with its original marble columns and balconies, offered the best views so far.
The next two courtyards was the palace are the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) and the Patio de la Alberca (Courtyard of the Pool). The palace was quite extensive with arches, towers, gates, and original marble columns.
Some areas, such as the dungeons and the Patio del Aljibe (Courtyard of the Reservoir), and the Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower) and original Moorish dwellings, mosque and baths were closed. Unfortunately there was no direct walking route between the Alcazaba and its neighbouring fortress situated further up the hill, the Gibralfaro, over the Coracha ridge of land which joined the two castles. I exited the Alcazaba from the same door where I had entered earlier on. If Alcazaba of Malaga wasn't as beautiful as Alhambra but it still held its weight as King Felips IV had discovered who used Alcazaba as his residence in the Seventeenth century.
The Roman Theatre
After coming out of the Alcazaba I turned right and in front of me was Roman Theatre. At the bottom of the theatre, I saw a guy with a shovel, who was working on the site. I asking him if he was just building the theatre? He just laughed.
About the building
The theatre was built in the first century BC under Emperor Augustus. It was operational till 3rd century AD and then it was left to ruins for centuries. When Muslim arrived in the area, they used this area as a quarry and one can see today many of the stones and columns were used in Alcazba Fortress. This amphitheatre was neglected over the centuries and thus turning into a pile of rubble. The theatre was divided into three parts, the Cavea which was for general seats, the Orchestra for VIPs of the time and the Proscenium was a stage for the performers.
After coming out of the theatre, I came on the street called Alcazabilla (Calle Alcazabilla). There was a little glass case, underneath were some kind of ruins. I wanted to take a photo of it. When I tried, I could see reflection of the Alcazaba walls in the glass. It made very interesting photo.
Muslim City Walls
I passed Plaza de Mercedes. I was looking for Calle Betis. Finding this street wasn't that difficult, my next target was a public car park. This was meant to have old city walls inside. I found the car park and asked the attendant about it the walls? He never heard anything like that and looked at face if I was serious? As he tried to make sense of the car park and hidden or not that much hidden old city wall, a lady customer pulled in. He asked her if she knew anything about the walls. She looked at me and shook her head in disappointment. I thanked both of them and came out of the car park.
I wondered if there was another car park. So I tried to get help from two police men. Then didn’t know any car park containing old city walls in this area. I decided to leave and turned left to go back to the main road. All of sudden I heard a shout “Amigo”.
I could see police man in the far distance, coming to me.
Yes. I said politely, When I was closer to him.
OK, no problem.
The policeman seemed very excited. He brought me to the Instrument Museum and stood beside with his face beaming with joy. There were two girls on the reception. One of them told me that there were medieval walls inside the museum. But in order to access them I needed to buy €4 ticket.
She felt little embarrassed for asking the price. She went on to explain. That this was a tourist place so they needed to charge the money (Any tourist out there, you are warned).
I told her that I was willing to pay the entry ticket. I was given mood watch. One would need to select one's music style. Then anywhere I went. The watch would communicate with the sensor and the music would come on automatically. It was a nice bit of gadget but I wasn't there to listen the music.
It was called Interactive Museum of Music and it contained a collection of more than 400 musical instruments from all over the world. The Museum offered audio visual exhibits with information about the instruments, as well as “Please Play” stations where one could interact with different instruments arranged for this purpose. It also acted as an activity and dissemination centre of everything related to music. There were pianos in Museum, which could be played. The one thing in life I could never came any closer than this was playing an instrument. Although I beat the drums really hard. It required force rather than technique (just joking).
At the end of the Museum (just below the staircase) were medieval walls in a glass. Then I came to the counter and after giving the watch back the deposit was refunded.
Although walls were inside the case and they were not that high but they still had historical importance. These walls belonged to four different periods.
The Romans were first to build city walls. Those walls were re-built by the Almohads, thus adding more strength to the city defence. Nazris (Nasri) of Granada were the last Muslim rulers to build those walls. Then came the modern period, these walls were renovated at this point most of the walls were destroyed already in order to expand the city.
Another section of the city walls was found inside Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio Hotel. Though I didn't have enough time to visit them but those walls, which also feature Roman remains, could be viewed from a walkway or through glass panels in the hotel floor.
Iglesia de Santiago
Situated in Calle Granada, this church was built on top of a former mosque. It was the oldest church in Malaga. Its foundation dated back to 1490. Of the original only front remained. This church had beautiful tower of Mudejar style. Famous painter Pablo Picasso was baptised in this church in 1881.
I was back on main road again and I asked for bus number 35. I was told to cross the road. After crossing the road, I came to the bust stop and looked at the sign. There was no mention of route number 35. So I decided to go to the sea front where I could catch the bus. While I was walking back, I saw few youngsters were drawing sketches of the city life or street scene. They seemed to be students from a college or something.
It only took me few minutes to reach the se front. When bus number 35 came I asked the driver about the ticket? He informed that that bus was going to the city centre. So I needed to cross the road and catch bus on the opposite side. There were 20 minutes in bus arrival. This was also last bus of the day. To me it felt very strange that this particular route was stopping at 7pm. The bus arrived at 7:03pm and I was at the front gate of Gibralfaro at 7:15pm. I showed the ticket at the entrance which I had purchased at the Alcazaba. I still had 45 minutes to enjoy this beautiful and historical monument.
About the building
The castle was built in 929AD by Abd al-Rehman III, Caliph of Cordoba, on a former Phoenician enclosure and lighthouse, from which its name was derived - gebel-faro (Arabic and Greek, meaning rock of the lighthouse). Yusuf 1, Sultan of Granada, enlarged it at the beginning of the 14th century, also adding the double wall down to the Alcazaba. The castle is famous for its three-month siege by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, which ended only when hunger forced the Malagueños to surrender. Afterwards Ferdinand occupied the site, while his queen took up residence in the town. Interesting historic fact: this was the first conflict in which gunpowder was used by both sides. The most visible remains of this historic monument were the solid ramparts which rise majestically from dense woods of pine and eucalyptus. The ramparts have been well restored and one could walk all the way round them.
Near the entrance was the Interpretation Centre (formerly known as the Museo Militar), a small military museum. Where various military memorabilia were on display. All of them belonged to the Spanish Era. The small one-room museum depicts the castle’s history over the centuries since the Reconquest, and contained a relief model of the castle and the hill on which it sits, as well as various military paraphernalia explaining about daily life of soldiers in the castle. One could see a collection of stamps featuring military uniforms and weapons.
This building was once the castle’s gunpowder store; before that, it was the church of San Luis, which was destroyed by French troops in the war of Independence, rebuilt and then abandoned until 1925 because of the exclusive military use of the castle - it was occupied continuously by soldiers for nearly 500 years. The church, in turn, was built on the site of the castle mosque.
There was a small café inside the castle, as well as a refreshment kiosk in the car park at the top. A double wall leads down the Coracha ridge to the historic buildings of the Alcazaba.
There were few German students over the walls. They were messing with each other. For them it was a part of fun. The Sun was going down majestically.
Then at 19:50, a guard started to blow his whistle, it was the signal that it was time to leave. When I came out of the castle, there was an American couple in front of me who was discussing the time of the bus. I told them that there wouldn't be any more buses. So they decided to walk down reluctantly. The guys seemed to be fine but Mrs’s face dropped.
While I was coming down from the hill, I saw beautiful view of bullring. Anyone for free view? I had read in some books that some people would try to watch a free bullfight from this high point. There were few walkers with their dogs. The teenagers which I had met earlier over the castle walls were now sitting and chatting there on the benches.
I kept walking downwards on that zig zag path. Coracha was on my right, there was an iron door, I tried to have a look inside but there wasn't anything interesting. I kept to the left because my hotel was located on that side.
An Evening in Malaga
I came to the hotel, after relaxing for few minutes. I decided to go for a dinner. I asked the girl at the reception desk for a restaurant nearby? She told me to pass through the tunnel and go to big plaza (Plaza de la Merced) and I would be able to find something. I followed her instructions and reached the plaza but found only tapas bars. Finding a restaurant in Malaga wasn't that hard but the problem I was facing that I needed a place which would serve halal food. So I continued looking around and I came to the sea front and saw a Turkish donner & kebab place. While I was sitting and waiting for food to arrive at the table I saw two homeless guys. The one on my left hand side had a sign in front of him, probably asking for money and he was reading a book (fair play to him). Other guy, who was on my right hand side, was eating a burger while sitting against a wall.
After finishing my meal, I decided to go back to the hotel. I was very tired. It had been a long day. I was walking beside the sea and very gentle sea breeze was blowing. Then I heard drum and trumpet being played. The sound was becoming louder and louder. When I reached closer, I saw a group of people who were blowing their trumpets and some were beating drums. They seemed to be practising. There was a guy who was standing in front of them. He would come over to each of them and he would go back to his position again. What a nice way to learn music, I thought. Sea side, breeze, beautiful Malaga and playing your instruments, one couldn't ask for more. Then I saw another group but this one was smaller than the last one. They seemed to be practising same song or tune.