My first foray in Granada was in the Sacromonte Area, one of the districts of Albaycin, which is located in the eastern section of the city of Granada. Sacromonte ( Holy Mount) sits on the hilly side and the valley of Val Paraiso and is better known as the Gypsy district of Granada.
One of the must see in Sacromonte is the Abadia, or the Sacromonte Abbey, which is at the top of the Valparaiso hill.
The construction of the Abbey was completed around the middle of the 15th Century. It is made of three complex has three main parts: the Abbey made in Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, the College of the Seventeenth Century and the Seminary.
As a visit to the inner sanctum of the Abbey is by guided tour only (in Spanish) I had to content myself with prowling around the grounds.
One prominent structure on the grounds of the Abbey is a large cross which is the starting point of the Hillside Calvary of Sacromonte.
As I slowly negotiate the side of the very steep hill, I encountered more crosses.
Once safely on terra firma, my wondering brought me the last cross which is infront of the Capilla de Santo Sepulcro, an unassuming building of Baroque architecture built around the 16th hundred.The station of cross or Via Crucis and the creation of thousands of crosses was meant to celebrate and proclaim the religious fervor of the Spanish people after the defeat of the Moors (Iberian Muslims of North Africa who are also called Moros or Moriscos) who occupied Spain from 711 A.D. to 1224 A.D.
A few meters from this small church,on Camino del Sacromote is this unusual house that is decorated with numerous ceramic plates.
Along the Camino De Sacromonte are cave dwellings which dapple the hillside and has made this area quite unique. The exterior of the cave dwellings appear to be ordinary homes but the interior part of the houses were hollowed out of the hillsides. It is said the caves were created by the Arabs who found the that the earth were ideal for carving out to be made into dwellings. When the Arabs were expelled during the Reconquista (a period in history where Christian have taken over territories that were under Arab control) the Gypsies or Gitanos took over the caves.
This area is still a thriving Roma community today, and some of the caves are used as Museums, Bars and Restaurants. where Zambra Mora (feminine form of Moro a name given to North African Muslims who occupied Spain) is the main expression of dance, a fusion of East Indian and Moorish dance movements and music. The East Indian character of this dance is from the nomadic East Indians who wandered around Europe and North Africa who later settled in Moorish Spain in around the 14th century. Zambra Mora is characterized by barefoot stomping and hand castanets with vibrant singing and accompanied with guitar playing. This kind of dance would then evolve into what is known today as Flamenco. This area of Spain is considered the cradle of the Art of Flamenco.The entertainment in some of these caves offer an exciting and raw expression of flamenco that is both exhilarating and exhausting because of the unabated energy that is expressed in the dance and singing and guitar playing.
I start my way down to the valley and I give the hills one last look. It is almost difficult to believe that people continue to live in caves these days but who can blame them when these caves offer a cooler alternative of escaping the Spanish heat during the summer and a warm and cozy place in the winter. I took the chance to explore some of the hillside neighborhood without being intrusive.
I now make my way to the valley and negotiate the narrow streets of Sacromonte with the hope that my legs will not fail me as there are too many to take as I wend my way down.
I find myself back at the Camino del Sacromonte and, a little later, I discover by chance the La Casa De Chapiz Y Jardines on Paseo de Tristes on the eastern edge of Albaicin which offers a cool respite from the Sun and the overwhelming heat of the day. The Casa De Chapiz are two mansions that was owned by two Arab families who converted to Christianity when the Arabs were driven out of Spain.
The Chapiz mansions are notably a mix of Christian and Moorish Elements that were typical of 14th Century Architectural expressions.
The Garden on its own is quite a delight featuring trees, plants and flowers that fans that provide a cooling respite for visitors of the gardens.
On top of the beautiful garden and cool air of the Chapiz mansion is a view of the grand Alhambra.
One of the noteworthy building is the Palacio de Madraza on Calle De Officios which was a mosque school established in the mid 13th hundred by the Nasrid ruler Yusuf, Sultan of Granada. The architectural style of this building is a blend of Arabic, Baroque, Mudejar and Moorish. The building is now part of the University of Granada.
The afternoon was getting hotter but one cannot ignore other beautiful buildings in the area. I was too exhausted from the heat to check the names and significance of the buildings but I was content in merely taking photographs as I go along.
I now find myself at Carrera Del Darro just above the Rio Darro. It was time for food and refreshment and simply sit and enjoy the cool breeze from the water below.