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Published: January 4th 2005
Medina Al -Zahara
The Quixotic Traveller at the grand entranceway of Medinat Al-Zahra, Andalucia.
So I believe I was telling you about my trip to Spain before I got distracted with the history lesson. Codoba was wonderful and I had a great time exploring and meeting people at the hostel. The mosque there is incredable, it was built in the 10th century when Cordoba was the capital of Islamic Spain. Its HUGE, a giant square with a forest of columns and double arches on the inside. Unforutantely the center was cut out and a cathedral inserted in the middle by the chrisitian kings in the 17th century. The cathedral - done in the ugliset Spanish Baroque with trumpeting angles, big fat babies and bald-headed monks flying everywhere - both ruins the mosque and show by comparison just how much more ingenious and tastefull the much-older mosque is in its simple design and incredably intricate detail. The day I left for Granada I went to Madinat Al-Zahar, the ruined palace of the Muslim Caliphs on the outskirts of Cordoba. There I met a delightful French couple with whom I spent three days sightseeing and eating and practicing both French and Arabic.
In Granada we went to the Alhambra, Spain's number one tourist site. Its a beautiful palace on a hilltop built by the last muslim king of Spain. Its myriad room and courtyards are covered some of the most complex and intricate carved stone patterens that the world has ever seen. It could very well by the finest Islamic monument anywhere: its definately the most finely detailed, tasetful and elegantly complex thing I've ever seen and I've seen a good portion of the world's finest Islamic buildings.
My second day in Granada I said goodbye to my friends and took a day trip up to Sierra Nevada to go Skiing! I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but Granada is only an hour from the best ski resort South of the Pyrenees - you can actually look up from Granada and see it. There I rented a wonderful pair of slalom skies that were only as tall as my shoulders: they turned out to be the best I've ever skiied on and made my day just that much more enjoyable. The town of Sierra Nevada is nothing but a cluster of shops and the skiing is nothing special compared to Colorado (The whole thing is above the tree line so there's no cover from the wind) but that didn't stop me from having the best day of skiing I've had in years.
The next day, New Year's Eve, was wonderful too. I got invited to a house party by some local musicians that I met in a square where I drank copius amounts of beer for the first time in a almost a month. We played music all night and I talked for hours with some Italian gypsies about Italy and Spain and life in Morocco.
New year's day I went to Almeria on the cost where I wandered about aimlessly before bording the ferry back to Morocco the next day. Before I went back, however and I stocked my backpack full of wonderful Spanish riojas, a kilo of excellent queso (Moroccan cheese is the worst paste of curdled milk and mold in the world I swear), and some divine pork salami which is probably the best I've ever had.
Spain is definately home to the world's finest pork products and there's a not so glorious (read shameful) historical reason for it. Both Muslims and Jews are forbidden to eat pork by their religions, so during the inquisition pork-eating become something of a national pass-time and the display of said pig meat became an indirect way of saying "infidels not wanted here". The legacy of this is that even today, every bar in Spain has dozens of entire ham-legs (hooves still attached) hanging from the wall and ceiling. I don't think the shopkeeper do it today to intentionaly show any religious intolerance nor do I think that most of the population is aware of its dubious origin, but it is surprising just to see how MUCH ham is on display: in some bars there are litterly several hundered ham legs strung across the ceiling and nothing on the menu without some type of pig meat in it.
I was, nevertheless, more than happy, to illegaly smuggle some of this contraband sausage back with me to Morocco and I take great delight in locking myself in the house and commiting the unpardonable sin of eating it here in Fez. Not much else is new. David and Anita, the owners of the house, left last night. They added some more furniture to the courtyard while I was gone so we finally have a place to sit and eat. School starts tomorrow. I'm looking forward to meeting some new friends and learning more Arabic though I'm not especialy happy about having to get up at 8:00 am again to commute. Fateeha, our housekeeper, is about to have her baby, so that should be something of an event. Fortunately I think David and Anita, who are very cheritable in sending some of the neighborhood kids to school to learn English, saw to it that she'd be able to afford some basic medical care before they left. I've uploaded my photos from Spain. Sorry there are only two that actually have me in them. You can find them here: http://www.cosmicyoyos.com/maroc/2/index.html
Happy New Years! Come Visit!
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