Granada stands as a testament to the seamless weave of history and culture, a city where the echoes of its ancient origins blend with the vibrancy of modern life. Nestled in the heart of Andalusia, Granada's story unfolds from the whispers of the 1st and 2nd centuries, through the enigmatic presence of figures such as San Cecilio and St. Patrick, to the discovery of the mysterious "plumbic laminae." These elements mark Granada not just as a city but as a sacred nexus of spiritual journeys, deeply rooted in ancestral veneration and celebrated as a blessed pilgrimage site through the ages.
Before the rise of Granada as we know it, there was Elvira, "the Damascus of Al-Andalus," a flourishing Roman city under the Umayyads. Elvira's prosperity, tied to medieval naval trade routes and its pivotal role in the historical narrative of Granada, set the stage for the city's ascendance following the fall of the Umayyad dynasty. This era laid the foundations for Granada to emerge as a beacon of cultural and economic prosperity, eventually becoming known as the "Damascus of Granada" due to its significant silk trade. This trade was not merely an economic activity but a conduit for the vibrant exchange of ideas and culture, connecting Granada to distant lands and peoples.
Granada's name, often misconstrued as derived from the pomegranate fruit, actually signifies a deeper historical richness. The symbolic importance of the pomegranate, reflecting opulence and central role in trade networks, underscores Granada's multifaceted identity. It's a city that has thrived on its connections, both terrestrial and intellectual, fostering a legacy of prosperity and cultural exchange.
As the last Muslim kingdom of Al-Andalus, Granada symbolizes a critical juncture in history, where the fragmentation of Al-Andalus gave rise to a kingdom renowned for its strategic and cultural significance. This period highlighted Granada's resilience and innovation, particularly in the silk trade, which played a pivotal role in global commerce and the city's economy. The enduring legacy of Al-Andalus's culture and innovations continues to resonate through Granada's streets, buildings, and the collective memory of its people.
The fall of Granada in 1492 marked a significant transition under Christian rule, a time of turbulence yet transformation. The Reconquista era, characterized by forced conversions, the plight of the Moriscos, and the Sephardic diaspora, speaks volumes of the enduring struggles and cultural transformations that shaped the region's history. Yet, amidst these upheavals, Al-Andalus experienced a cultural renaissance, a testament to the collaborative spirit of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. This period saw the flourishing of medinas, advancements in science and culture, and the emergence of influential figures such as Ziryab, who left a lasting imprint on Andalusian and Spanish heritage.
Today, Granada stands as a confluence of worlds, a place where its rich Al-Andalus heritage is celebrated amidst the challenges of modernity. The city's resilience and cultural renaissance are evident in the resurgence of interest in Andalusian history and the re-establishment of a Muslim community, highlighting Granada's unique ability to embrace its diverse past while forging ahead.
The Alhambra, with its stunning backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, epitomizes the harmonious relationship between nature and human ingenuity. This architectural marvel, renowned for its lush gardens, intricate water systems, and UNESCO heritage status, serves as a beacon of Granada's historical and cultural legacy. Similarly, the deep emotional resonance of Cante Jondo, connecting Islamic calls to prayer with the Gitano spirit, underscores the rich tapestry of influences that define Andalusian and Gitano traditions.
Granada's narrative is also marked by the period of the Inquisition, a time that challenged the city's multicultural identity but also showcased the resilience and survival of its people. The city's evolution into a vibrant hub for culturally and religiously sensitive tourism, particularly through the development of the Halal market, reflects Granada's commitment to inclusivity and cultural sensitivity.
As a city that has witnessed the ebb and flow of empires, Granada embodies the spirit of cultural amalgamation and resilience. From the legacy of Toledo's surrender to Granada's expansion during the Spanish Christian conquest, the city's history is a mosaic of diverse communities and the transformation of religious spaces, symbolizing a unique blend of heritage and progress.
In Granada, every corner tells a story, offering insights into a past replete with scientific achievements and human efforts towards establishing a society that thrives on exploration, innovation, and cultural integration. It's a city that not only captivates the imagination with its historical depth but also inspires with its ongoing narrative of resilience, cultural renaissance, and commitment to a harmonious coexistence. As you delve into the heart of Granada, count on us to illuminate the intricacies of its heritage, guiding you through a journey that bridges the ancient with the modern, the historical with the living, in this unique historical location, a true "Place of Gifts."
City Plans & Guides

Granada: A Unique Historical Location "Place of Gifts"

In the embrace of Andalusia's heart, Granada unfolds as a tapestry where history and legend weave into the fabric of now. This city, cradled by the storied valleys and the enigmatic caves of Sacromonte, stands as a testament to a rich past where every stone and shadow holds a tale. Known as Garn'atta, Granada's essence, a confluence of cultures and epochs, mirrors the diversity and depth of its people and their stories, making it a true place of gifts.

Granada as a Ribayat Fortress City

Granada's narrative as a bastion of refuge encapsulates its pivotal role in history. Amidst turmoil, it offered sanctuary, not just with its formidable walls but through its spirit of inclusivity. This transformation into a Ribayat fortress city reflects the resilience and adaptability of its people, shaping Granada into a mosaic of cultures that thrived within its protective embrace, enriching its identity and legacy.

Granada: The Fruit of Al-Andalus

The naming of Granada, contrary to the myth of the pomegranate, reflects a deeper historical and cultural richness. It signifies a land enriched by the Mediterranean's bounty, akin to how "Oranges" are called "Bortugal" in Arabic, reflecting their Portuguese origins. Granada, much like the pomegranate, symbolizes the city's erstwhile opulence and pivotal role in ancient trade networks, embodying the essence of Al-Andalus at its zenith.

Granada: "The Damascus of Al-Andalus"

During the principality of Elvira, Granada was likened to Damascus for its cultural and economic vibrancy. This era, showcasing Granada's early significance as a center of learning, commerce, and a melting pot of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish influences, reflects the city's enduring spirit as a crossroads of civilizations.
The Alhambra and Its Symbiosis with Nature
The Alhambra, with the majestic Sierra Nevada as its backdrop, epitomizes the harmonious blend of nature's grandeur with human artistry. This fortress-palace, a marvel of Moorish architecture and ingenuity, showcases ancient irrigation techniques that breathe life into its lush gardens, standing as a symbol of Islamic heritage and the enduring allure of Granada's past.

Granada: The Last Kingdom of Al-Andalus

As the final Muslim stronghold, Granada's unique history was sculpted by over two centuries more of Islamic influence than its neighbors. This era saw Granada evolve from a city of refuge to a prosperous kingdom, balancing diplomacy and military prowess with the Christian kingdoms, encapsulating the enduring spirit and the cultural legacy of Al-Andalus.

The Inquisition and the End of Islamic Granada

The fall of Granada in 1492 marked a poignant chapter in its history, as the Spanish Inquisition sought to erase its Muslim identity. This period of forced conversions and the expulsion of the Moriscos signifies a turbulent transition, highlighting the struggles for survival and identity in the shadow of persecution, and marking an end to the rich multicultural legacy of Al-Andalus.

Deep Songs of the Soul: The Cante Jondo

The Cante Jondo, a deep song at the heart of Flamenco, bridges the spiritual expressions of Islamic calls to prayer with the profound Gitano spirit, encapsulating the emotional depth of Andalusia. This musical form, a blend of haunting vocal dexterity and sorrowful melodies, reflects a cultural journey that traces back to the nomadic Romani people's migration and their subsequent encounters with the Islamic traditions of al-Andalus. Flamenco, thus, emerges not merely as the voice of the Gitano but as an Andalusian heritage, enriched by the legacy of Moriscos and shaped by centuries of cultural confluence.
Characterized by its intense emotional expression, narrow vocal range, and intricate rhythms, Cante Jondo mirrors the ancient songs of Eastern traditions, intertwining Flamenco's fiery passion with the solemn beauty of Qur'anic recitation. This synthesis is further highlighted by the shared use of semi- and micro-tones and the complex rhythms that defy notation, embodying the deep-rooted connections between Andalusian and Arabic musical traditions. The term 'zambra,' denoting Flamenco's celebratory dances, and the spirited exclamations of "¡Olé!" during performances, echo the Islamic "Wa'Llah!" (By Allah!), underscoring Flamenco's enduring links to its Muslim past.
Today, Flamenco stands as a symbol of cultural resilience and innovation, evolving through history from the intimate gatherings of the café cantante to the global stage, where it continues to evolve and resonate. The poignant tales woven through the Cante Jondo invite us to experience the shared humanity that music, in its most profound form, can convey—bridging divides and celebrating the rich mosaic of human expression that defines our shared history.

The Flourishing of Al-Andalus and Granada Today

The resurgence of interest in Andalusian history and the re-establishment of a Muslim community since 1979 highlight Granada's ongoing commitment to its heritage. This modern revival, amidst efforts to preserve its legacy, illuminates the enduring influence of Al-Andalus, showcasing Granada's contributions to science, arts, and crafts as a beacon of the Islamic Golden Age.
The Rise of a Halal Market
In response to the growing demand for culturally and religiously sensitive tourism, Granada has emerged as a leader in the development of Spain's Halal market. This evolution reflects a broader commitment to inclusivity and cultural respect, catering to a global audience seeking experiences that honor their heritage and beliefs.
Granada's story, from its ancient roots to its present-day vibrancy, is a testament to the enduring legacy of Al-Andalus. It stands not just as a monument to human ingenuity and cultural resilience but as a beacon of hope and beauty, inviting the world to explore its depths and celebrate the rich mosaic of human history it embodies.


Flamenco: A Gypsy-Andalusian Love Affair
Oye, hijo mĂ­o, el silencio.
Es un silencio ondulado,
un silencio,
donde resbalan valles y ecos
y que inclinan las frentes
hacia el suelo.
Listen, my child, to the silence.
It is a silence that comes in waves,
a silence
where valleys and echoes slide
and brows incline
towards the ground.
El silencio, Federico Garcia Lorca
Music has to be one of the most enjoyable ways of bringing history to life.
Although the Muslim period in Spain officially ended in 1492 with the handover of the Granada emirate to the Castilian King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Islamic culture miraculously managed to survive in hidden form over the following five centuries. One of the ways that Muslim culture left its mark was through its influence on Spanish folk music.
Flamenco, the impassioned musical form that is the polka-dotted hallmark of gypsies in Southern Spain, provides us with a fascinating window into the relationship between Moriscos and Gitanos, Spain's branch of the Roma people. It is not hard, upon listening to Enrique Morente, José Mercé, La Paquera or Estrella Morente, to hear something of the vocal dexterity and sorrow present in much of Arabic song.
While flamenco is generally associated with the Gitanos, it is in fact fairer to say that it is an Andalusian music form, a product of the encounter between Gitano and Andalusian folk music. Even the term 'gypsy' is a misnomer; originating among the Jatt clan from present-day India and Pakistan, the nomadic people now called Romanis began their long odyssey West in the 11th century, moving gradually through Persia before branching into Northern and Southern Europe. Upon arriving at France's border with Spain in the 1400s, some were given passports mistakenly naming them as the "Princes and Counts of Little Egypt". However, in meeting the Muslim elements still present in Andalusia, these two marginal cultures formed a circle that embraced East and West and cast an echo into each other that would emerge as song.
Cante jondo, the most ancient of the flamenco styles, preserves most clearly the 'primitive songs of the oriental people', according to Lorca himself. It are characterised by a narrow vocal range, repetition of notes in a way that is reminiscent of spoken word (or even rap), interspersed with the dramatic embellishment that makes flamenco singing so distinctive. It also used semi- and micro-tones, which are also used in Persian and Arabic music, and a complicated rhythm that famously cannot be notated but must be felt. This group of styles are strikingly similar to the sound of Qur'anic recitation.
Certain flamenco melodies, such as CamarĂłn de la Isla's la Tarara, are plainly the same as North African melodies, while the zambra style of flamenco dance, performed at gypsy weddings, evolved from older Moorish styles and has many similarities to belly dancing. The word 'zambra' in Moroccan Arabic simply means 'party'.
T.B. Irving writes in The World of Islam that "Gypsy music and cante jondo go back to the zajal[sung Arabic lyric poetry] and the five-tone scale." Musicologists even trace the ubiquitous flamenco cries 'Ay ay ay!' and 'Ay li li!' to the calls of blind Arab mendicants, 'Ya 'ain!' (O, eye!) and 'Ya, taeel!' (O, night!). Most quintessentially 'flamenquito' of all, however, is the exultant '¡Olé!' shouted whenever a musician (or, for that matter, bullfighter) pulls off some crowd-pleasing trick, which almost certainly originates in the Muslim cry 'Wa'Llah!' (By Allah!) made during poetry recitals.
A Brief History of '¡Olé!'s
In the medieval period, Moriscos (forcibly baptised Moors who were often suspected – with good reason – of continuing their Islamic faith in secret) found themselves thrown together with two other persecuted groups within Spain's melting pot of ethnicities, the Gypsies and the (crypto-)Jews. The meeting of cante gitano (gypsy song) and Andalusian folk music as early as the 16th century seems to have been the starting point that would, many years later, lead to the development of flamenco.
But it was not until the late 19th century that flamenco would start to garner public interest as a performance art, with the opening of a new type of café, the 'café cantante'. Though the first one to open, in Seville in 1842, attracted little attention, by the 1860s similar cafés were springing up all across Andalusia and as far afield as Madrid. Two guitarists, one or two singers and a handful of male and female dancers would appear on stage to entertain the crowd, bringing together the three basic elements of flamenco: dance, song and guitar.
The latter half of the 19th century was flamenco's golden age of performance. Up until this point, flamenco songs could be accompanied by violins, tambourines and bandourrias (a 10-stringed instrument similar to a mandolin), but now the guitar – particularly the solo – became enshrined as a vital component of flamenco. It was at these cafés that the founder of the modern school of flamenco, Ramón Montoya (1880-1940) found acclaim.
The years preceding and following the Civil War (1936-9) saw flamenco's nadir, with paid performances hard to come by and morale low; Spain preferred the light-hearted croonings of popular singers such as Antonio ChacĂłn, and the more operatic or balletic flamenco performances such as those popularised by Granada's Manuel de Falla.
But during the 1950s an abundance of musicological and anthropological book sbegan to appear on flamenco, paralleling a revival of the music form. From the 1970s on, there have been fusions with rock, blues, funk, pop, electro, house and chill-out through artists such as Smash, Pata Negra, Ojos de Brujo, O'funk'illo and Chambao. From the 1960s onwards, 'tablaos' began to replace to 'café cantantes' as establishments specifically offering flamenco spectacles. In modern times, flamenco has seen something of a return to its roots, led by musicians who are also known for great innovations in flamenco, such as the late Enrique Morente and his daughter Estrella.
Andalusi impact on flamenco
Al-Andalus, the predominantly Muslim period of Iberian history that spanned from 711 to 1496 CE, is renowned for its role in the cultural flourishment of Western Europe; one important aspect of this cultural exchange was music. Moorish Spain and Portugal had by the 11th century become an important centre for the manufacture of musical instruments, which gradually began arriving in Provence. The first contribution that Muslims might be said to have made on flamenco is simply by providing the guitar, the instrument that would come to be the sine qua non of flamenco performance.
William VIII brought Moorish music into European courtly life with the transfer of hundreds of Muslim prisoners to Poitiers from Andalusia, captured during the so-called Reconquista. Many of the instruments used in medieval France passed through to England and the rest of Europe, leaving an imprint on the French troubadour tradition as well. Thus the European terms for dozens of medieval instruments are derived from Arabic, the most common of which are the guitar (from qitara), lute (from 'oud), rebec, the predecessor of the violin, (from rebab), and naker, a small drum which was the forebear of the kettledrum (from naqara).
Andalusian classical music is thought to have originated in CĂłrdoba in the 9th century, possibly invented by the Persian musician, trendsetter and general man-about town Ziryab, or 'Blackbird' (d. 857), who was invited to 'Abd ar-Rahman II's court in CĂłrdoba around 800 CE. Ziryab was also an inventor, adding a fifth string to the oud and dying the strings colours to signify the humours; he also established one of the first conservatoires in Spain, which influenced the singing and instrumental styles of Cordoban music for two generations. Later, the poet, composer and philosopher Ibn Bajjah of Zaragoza (d. 1139) is believed to have fused Western styles with those invented by Ziryab to formulate a new musical style than then spread across al-Andalus and beyond.
When the Muslims and Jews of al-Andalus were expelled after the Reconquista, the exiled Andalusis carried their musical styles to Morocco and Algeria, where Andalusian classical music would develop more fully. This is a form of music composed of suites, a little like ragas, each one of which is called a nubah, which is itself subdivided into 5 mizans. It is said that there were originally twenty-four nubahs, one for each hour of the day; however, only 11 have survived in Morocco and 16 in Algeria.
Meanwhile in Spain, flamenco was developing along its own lines, though strikingly similar in many ways to the sister culture that influenced it centuries before. It does not take a musicologist's knowledge to hear the similarities which resonate across the vast space of time that separates, and yet somehow also unites them:
(Examples - youtube clips)
Both flamenco and Middle Eastern vocal styles are rich in floridly ornamented vocals, complicated rhythms, and impassioned voices expressing the depths of sorrow or loss – largely in the Phrygian scale, the minor scale with a distinctive augmented second interval that makes flamenco, Arabic and Persian music seem like long long siblings. The late Lois Lamya al-Faruqi wrote that "The ornamental melodic style, the improvisatory rhythmic freedom, the sometimes 'strange' (to Western ears) intervals, the segmental structure, and the repeated excursions from and returns to a tonal center are some of the features that indicate Arab influence on cante flamenco."
In 1922, the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla organised a Cante Jondo competition for Granada, which many classical musicians and popular literary figures – such as the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca – contributed to, the results of which were presented in the Alhambra in June of that year. Lorca went on to present an entire conference on Cante Jondo, in the conference notes of which he writes:
'"Cante jondo" approaches the rhythm of the birds and the natural music of the black poplar and the waves; it is simple in oldness and style. It is also a rare example of primitive song, the oldest of all Europe, where the ruins of history, the lyrical fragment eaten by the sand, appear live like the first morning of its life.'