The Alhambra, and Easter Preparations

Before going to the Alhambra, we spend a day immersing ourselves in the wonderful romantic Tales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving. But nothing, not even the stories of Moorish princes and princesses, of hidden treasures and magic spells, could prepare us for the overwhelming beauty of these Palaces. For two hours, we walk through the Palaces, enchanted by the light, the water, the beautiful and abundant ornamentation.


When we come out of the Palaces, Frank finds that his hip is too painful to climb any further steps, so we postpone seeing the rest of the Alhambra and descend on our bikes through the back streets down to the river.

Granada is preparing for Semana Santa – large tribunes are being erected for the processions of 30 different fraternities across the holy week. It must be a huge logistic undertaking to co-ordinate all of this. Some of these processions are hundreds of years old. Occasionally one comes across people rehearsing. One Sunday morning we are woken by a man, pacing up and down the large empty car park next to where we are parked, shouting into a mobile phone. This goes on for about 10 minutes or so. One hour later three rather sheepish looking young men arrive with their drums and under the watchful eye of the caller, subject themselves to a strict practice, slowly pacing up and down the car park, playing the sombre rhythms of the procession. The walking is all out of sync, the snare drum isn’t up to scratch either, and it is clear why they’ve been commandeered to come here on a Sunday morning. After an hour of practicing the walk and how to turn corners, first without and then with instruments, things have marginally improved. Doubtless a whole fraternity’s reputation is at stake here, so the stragglers have to be knocked into shape. One drummer can wreck the rhythm for the whole band…


One one of my trips into town, I come across a school’s procession. It’s like the real thing in miniature. The nursery children are all dressed up, boys in red and white, the little girls all in black with lace on top of their heads, looking like miniature women in mourning. They are followed by the 6-10 year olds, carrying the effigy of Christ, followed by the teenagers providing the music. The street is reverberating from the sound of the drums and the shrill trumpets, and even though it is only a school’s procession on a Thursday morning, it is absolutely packed with people – nothing moves and I’m happily ensconced for 30 minutes (I wonder what it will be like when the real processions start). I am intrigued by the rhythm of the music. I still can’t quite figure out what is happening there and keep trying to count it. Well, I will have plenty more chance to hear this next week.

Flikr has a few more photos of the Alhambra. I wish I could read Arabic, as some fo the ornamentations obviously are poems, probably sufi poems.

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