Malaga suprised me.
I wasn’t impressed with the reviews of it online so I only planned to stay no longer than necessary. From there, I was bound towards Granada and the rest of Andalucia, all within short bus rides from one another.
I arrived in Malaga late at night – my sole reason being there the fact that it was the cheapest way to enter Andalucia. I was travelling super-budget to stretch my dollars so a lot of the decisions I made throughout the trip was based on the cheapest option. Bear that in mind while reading the next few entries – it will make a lot more sense. 🙂
I stayed at Pink House Backpackers, a real value-for-money hostel which is conveniently located. It was the cheapest option for hostels in Malaga (I booked all my hostels through Hostelbookers.com by the way) and oh boy, was I glad I chose it! I managed to find it easily from the metro station and of course, it’s a plus point to be located right next to the river. 😉
I chose to stay in hostels throughout the entire trip because it is a) cheap, b) a great place to meet other (solo) travellers and c) I only really need a place to sleep and shower. Some hostels include a Continental breakfast (read: bread and cereals) in their fee but for Pink House, it doesn’t. It didn’t really matter for me though cos it was so cheap. I also usually opt for the female-only dorm rooms because I feel more comfortable in them and females tend to not be rowdy when they’re drunk in the middle of the night. 😛 Of course, it makes the hijab situation a lot easier too. 🙂
Sidenote: I would only recommend hostels for the non-fussy.
But anyway, back to Malaga.
Like I said, I wasn’t impressed by the online reviews. I didn’t have high expectations of the place. Now, this definitely served me well because due to that, I was blown away by Malaga.
Malaga is the second most populous city in Andalucia and has its own international aiport and port. It lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean.
Málaga’s history spans about 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It was founded by the Phoenicians as Malaka about 770 BC, and from the 6th century BC was under the hegemony of Ancient Carthage. Then from 218 BC it was ruled by the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire as Malaca. After the fall of the empire it was under Islamic domination as Mālaqah for 800 years, but in 1487 it again came under Christian rule in the Reconquista. The archaeological remains and monuments from the Phoenician, Roman, Arabic and Christian eras make the historic center of the city an “open museum”, displaying its rich history of more than 3,000 years.
Walking through the streets and narrow alleys the next day was enough to make me feel I was in Spain. The colourful blocks of multistoreyed houses with their little balconies and flowers hanging off them were such a vast difference from what I was accustomed to in the UK. The signages and road names were all in Spanish. All I could hear around me was a foreign language. It was an incredible state of being to be in, to fully realise ‘I am in Spain‘.
Now, since I was only going to have one full day in Malaga, I decided to fully utilise it by kickstarting with a ‘free’ walking tour.
Most, if not all, hostels in Europe will have suggestions of things to do in a place. This will include ‘free’ walking tours (Click here if you’re not sure what these are and why free is in inverted commas) and in Spain, tapas tours and flamenco shows are also on the list.
Malaga has an interesting character. It tries to boast of its two famous people, Picasso and Antonio Banderas. Yet if you actually read on Picasso, you’ll know he was only in Malaga for the first 11 years of his life and never did claim it to be his home. Antonio Banderas, well, he still comes back to Malaga every year for Semana Santa (more on this later) but well, besides the theater where he first started out at, there really isn’t much of his legacy in Malaga.
I had a really good tour guide, Bryan, whom was greatly interactive and informative. One thing you will realise on these walking tours is that the guides are mostly non-locals. They’re foreigners who have stayed in the place for a couple of years, learnt about it and worked by sharing the wonders of the place with fellow tourists.
Bryan is a NewYorker whom has stayed in Andalucia for a few years and have done tours in other cities, including Sevilla. I loved how he was so enthusiastic while sharing the stories of Malaga’s history, from the Roman times, to the Islamic times to the (fairly recent) Spanish Civil War. It was through him that I actually learnt so many interesting facts about Malaga!
Some of the other places that were included in the walking tour:
To be honest, there really isn’t much to be done in Malaga except to visit the Alcazaba and some of the other museums.
Now…. What really got me intrigued with Malaga were a) its Islamic history and b) it’s port.
If you know me, you will know that I’m greatly interested in Islamic civilisation history. There was a point of time a couple of years back when I was obsessedddd with it, so much so that I’d bought so many books on it, went to the library to pour through the reference books, looked through so many websites etc.
I learnt that Muslim Spain, or Al-Andalus (Andalucia) was the site of one of the most successful and powerful Islamic empires, the Umayyads. It was a place where people of different creeds, beliefs and religions lived harmoniously together and where education and thinking thrived. Many great philosophers, physicists, astronomers lived in Al-Andalus and people from all over the world travelled there to seek knowledge. It was this particular aspect of Spanish history that attracted me to Andalucia in the first place.
Sidenote: For a quick read on how Muslims entered Spain, click here. This particular website is one of my favourite websites and well, you will know why when you click the link. 🙂
I will be sharing more about the absolutely gorgeous Alcazaba (what used to be a Muslim palace and fortress, fondly known as the little brother of the Alhambra) and the other aspects of Malaga’s Islamic history in the next entry, inshaallah. I believe it deserves an entry of its own and well, this entry is getting too long. 😛
So till next time, take care loves! ♥