To say I was beyond excited to finally be in Granada would be a gross understatement.
Granada was the place I wanted to visit – it was supposed to be the highlight of my Spanish adventure. Oh boy, it did not disappoint.
I spent the most days in Granada and if I were to be honest, I really wouldn’t mind staying longer. I could even live there.
I fell so in love.
I was excited to head to Granada primarily because a) it was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christian monarchs and b) the Alhambra!
Ok confession time now. You know I became obsessed with learning everything I could about Islamic civilisations (sometime after ‘O’ levels). At that time too, I was also listening to a lot of nasyid songs on Ikim.fm. This particular song (and cute lead singer, if I were to be honest, hahahaha. C’mon, I can’t be the only one who had a crush on Naim! 😛) caught my attention:
Singgahsanamu pernah bersinar
Indralokamu merah bercahaya
Bangunlah Granada berdirilah Kordova
Teguhkan kembali istana Al-Hambra
Suburkan semangat Andalusia
Subur semula Al-Hambra
So yes, the seeds were sown pretty early on. 🙂
Granada was the place I found peace. It was where I sat down and did lots of self-reflection, of searching within and of letting go. I came to terms with my new state of being fully while looking out from the miradors, while walking the backalleys, while climbing up steep slopes and while basking in the friendliness of the people.
Writing about my time in Granada will be an interesting journey for me, for even now I’m already starting to get all emotional and chocked up. It holds such a dear, dear place in my heart – I cannot even begin to describe it.
But let me begin in a safe place. A pretty rational start. Let me tell you about the fantastic hostel I stayed in.
I stayed in Oasis Backpackers (Granada), a hostel located right smack in the Albayzin (the Arab quarter).
Granted, I did get lost trying to find it. I took the bus from the bus interchange but missed the bus stop, so I ended up travelling to the far NorthEast end of Granada. At the very last stop, the bus driver (who couldn’t speak English) tried to ask me where I was going, and in a funny case of chicken-and-duck talk, I tried to tell him I was lost. He eventually allowed me to take the same bus back to the city centre where I found the right stop! I’m not complaining about getting lost though – I got to see the quaint residential areas of Granada!
From the bus stop, it was a short walk away through the windy small streets of the Albayzin.
The moment I stepped into the street, I went, “Woahhhh.” Hang on a sec. Where was I again?
It felt like I was in Cairo or Morocco. The smell of the incense sticks burning, the wares on the walls and pavements, the men manning the shops… Not that I’ve been to either places but you know what I mean… 😛
But really… What is the Albayzin?
El Albayzín (also Albaicín or El Albaicín) is a district of present day Granada, that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It was declared a world heritage site in 1984. (Source)
The Albaycin is the old Arab Quarter… The Albaycin is like a different world within Granada. This is due to the strong Muslim influence in this area. It was the place where the first Siri court was built in the eleventh century.
At the height of splendour the Albaycin enjoyed in the last years of Nazarid dominance, the quarter comprised a population of more than forty thousand inhabitants and thirty mosques. The streets were very narrow and small with clean houses, plus numerous wells, some of which are still in the Albaycin.
With the reconquest, the Albaycin was left for Muslims as their own place of residence. But soon the population dwindled.
The constant revolts forced the monarchs to expel the Arabs who were practising Muslim. The mosques were demolished and on the same sites churches were raised. (Source)
As I walked down the streets, some of the men gave salaam and I smiled to myself. Yup, I knew I was going to be alright there. Alhamdulillah for the hijab! People immediately recognise me as a Muslim (more on this soon!). 🙂
The hostel per se is just brilliant. It’s located in a small side alley, right next to a small mosque (!) and residential houses. The ubiquitous use of dark teak wood for the overall decoration gave it a very homely feel for me. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to kampungs, perhaps it’s just my love for teak, but I felt completely comfortable since I stepped foot into it. Really helps that the receptionist whom had greeted me upon arrival was super helpful and friendly too!
Some of the hostels I’ve been to are sparsely decorated and well, serves the main purpose of providing a bed for the night but this particular one is quite tastefully decorated, has comfortable mattresses (important!) and it was also the place where I met many amazing people!
Another thing I really appreciated was its location in the Albayzin. It meant that halal food was so easy to find! That first day I was in Granada, I went on a hunt for meat. 😛
After 2 days of surviving on bread, nutella and biscuits (budget travel, anyone? 🙂 ), this was just pure bliss:
Chicken something-something. Doesn’t matter what it was called. It was soooo good! 😛
I arrived quite late on my first day in Granada so I spent the remaining hours of daylight getting my orientation and just… soaking up the reality of being in Granada.
I was living my dream, what else was there to worry about?
Even elGato, the rooftop cat, agrees. 😉 ♥