Andalusia has it all, history, food, art, culture and tons of pasty drunk people from the UK on the gorgeous beaches. I even got to hang out with some great Mauritanian guys and some fancy British-Arabs while I was there. Of course the highlight for me was Alhambra, something my dad had told me about since I was kid. Andalusia holds a special place in the popular imagination of the Arabs, but I think it was even more symbolic for a scientist in America who grew up in the age of pan-Arabism. The movie El Cid was even one of my Dad’s favorites just because of the Andalusia angle (Sophia Loren didn’t hurt either, I guess).
While Spain’s relationship with its Arab past is at the very least complicado it does seem to be changing as we get further away from the long shadow of the Franco era. One exciting project has been to document and translate all of the Arabic inscriptions that cover Alhambra. The project, which began in 2002, has documented about 1/3 of the nearly 10,000 inscriptions, with the motto of the Nasrid dynasty “Wa La Ghalib illa Allah” (There is No Victor, but God) being the most common. Interestingly, Qur’anic verses seem to be only about 10% of the inscriptions, with the rest including poetry, popular expressions and what is clearly the source of modern fortune cookie writing, such as “Be sparse in words and you will go in peace”. They hope to have the whole project completed by 2011. Goon on ‘em.
One of my favorite quotes of history came from the Arab loss of Granada:
According to legend, when the Spanish reconquered Granada in 1492, the city’s last Arabic ruler burst into tears as he surveyed the Alhambra for the last time as the royal party moved south toward exile.
When his mother approached him she said: “Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.”
As a side note, I find the pleonasm of “The ‘La Alhambra’” from the article (see pic) to be hilarious. Almost as funny as people in LA talking about “The La Brea Tar Pits” which means: The The Tar Tar Pits. Yay for rhetorical tautology!Filed Under Arabic, architecture, Art, Nimr