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Granada: The City of Flamenco and Tapas
Of all of the places I have ever been in my life, Granada has got to be one of the coolest and most original cities ever. It has some of the richest history in all of Spain, and some of the best food, if I do say so myself!
Granada was the last city to be conquered by the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, in the 15th century. Before Ferdinand and Isabella, Granada had been controlled by the Moors, and it was known as the Emirate of Granada. Because of the long tradition of Moorish occupation, Granada had and still has today a large Arab influence, both in the architecture and the cuisine. All around the city, there are little markets that look like they could be taken directly from the streets of Morocco. Even the Andalucian dialect (the province in which Granada is located) has more of an Arabic influence, which was amazing to hear.
But perhaps the most predominant example of the Moorish occupation is the Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and castle. While only two of the original seven palaces still stand, the sheer size of the Alhambra is outstanding. The main palace of the Alhambra is very plain on the outside, but absolutely breathtaking on the inside. There are brightly colored tiled mosaics, hand carved wooden designs in the ceilings, and so much intricate detail in the moldings on the wall. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. Based on all of the extreme attention to detail, it is a miracle that the workers finished this palace in only 22 years. Just to give you an idea of how detailed this work is, the word Allah, the Arabic word for God, is carved over 9,000 times throughout this palace alone. Not astounding enough? The veins of every single leaf on the walls (and trust me, there are a lot of leaves,) spell out the word Allah. Still not convinced that this palace is one of the coolest places on the planet? I was actually able to stand in the exact room where Christopher Columbus came to ask Queen Isabella for money for his voyage that consequentially lead to the discovery of America. How insane is that?
The second palace, the sultan's summer palace, gave off the feeling of a Tuscan villa, filled with beautiful flowers and cypress trees and a beautiful view of the main palace and the Andalucian countryside. You can also see Los Carmenes, which is the old gypsy neighborhood in which Flamenco was invented. One night, we went as a group to a Flamenco performance in Los Carmenes, and it was really interesting. Usually, when you think of Latin dances, you think of salsa or other dances with lots of hip moving and passion, so needless to say, I thought Flamenco was going to be the same. However, it is really completely different. Yes, it is passionate, but definitely not as suggestive as salsa! The main focus is the noise, made both by the clapping of the hands and the stomping of the feet, as well as the yelling (kind of like cat calls, but in a good way.) The dresses are flashy, the feet are moving at the speed of light, and you can feel a breeze when the dancer whips her dress around. It is a fully enthralling experience. I was even "lucky" enough to be called up at the end of the performance to dance Flamenco in front of a room full of people (disclaimer: I have no idea how to dance Flamenco.)
Overall, I would recommend Granada to anyone. The fact that you can experience so many different cultures in such a small city is a true gift. Learning about different cultures, whether you're living it or just reading about it in class, is always beneficial. So for those of you who are in Boulder right now, go explore! Boulder has so much to offer, like the Dunshabe Teahouse or the Shambhala Center. So what are you waiting for?