Granada: a walk through the Albaicin

The Albaicin is the old Moorish quarter of Granada. Like the juderias we visited, the albaicin retains none of its former ethnic character. But it does host Granada’s mosque, which serves the city’s growing Muslim population and its streets are the same winding maze they would have been centuries ago. Today, the district has a reputation for its nightlife and its muggings.

A number of tourist books will warn you to stay away from the albaicin during siesta time and after dark, but we had no difficulties whatsoever during our walks there, including a short one at night. The guide on our outing to a flamenco cafe told us that these days, people realize tourists are their livelihood and will look out for their safety.

With a group of Japanese tourists, we visited a cafe in the Sacromonte area at the top of the albaicin and enjoyed a couple of hours of flamenco dancing, featuring a troupe of young Gypsies and a woman who had to be more than 70 years old. In the cellar-like atmosphere, we gained a new appreciation of the strength and stamina required for the dance, and for the mournful music that could be described as a native form of Mediterranean blues. After the performance, there was a bit of incongruity when the performers, including the old woman, stepped outside for a smoke.

The next day, we took one of Granada’s cute little minibuses to the side of the mountain on which the quarter is perched, and lost ourselves in the streets as we headed downhill and back to town.

Above the albaicin, people live in caves cut into the side of the mountain. While we saw some of these dwellings from the streets below, we did not venture higher, deciding to heed the warnings this time. Chances are, we would have been okay, but the lay of the land was such that you couldn’t just walk by someone’s cave; pathways seemed to lead directly to the dwellings rather than allowing for an idle stroll by.

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