Saturday, July 7, 2018

Walking along narrow streets and down Memory Lane in Granada's Albayzin

The Albayzin is Granada's old Moorish quarter
 Certain sections of this old Moorish quarter sent me 
down Memory Lane to Zanzibar's Stone Town!
After we toured the Alhambra (which, for my purposes, I'm including the Generalife since my Alhambra ticket included entry to it), my German friend decided to spend the afternoon resting up in the lovely Granada hotel we had booked a room in (that was our favorite -- for the wonderful service as well as atmospheric space -- of the Spanish hotels we stayed in) while I opted to explore the historic neighborhood in which it was located.  Situated on the hill adjacent to that on which the Alhambra (including the outstanding Palacios Nazaries) stands, the Albayzin actually has UNESCO World Heritage status along with the Islamic palatine city (and the associated Generalife) which looms large over Granada.
Spain's best preserved old Moorish quarter, the Albayzin possesses streets that are on the narrow side and also cobbled rather than tarred, and thus more suited to foot than vehicular traffic.  Winding and zigzagging up and down hill, they make this part of the city feel like a veritable maze which is easy to get lost in and alternately fun and a bit scary to walk about in -- and it's best to attempt to find particular streets and more to just opt to head in a general direction, over the course of which you'll pass by and through a charming square or two, and one or more of the 20 churches in the district which sit on spots once occupied by a mosque. 
Residential for the most part, the Albayzin also has commercial streets where Moorish-style tea houses, halal butchers, Moroccan restaurants and vendors of North African goods ply their ways.  It's also where a number of beggars and modern-day hippies, hawking trinkets and attempting to make music, are to be found -- and, frankly, made the area feel less savory and safe than I would have liked.  
Pickpockets and bag-snatchers reputedly haunt this quarter whose labyrinthine Medieval town planning undoubtedly would help them make their get away and I definitely got the sense that this was not the kind of area I should venture into at night alone.  On the other hand, I actually felt comfortable in the Albayzin's quiet, deserted even, back alleys which I found pleasantly atmospheric.  I also liked too that they got me going down Memory Lane to that period in my life when I lived in Zanzibar Stone Town -- located a continent away but culturally connected by way of a shared Muslim heritage (and a fellow UNESCO World Heritage-listed site too)! :)

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