Day 5: Islamic Aesthetics in Granada

Day 5 began with breakfast on in our hotel: bread, juice, coffee, and some potentially suspicious looking eggs. We met in the lobby of the hotel at 9am to begin the walk to the Plaza Nueva. We made it there without too much difficulty, and met our guide Ignacio or Nacho for short. He gave us an overview of our walking tour of Albayzín, the Arabic quarter of the city, and then launched into some history about Islam in Spain.

Led by Nacho, we started to make our way up to Mirador San Nicolás, a scenic lookout point toward the Alhambra that is also near the mosque we were going to visit. We stopped a few times along the way to catch our breath and so that Nacho could point out and explain specific sights.

When we reached the Great Mosque of Granada we met Munira, a woman who was born and raised in California but has spent the last 30 years living in Spain and is an active member of the Islamic community in Granada. She told us about her interesting personal history – coming to Europe for a year long trip and never going home, converting to Islam, getting married, and having four kids – as well as the Muslim community in Granada and specifically the recognition and stability brought by the construction of the new Mosque. She encouraged us to ask questions about anything we might be curious about. After perfecting the most stylish ways to wear our headscarves, we were permitted to enter the mosque completed just eleven years ago, where we could see first hand its intricate beauty and more fully appreciate the importance of the gathering place for the community. Overall we learned a lot about the Muslim community in Granada and the power of carefully selected interview questions.

Afterwards we continued with Nacho through the Albayzín, eventually returning to the Plaza Nueva where the group split up for lunch. I had a light meal at a tapas place and then grabbed some ice cream. Both were recommendations of Nacho and both were delicious.

After lunch we began a very steep trek up to the Alhambra where we met our guide Carmen. With the help of some earpieces we spent the next three hours being filled with information about palaces, gardens, and the summer home in the Alhambra. We took hundreds of pictures and paid careful attention to the intricate plaster carvings of this UNESCO site.

Finally following a long day of tours we made our way back to the hotel for bit of relaxation and then class discussion where we focused on Islamic aesthetics and where we had seen them in the Alhambra and throughout the day, and more broadly the ninth century in the history of Islam and Spain. After class we ventured out to find food at local stores and markets and then returned to the hotel for some reading and relaxation after a very long and informative day.

Katie Krajovic – Linguistics