Day 69 - "Alhambra"

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Day 69 it is Saturday and a tale of majestic beauty and ticket fraud, the daily diary of a British couple in Lockdown, still, in Spain.

Find out more: https://www.thesecretspain.com

Day 69

Saturday and the weekend has arrived with thirty plus temperatures, somewhere nearby somebody has some gentle Spanish guitar music playing and the birds are singing away.

The Alhambra Palaces have said they plan to open again on the 1st of June and are putting in place social distancing measures, so I guess fewer people allowed around the palaces in each timed trip. So this might be one of the best times ever to see the Alhambra, it truly is a wonder.

There is a lot of tosh written about the Alhambra, ruddy American Washington Irving with his “Tales of the Alhambra” seriously muddied the waters between fact and fiction. Some of the myths are quoted in some books as facts.

Published back in 1830, the book did help the restoration of the Palaces that had fallen into a poor state of decay. Rather like the old medieval British castles were the locals helped themselves to what amounted to an easy supply of building materials, the same fate happened to part of the Alhambra, locals “borrowing” stones and parts of the palaces.

So much so that much of what you see has been recreated.

Also, the name “Alhambra” which some think means in Arabic “The Red Fortress” is under debate too. As the castle bit was whitewashed, so it wasn’t red at all but white. Rather like those drab Roman buildings in Rome, in reality they would all have been painted.

I have to say I really love the gardens there, the scent of roses and myrtle, which like a Mediterranean box is fantastic. Also you have to admire the Moors and their engineering, bringing water into the Palaces and Gardens from miles away, all by gravity.

The Palaces themselves are much smaller than you expect, but are still amazing with their geometric designs and clever courtyards that with a water fountain in the middle could keep cool in the searing heat of a Granada Summer.

It was the home to the last Muslim ruler of Granada, Boabdil, who was finally chucked out of the city, but not before a lot of diplomatic complicity between, him and the Catholic interlopers, finally the place was reconquered by the Catholic kings back in 1493

Boabdil made the journey across to the “Moor’s Sigh” a place near modern day Otura here in the mountains that lie between us in Motril and Granada city, looking back at the city he once ruled, he let out a sigh .. yeah - I am guessing that might be tosh too.

But Boabdil didn’t do too badly he got offered an Estate in Laujar de Andarax in present day Almeria, but instead he went off to Morocco and built a palace at Fez where he spent the remainder of his life.

Here in Salobreña a Moorish castle fort stands there was also some shenanigans involving Mohammed the 7th and his brother Yusuf who also had rights to Granada, Mohammed banged him up in the Castle here.

But Yusuf was still a threat and Mohammed, who was on his death bed sent someone to pop Yusuf off, and the myth is that they found him playing Chess with the gaoler. He asked if he could finish his game of chess, and that was agreed. So Yusuf made the chess game last until his brother Mohammed had popped his clogs, and then Yusuf grabbed the Sultans job becoming Yusuf the third of Granada.

How true any of these stories are but the Nasrid dynasty managed to reign for two hundred and fifty years in Granada, so that wasn’t bad going at all.

Of course this Podcast being Spanish Practices, aside from all the intrigue and mystery of the Nasrid Dynasty, there was also a more modern mystery of why the Alhambra Palace was so packed with visitors.

It turns out there was a major ticket scam involving more than sixty people, all in cahoots with each other according to the newspaper “The Local for the 3rd of October 2014:

“For three years, the fraud network - made up of Alhambra staff, travel agents and hotel workers – reaped the benefits of forging tickets, using old ones and carrying out other shady deals without raising the alarm.

They were able to control how many tourists had access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and even forced tour guides and agencies that weren’t part of the fraud network to buy fake tickets off them.

The scam was made easier thanks to the backing they received from the Alhambra’s IT head and two officials responsible for the transfer and safekeeping of the tickets.

The Alhambra, the medieval symbol of Muslim rule in Spain, receives approximately 3 million visitors every year.

The court’s estimates put the total number of fake tickets dished out by the fraud gang at around 50,000.

The whole thing nearly bankrupted the tourist attraction and was partly blamed on poor management. Hey ho!

When they finally get to reopen The Alhambra it is definitely one of the things you should try and see yourself, it truly is an astonishing place to visit, and thanks to social distancing, might be all the more enjoyable as there will be less people allowed to visit, at least in the near future.

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