Shadow of the Alhambra: in Granada

I stayed in Granada for a month some nine years ago. I went to learn some Spanish and, as ever, to be elsewhere for a time.

Before revisiting this year, I thought I’d forgotten much of it; hardly seemed to recognise the riddles of hilltop Moorish lanes on maps, and struggled to recall cafes, bars, viewpoints that I’d spent weeks knowing as home.


But nothing really gets buried. And looking down giddily from the Mirador San Nicolas, trailing the cave communities perched up on Sacromonte, a decade whirs back and it’s possible I’m suspended there in both moments. Existing on the cusp, looking ahead to the future and back through a lifetime.

Granada is an old soul. It’s beautiful but dresses up for no one. Free tapas come with each cerveza and you lose yourself for hours in the maze of the Albaicin. Where every corner has a view that stops your heart and an incline that punctures your lungs.

Forever seeking his return to Tipasa, Camus writes of his childhood in the light and voiceless sensuality of a southern Mediterranean sky, waves and twilight; of a civilizational innocence before war:

“The sea was silent as if smothered under the unbroken shower of dazzling, cold light… In the direction of the ruins, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but pock-marked stones and wormwood, trees and perfect columns in the transparence of the crystalline air… the sun stopped for an incalculable moment. In this light and this silence, years of wrath and night melted slowly away.”


The Alhambra emerges from behind a wall, around a dead-end, below or above you, cutting off thought.

“On the hill of Sainte-Salsa,” he writes, “to the east of Tipasa, the evening is inhabited. It is still light, to tell the truth, but in this light an almost invisible fading announces the day’s end. A wind rises, young like the night, and suddenly the waveless sea chooses a direction and flows like a great barren river from one end of the horizon to the other. The sky darkens. Then begins the mystery…”

“A lim10426179_10154440020090245_8614210683333576316_npid morning rose, dazzling, over the pure sea. From the sky, reduced by these repeated washings to its finest and clearest texture, emanated a vibrant light… In the world’s morning the earth must have sprung forth in such a light. I again took the road for Tipasa.”


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