Spain Charms Muslim Tourists Reply

Muslim tourism Spain

Muslim–Source: El– Night falls in Granada. Badiaa Lafdaili and Said Jellal leave their bags at the hotel and head out into the Andalusian city to explore. The Moroccan couple has already been in Bin al Mad’in, to give the nearby resort town of Benalmadena its orginal Arab name. “Andalusia is the birthplace of the great Arab poets and artists,” says Lafdaili, herself a teacher of Arab literature. Her husband, a civil servant, says that the only downside to their trip to Spain has been the absence of halal restaurants.

Laifdaili and Jellal are typical of a new generation of Muslims from countries with fast-growing economies eager to see the world. Spain is regarded by many as a must-see destination: a bridge between Europe and Islam, and whose history has left many visible traces of its five centuries under Arab rule.

“People think that Islamic tourism is half traveling, half praying, but they’re wrong. Muslims want to see the things that interest them, but without sacrificing their religious practices,” says Fazal Barhadeen, who runs Crescent Rating, which ranks hotels and restaurants according to their adherence to Islam. Such has been the interest from Muslims that an Islamic version of Trip Advisor is in the pipeline.


Cuenca and Its (Yummy) Delights Reply

Cuenca cliff houses

All This and Chocolate con Churros, Too

Natalie Rose writes for–I’d forgotten how good chocolate is. And sugar. Sugar is damn good too. That is, until this moment. I’m sitting in one of many picturesque plazas in Cuenca, Spain, shoveling thick, rich chocolate into my mouth by way of a crunchy churro spoon. It’s sinfully good—not like American hot chocolate but more like liquid dark fudge-and my memory is easily jogged. I tell myself I will never eat a cold, day-old churro bought from a vendor on the Union Square subway platform ever again. Nothing compares to churros in Spain, and the New York setting could never compete. This morning the May sun seeps through the trees and Spain’s hot summer temperatures have yet to set in. As I munch I watch suited-up Spanish citizens walk leisurely through the square, shifting their briefcases from one hand to the other. Occasionally I lick chocolate or sugar off my fingers.

When you visit Cuenca (pronounced KWEN-ka) it will likely be as a recovery stopover. You’ve partied hard in Madrid, as I have, and you need to give your liver a break before heading to Valencia and Barcelona, as I do. I don’t really have a plan but Cuenca is exactly the type of place to land without a plan. Unlike its sister cities to the north, east and west (Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia), Cuenca is small, completely manageable on foot and boasts a small but unique list of sites and museums to visit.


“The truth cannot be hidden,” Says Pope on Granada Sexual Abuse Case Reply

Pope Francis Brussels

“I received the letter. I read it, I called up the person, and I said to him, ‘Go and see the bishop tomorrow” — Pope Francis

El País in English–Pope Francis was not expected to take questions that were not related to his speech in Strasbourg on Tuesday, when he appeared before the European Parliament to talk about economic and social issues. But on the return flight to Rome, he accepted a question from journalists about an ongoing investigation in Granada, Spain involving an alleged ring of pedophile priests, who have been accused of sexual abuse.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio confirmed to reporters that he had personally received a letter from an alleged victim, now aged 24, in which the young man claimed to have been subjected to continuous abuse when he was a minor. The pope also said he had set the investigation into the allegations in motion. Bergoglio, who committed to putting an end to abuse in the Catholic Church as soon as he became pope, admitted that the subject was causing him a lot of concern. “How am I dealing with this? With great pain, huge pain,” he continued. “But the truth is the truth, and we mustn’t hide it.”


The Interactive Panoramic Ribera del Duero Reply

Ribera del Duero

Editor’s note: Don’t worry if you don’t read Spanish. This feature is not about text. It’s about Luis Davilla’s marvelous high-res 360º photographs of  the Ribera del Duero wine region. Enjoy!

Recorremos esta ruta enoturística por Castilla y León a través de panorámicas en HD, con paradas en localidades como Peñafiel, bodegas firmadas por Norman Foster o monasterios como el de Santa María de Valbuena.–En esta nueva entrega de imágenes panorámicas, le invita a visitar la Ribera del Duero de principio a fin y, sobre todo, a través de hermosas panorámicas en 360º. Ancestral tierra de vinos, la ruta enoturística amparada bajo la denominación de origen homónima nos muestra bodegas como las de Protos en Peñafiel (Valladolid), diseñada por el arquitecto Richard Rogers; Portia en Gumiel de Izán (Burgos), obra de Norman Foster; la de Rodero en Pedrosa de Duero, también en Burgos, o la subterránea de El Romellón, en Aranda de Duero.


The Silent History of Spanish Illiteracy Reply

Literacy class Spain

September 8 was International Literacy Day, and a reminder that there are still 730,000 illiterate people in Spain, of whom 67 percent are women, according to 2011 figures from the National Statistics Institute.

Ángeles Lucas for El País in English, Seville–They are learning to write the word “historia” (history). The teacher asks how to spell it, and the students, some of whom are 68 years old, try their luck: “With an I?” “With a Y?” “In capital letters?” Seconds later, the mystery is revealed. The word begins with a silent H – the silence of absence, the silence of a history of illiteracy that endures into the 21st century.

Spain’s illiterate survive by asking questions of everyone around them, trusting they will be told the truth. They ask about the type of milk they are buying, the name of the street they are on, which bus they need to take, and how to dial a phone number. They have no driver’s license, cannot read maps, know nothing about what’s in the contracts they are signing, do not use computers or the internet, and have never read a book. And they all agree they share a sense of shame.


Galicia, Spain: A Culinary Walk along the Celtic Camino Reply

Celtic Camino Spain

Tamasin Day-Lewis and her daughter pace themselves as they tackle the rugged challenge of Galicia’s Celtic Camino–To be a pilgrim walking the Celtic Camino in Galicia, you need to be in possession of two essentials: a pair of magic boots and an appetite for shellfish. Heading up through the woods above the fingers of the north-west Spanish coastline in May, the air is brisk with breeze, but when the rain comes down as all-penetrating as the Irish mizzle, no overnight dehumidifier un-dampens your sodden walking boots. Part of the pilgrim’s penance: you have to put them back on in the morning and pray for a fine day.

My daughter Miranda and I have flown to Santiago de Compostela to walk 100km of the Celtic Camino over five days, starting in Noia, renowned for its shellfish harvested in the nearby rias – inlets – since it became a fishing village more than 1,000 years ago. It is Sunday, and apart from two cafés on the wide square brimmed by the medieval church of San Martino, nothing is open but the Tasca Tipica.


Duchess of Alba: Spain’s Richest Aristocrat Dies Aged 88 Reply

Duchess of Alba

Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart had more titles than any other aristocrat and owned palaces and an extensive property portfolio as well as paintings by Goya and Velazquez. She died at home on Thursday after a short illness. The duchess is survived by her husband of three years, Alfonso Diez, who is 25 years her junior. The Duchess of Alba was the head of one of Spain’s oldest noble families.–Spain’s ‘rebel noble’, by Fiona Govan, Madrid–The frizzy-haired eccentric aristocrat was one of Spain’s most-loved figures whose antics filled the nation’s gossip magazines and gripped the audiences of TV chat shows even during the final months of her long life. Described as the “rebel noble”, she spurned convention to forge her own path in life, following her passion for flamenco and, as a patron of the arts, amassing a private collection of masterpieces said to rival any in Europe. Her exuberant character, complete with squeaky voice and flamboyant dress-sense, enraptured Spaniards who followed the vicissitudes of her 88 years.


Catalonia Makes Up with Salvador Dalí after a Turbulent Relationship Reply

Salvador Dali studio

Renowned Spanish Surrealist Artist Was a Piece of Work

Alison Ribeiro de Menezes writes for The–Catalonia seems to have finally pardoned Salvador Dalí. Its gesture? To name a public square after the infamous surrealist. Spain has recently been paying considerable attention to the names of its streets and squares. The Spanish urbanscape tends to be littered with the names of the country’s heroes and (less frequently) heroines. And their fortunes of course rise and fall with the inevitable shifts of historical perspective and historical memory.

One such shift is occurring at present, with various civic groups and websites on the hunt for echoes of the Franco past, outing topographic names, monuments and public inscriptions and calling for their renaming. And various historical figures are being re-evaluated – as with Barcelona’s promise finally to honour Salvador Dalí. Spaniards, Catalans, Basques, and Galicians are very conscious of the ways in which their built environment records and memorialises history.


Inside Spain’s Reinvented Civil Guard 1

Civil Guard control room

Feared under Franco, the 170-year-old force has been reinvented under democracy

Jesús Rodríguez writes for El País in English–The first security control involves a digital fingerprint reading; the second keying in a number; and each step we take is monitored on CCTV. Our destination is the Civil Guard’s control center, a 6,000-square-metre underground complex opened in 2012 in central Madrid. Unlike the headquarters of the National Security Department underneath the Prime Minister’s official residence, it is not nuclear bomb proof, but it does provide an impressive display of the key role this paramilitary force, set up as a rural police corps 170 years ago, plays throughout Spain on land, sea and air.

The nerve center of the complex is the Operations Room, about the size of a theater, and filled with computer-lined desks attended by rows of green-uniformed officers monitoring information provided by the force’s 85,000 officers – just six percent of whom are women – who guard 2,000 control posts and patrol in its 20,000 vehicles, 120 boats, 36 helicopters, and two reconnaissance aircraft.


Spanish Lawmakers Vote in Favor of Recognizing Palestine Reply

Palestinian ambassador Madrid

Musa Amer Odeh, Palestinian ambassador to Madrid with Spanish parliamentarians after vote

Spanish members of parliament have voted nearly unanimously to exert pressure on Madrid to recognize Palestine as a state.–The Spanish Parliament voted late Tuesday in favor of recognizing Palestine. MPs voted 319:2 in favor of draft legislation demanding that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government recognizes Palestine as a state. The bill said the “only solution to the conflict is the coexistence of two states, Israel and Palestine.” Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party was widely in favor of the bill, but set a requirement that a negotiation process between the two guarantee peace and security first.

The parliament also called on the government to pressure the European Union to recognize Palestine as well. At the end of October, Sweden became the first western EU member to recognize it.