Islam in Granada:The Mellow Voice of the Muezzin

Seven years ago, the Great Mosque of Granada was opened, more than 500 years after the Muslim Moors were expelled by the Catholic ‘Reconquista’. But despite the city’s multicultural character, many people there feel uncomfortable hearing the Muslim call to prayer. Troy Nahumko paid a visit

: Minaret at the Grand Mosque of Granada (photo: Troy Nahumko)
“Somewhat of a miracle”: Granada has a Muslim heritage of more than 800 years, yet the building of the mosque and the muezzin’s call to prayer are regarded with unease by some
It’s midday. Not the 12 o’clock sandwich break at your desk that comes to mind nor the 2pm midday pause button that slows this entire country to a digestive halt for its civilized daily lunch break, but simply a natural breath in the equator of the long day. A young man climbs a spiral set of stairs and takes in the privileged view that spreads out in the valley below him.

He pauses, takes a deep breath and then something happens. Something that hasn’t been heard on the skirts of these sometimes snowy mountains in more than 500 years, yet something that once rang out 5 times a day across most of this country for almost 800 years.

The Islamic call to prayer.

The place is Granada and the privileged view is the Alhambra, nestled in the flamenco dress skirts of the Sierra Nevada. A city so famous that it was already called the bride of Al-Andalus back in the 14th century when the great traveller Ibn Battutah described meeting residents from far off mystical silk road stops like Samarkand, Tabriz, Konya and India living in the very same neighbourhood where the call is once again heard.

The traveller from Tangier therefore probably wouldn’t be surprised today as up to 8000 visitors a day from all over the world marvel at Spain’s most visited monument just across the valley: the Nazrid palace, which was built next to the immense and seemingly impregnable fortress that he saw just a few years after he had moved on to continue his travels.

A meeting place for the globalised community

Yet look beyond the busloads of tourists on their guided tours of the superlatively friendly red fort that stands guard over the city, over the throngs of people vying for their Facebook-friendly Alhambra picture, and you can see that the city is still a place where cultures and people from all over the world meet and, more importantly, interact.

View of the Alhambra (photo: Troy Nahumko)
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex constructed during the mid-14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus. It is a testament to Moorish culture in Spain and the skills of Muslim, Jewish and Christian artisans, craftsmen, and builders of that era
Meander through the Albaycín, the cardamom-flavoured neighbourhood originally created to house Muslim refugees fleeing the advances of the Christian north and you will find homey Moroccan restaurants, multinational guesthouses and multilingual signs set to a soundtrack of buskers playing Jimi Hendrix-infused flamenco, all of which is punctuated 5 times a day at prayer time.

Earlier posts by Paderborner ‘sj’:

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