Granada has been excellent. The start of the day began with a visit to the Alhambra, which means “the Red” after the Sultan that built it. Essentially, it is a walled enclosure with many palaces throughout. The most interesting aspect of the Moorish architecture is there celebration of water. Using aqueducts, they pulled water from the Sierra Nevadas nearly 5 kilometers to the Alhambra, providing the city with water for drinking, irrigation, and the many fountains found throughout the complex. The Moorish interior “patios” have fountains, but these make no sound, trickling, and dripping, creating a serene calm. The Italian Renaissance gardens have fountains that throw water, splashing and careening, creating energy and life. The tour guide compared the two and said, “In Italy, they celebrate man. The Muslims, they celebrated God. In one, busy in this world; the other, peace in the afterlife.”

Throughout the Alhambra, the Muslims decorated their palaces extensively, using geometric motifs and organic depictions as ornament. Their religion forbids them from providing any sort of narrative with human or animal depictions, as they believed it would be idolatry. These are some of the fascinating cultural understandings we have been shown.

After the Alhambra, we walked down a pathway, with the water of the mountain rushing by in channels on both sides of the street. Throughout Granada, water permeates the city. It comes upon you as you walk to dinner, look across the city, or city in a plaza. As we walked up one steep hillside during dinner last night, the street sloped inward from both sides, the “v” of the street directing water down the hill. In our wanderings, we came upon a church, “Santa Maria Iglesia.” Upon the centerpiece of the plaza sat four Spaniards, singing and playing the guitar. Dogs barked and played. A group of four celebratory men, drink in hand, joined in the singing of the songs. One member sat upon a wooden box, banging a tune, or beating two sticks together, giving a tempo to the band.

Tonight, we went to see Flamenco dancers. The dance starts with a powerful movements of the foot, stomping, stepping, rapid-fire. Then this energy travels slowly through the body, twisting, turning, until it reaches the wrists, that circle and raise above, arms outstretched above the head. Then quick, a turn, and the arms comes across the body. Power.

Hosted in a “cave,” the semi-circular flamenco hall had masonry walls, with golden bowls suspended from the ceiling. We were each served a glass of sangria. Across from us, sat a group of Russians. One kept sleeping and could not be awoken, until the flamenco dancer hit him jokingly upon the head. At the end of the show, the dancers invited members of our group to dance with them, which was quite enjoyable and funny.

Today Granada. Tomorrow Barcelona. After that, we shall see.

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