To Spain and Back in a Whirlwind

Nearly 500 years ago, young Hassan el Wazzan and his family crossed the Gribaltar Strait , fleeing the hostile environments of Christian Grenada for the warmer climates and people of North Africa.Today, flows of immigrants and emigrants, seasonal workers and vacationers cross this same straight, in search of fortune, work or family. Rachel and I joined the exodus for a quick weekend trip.

While we did not pack everything and the kitchen sink (and some people do as this picture of the loading dock does suggest!). we were displacing quite a load of belongings- turtle fashion (it all fits on the back!).

Just as Leo has crossed Gibraltar for some family warmth and a little emotional understanding, we crossed it for a small immersion into Spain, and a taste of our food and manners. We had three days to cover Southern Spain- from Leo's birth-town of Granada to Almeria, where we met up with Freddy and his friends.

As we walked off the boat, leaving Morocco behind us, the feeling was immediate- an odd sense of freedom and relief, the liberating sensation that no one was staring at us anymore! We immediately reveled in this new found anonymity. Goodness does it feel right to be one amongst many, just another face in the crowd. Leo and his relatives may well have felt this way when walking off their boat, leaving the persecutions of Granada behind them.

The boat landed in Algecirias- a town which reflects the general Andalusian style: odd mix of Christian and Muslim cultures- from the architecture, to the food, to the people... An ebb and flow of conquest that results in Moorish doors flanked with statues of the Virgin Mary, or Muslim prayer rooms converted into royal parlors for Catholic Kings and Queens!

After Algecirias, it was a quick bus ride to Marbella- the famed beach resort where we rested our travel-tired selves, wrapped in the comforting noises of waves crashing on endless expanses of white sand...


In the shadows above the typically Muslim door, hides a Virgin Mary.

After a long walk along the beach and through the old town, we headed on to our next stop: Granada- Leo's birthplace. We climbed the hill leading to the Red Palace ( Al Hambra), looking out onto the sprawling city, searching for Leo's house (or what could have been his house). Our eyes and hopes set on an old Moorish mansion- converted into a convent since! (See Leo-Granada for more)  

Once our investigative work completed, we headed off for our final destination- Almeria, where we met up with old and new friends from College. Evening events are censured- sorry, Moroccan press laws just don't allow for this sort of story telling!
As with many trips, the real adventure only started on our way home; a journey we aimed to accomplish in a single day (though it had taken us three days to get there). We set out at 8 A.M. By 2 A.M the following morning, in a slow, "stop everywhere" type of train, we started to feel the pain of our choice.

We were back in our Rabati beds at 4 AM- 20 hours of travel isn't so bad, provided you alternate means of transportation! Boats, trains and automobiles...