Costa Del Sol Pros And Cons
With the U.S. dollar buying more euros lately than it has in a decade, this is the best time in a long time to plan a trip to the Continent. This week, therefore, our correspondents report from some of our favorite destinations in this part of the world, beginning yesterday with Ireland and carrying on today to Spain…
Continue reading this week for more on your best options in euro-land for reinventing your life, diversifying your portfolio, or planning an extended holiday. This is the time to indulge your Old World inclinations. Dream on…
Spain’s Costa del Sol covers some 100 miles of glistening Mediterranean shoreline. While this is undoubtedly one of the most appealing pieces of coast you will find anywhere in the world, it comes with baggage. The region has suffered horrific overdevelopment.
Spain gets 8 million tourists each year, and many of them are funneled in and out of giant, character-free, white-block apartment complexes. As a result, those who prefer something more authentic write off the Costa del Sol entirely. Until recently, I was among them.
Morocco, on the other hand, has been on my scouting list for a long time. This North African nation sits on the other side of the turquoise waters of the Med, across from Costa del Sol, and is easily accessed from that coast’s largest city. So it was that I found myself on a flight to Malaga, capital of the province of Andalusia.
The compact city of half a million is sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged Montes de Malaga mountains. Pick a city highpoint and, on a clear day, you can see the coast of Muslim Africa in the distance. This proximity must have played a part in the decision of the Moors to sweep across the Mediterranean and into southern Spain in the eighth century.
It’s an episode of world history that often goes under the radar, even though it was far from a fleeting moment. The Muslim invaders weren’t in Spain for the weekend; they stayed until the end of the 15th century before being slaughtered and driven out.
While in Malaga, I wanted to see whatever remained of this period. After all, I was about to follow the path Spain’s surviving Moorish refugees took when they were banished to Africa, a place most of them never would have set foot on before.
When you look for it, the footprint left by these people comes into view. Malaga’s ornate central market began life as a Moorish shipyard, and place names like “Andalusia,” the province where Malaga sits, are of Moorish origin. Wander into any supermarket and you find small desserts popular among Muslims, sold alongside Iberian hams and Spanish wine.
More obvious remnants of Malaga’s Moorish history are the Alcazaba fortress and the Castillo de Gibralfaro. These fortifications were the high-water mark of the people who once settled here. Winding walkways give way to open courtyards filled with orange and poplar trees. Ringed by tall, dusty walls, both also offer commanding views across the city and the Mediterranean.
These two structures are ingenious and artistic engineering accomplishments. Neither contains depictions of the human or divine form but are decorated with geometric lines and shapes. The builders used advanced mathematics and geometry to create mind-bogglingly intricate patterns on tiled walls, carved window frames, and doors. In places, the level of detail is so delicate that it’s hard for the mind to accept that it could have been created by the hand of man. Some scholars today believe that the designers put to work on the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro were using physics, mathematics, and artistic design to try to unlock the means and methods God used to create the universe.
Peeking below the tide line of the Moors in Spain was enjoyable and also useful before continuing on to modern-day Morocco, a poor nation with a lot of problems. I took off for that next leg of my trip reminded that this was once the heartland of one of the most modern, advanced, and forward-thinking empires in history.