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Home Articles Articles The Naqshbandi zawiya in Granada

The Naqshbandi zawiya in Granada

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The Naqshbandi zawiya in Granada is tucked away in the old Moorish quarter where narrow lanes and alleyways wind their way up the hill opposite the Alhambra Palace.  Many of the buildings here have their origins in Muslim Spain, and indeed the zawiya is situated just above the Hammam, and from its courtyard you look down upon the barrel vaulted roof of this old bath house which is punctuated with small windows to allow some light into the interior.

We were fortunate enough to visit Granada as part of a holiday in the Alpujarras and were welcomed for prayers at the zawiya by Abu Bakr who is the caretaker. A wrought iron gate set into a high wall leads from the street into a small courtyard in front of the shaded entrance to the prayer room.  Flowering jasmine and other greenery frames the entrance, and inside the interior is simply arranged  with  rush matting and rugs on the floor. Work is underway to renovate some of the rooms in order to provide guest accommodation and wudu facilities for ladies.

The Hammam is only open at certain times, but we were privileged to have an unofficial tour just before Maghrib one evening, at the request of Abu Bakr.  There is mutual respect between the charming Spanish lady who lives in the house adjoining the Hammam and conducts people around, and her Muslim neighbours.  Unfortunately she does not speak English, and our Spanish is rudimentary, but the interior of the building has an eloquence of its own, and the two Spanish Muslims with us were able to translate much of what she said.  Even though the light was fading, the small apertures in the roof, some of them star shaped, admitted enough light to see by, and one could imagine that during the middle of the day the bright sunlight would sparkle through, but the interior would still be cool.

As one looks across the domed roof of the old Hammam, the Alhambra towers above the rooftops and painted facades of the houses on the cliff side above the river.  To the south of Granada lie the Sierra Nevada mountains and just to the south of these a range of somewhat more modest mountains called the Alpujarras.  This part of Spain is quite arid, and agriculture here can exist on any scale purely due to the network of irrigation channels, orginally devised by the Muslim inhabitants, which bring water from springs in the Sierra Nevada which is only without snow on its summit for a couple of months in mid-summer.  The water from the irrigation network is strictly controlled by local farmers, who have a regular time when the water can be directed onto their land via a series of little sluice gates.  Citrus fruits, olives, almonds, apricots and many other fruits and vegetables are grown in these mountains.

The slopes are terraced to afford the greatest possible area for cultivation, which is carried out mostly with the aid of donkeys and mules, which can negotiate the vertiginous terrain. The housing in this area is distinctive, deriving from Berber architecture across the Mediterranean in North Africa, rather than Spanish traditions.  The farmhouses are single storey buildings, sometimes with stabling for animals underneath, and with flat roofs formed from large slabs of stone, covered in a layer of mud, well trodden down,  and baked by the sun to form a waterproof covering.

Andalucia remained Muslim for longer than any other part of Spain, with Granada as its centre.  Even after the fall of Granada there were Muslims in the inaccessible mountains of the Alpujarras for some time.  The valley of the Guadalfeo, upstream from Orgiva,  was known as the ‘happy valley’ of the Muslims.   Eventually most were rooted out and a new population of Galicians from the north of Spain were brought in to work the land, but the story goes that at least one Muslim was left in each village to work the complicated system of irrigation channels.  Today there is again a community of Spanish Muslims in and around Orgiva, amongst them a group of Sheikh Nazim’s mureeds.


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