December 2, 2021

Andalusian culture: Is what you think of as Spanish actually Andalusian?

Andalusia is an autonomous community and a ‘nationality’ within Spain. It is located on the South Coast of the country and we all know it has beautiful weather and outstanding scenery. It is home to Seville, Granada and Córdoba – each a famous destination in its own right. Over the millennia it has seen many foreign invaders and settlers. It is due to this influx of diverse inspiration that Andalusia has developed a unique identity, a melting pot of culture, one that is admired and respected within Spain.

 

Where better to start than with some local delicacies? These vary from region to region, so what you might think of as ‘Spanish’ is actually ‘Andalusian’. Most dishes, as you’d expect, contain Mediterranean staples such as olive oil, wine, tomatoes, onions… Nearer the coast you will find more fish and seafood dishes, like puntillitas (fried baby squid). Gazpacho, the typical Spanish soup which is served cold, differs vastly around the country and even more around Andalusia. Variations include Salmorejo from Córdoba is slightly thicker and ajo blano from Malaga is based on almond and garlic.

 

The North African and Moorish influences come across in the dish migas, which is akin to couscous and made with breadcrumbs. Granada is considered the cuisine centre of the region, with cazuela de fideos (spicy beans and cod) and, for the more adventurous taste buds, there is la tortilla Sacromonte which is made with lamb sweetbreads, chicken liver, kidney and white wine. Traditional desserts have their roots in Medieval Andalusia and include pestiños – deep fried pastries in honey, typically eaten at Christmas or Semana Santa (Holy Week).

 

Flamenco is easily the most recognisable music and dance export from Spain, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing it began in Andalusia. It is so regionally important it gets a mention in the Statute of Autonomy. The classical guitar can be found everywhere from concert halls to street corners. It is estimated that 60% of the popular singers at the top of the charts in Spain are from Andalusia. The region also lays claim to more than its fair share of prominent artists: Velázquez, Picasso, Murillo, Díaz. There were leading schools of painting in Granada and Seville, with Malaga having its own artistic centre, Picasso led the way here.

 

Architecture in Andalusia is suitably diverse and offers some of the most breathtaking examples of colliding cultures. Granada’s La Alhambra is a Moorish palace fortress, described by poets as ‘a pearl set in emeralds’ because of the beauty of the pink walls set against the woodland that surrounds the buildings. The design is stunning, with fretwork, vaulted honeycomb ceilings and Byzantine influences. Over in Córdoba, La Mesquita really is the meeting of master religions, a Mosque and Cathedral combined, it is a World Heritage Site and a must see if you are in this part of Spain. The vast building incorporates Moorish and Christian styles. Built on the site of a former Roman temple, there are 856 pillars made of onyx, jasper and marble.

 

The crowning jewel, in terms of really getting to know and feel the cultural history of Andalusia, is Holy Week. To best experience the Semana Santa, head to Seville or Malaga. People come from all over the world to see the processions of ornate thrones created by local guilds and churches. Whilst Seville really takes to heart the solemnity of the week, Malaga is more celebratory, with cheering and spontaneous flamenco in the streets. The sights, smells and sounds are astounding and you will never have seen anything like it!

 

By George Mason. George writes for rental business Sixt UK, and is hoping to visit the region in time for this year’s Holy Week.

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