I am presently living in Spain which, as you probably know, was ruled by the Arabs for almost 700 years – and they have left an indelible mark on its architecture, cuisine and music – and on its dramatic and barbaric take on life and death in the hot and passionate afternoon that led to bullfighting. It was the ultimate bullfight aficionado Ernest Hemingway who wrote “Africa begins at The Pyrenees”.
It is a hot and humid August on our Mediterranean coast. The silly season in the UK and the time of fiestas in Spain – and the biggest of all is the “Moros y Cristians” (Moors & Christians) that celebrates the driving out of the Moors from Spain by the “Reyes Catolicas”, the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabela.
In many towns this ends with a big parade of men – this is of course a macho culture – dressed either as Moors or Christians, accompanied by prancing horses and bands playing that swirling quarter tone scale, Arab influenced Spanish music that you hear at the bullfights that raises the hairs on your neck. And it is the Moors that occupy centre stage.
They link arms in groups of eight and slow march in a swaying and hypnotic rhythm down the very centre of the Avenidas dressed in the finest silk and satin robes with huge turbans on their heads and long fat Cuban cigars in their bejeweled fingers. The Christians straggle behind in no particular order dressed in grey chain mail covered with a white tabard with a simple red cross.
Nobody wants to be a Christian in that parade and they are far outnumbered by the Moors. It is a scene worthy of SHEHERAZADE.
If you want more insights into the fascinating, vibrant, atavistic and sometimes cruel and frightening world of Islam read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” – a series of stories of about expatriates, washed up The Arabian/Persian Gulf for whatever reason, trying to put their lives together in a rapidly changing and radically different culture.
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