Another wonderful aspect of my last summer in Spain is how unchanging it is in spite of waves of aggressive, drunken and drugged-out Northern Europeans— and greedy property developers selling houses to people who should never come to Spain. They don’t like the heat, the food, the people—and they don’t understand the culture.
It is fiesta time in our local village— and all this week every midday a rocket soars into the sky and expires with a thunderous bang signaling the start of yet another party with running with the bulls through the streets etc.: and it ends at 2 am with fireworks. As a contrast to the noise and activity some evenings we go to the next town to a chiringuito (temporary beach bar) and sit with a glass of wine and a dish of olives watching the sunset as the fishing boats return to harbor.
These chiringuitos are on a rocky beach used by Spanish families (the N. Euros like the crowded sandy beach surrounded by fast food cafes and souvenir shops) who stay on the beach with their kids until the last gasp of sunshine having tapas and wine. And the Ninyos play in the rock pools catching small fish and pulpos (octopus). It’s not exactly duende —but it does induce a euphoria that is part of the Mediterranean experience. And this week we took the fast ferry to Eivissa (known as Ibiza to the non-stop party people) and stepped back even further in time.
Eivissa is very different to mainland Spain: it seems more like North Africa. No sloping terracotta clay tiled roofs or Tosca stone arches as we have in the province of Valencia: the houses are just simple unadorned flat-top white-washed cubes with dark squares of deep set windows. When you see them under the brilliant vertical sunlight you understand cubist painting.
Landing in Sant Antoni you see the worst effects of Ibiza being the partying capital of Europe. Lovely young girls totter about the streets in stilettos, and little else, and the older women wear see through lace dresses with just a black lace thong underneath, while the young men stand around bare foot in swim shorts screwing T-shirts in their hands and arching their backs to display pink and muscular heavily-tattooed bodies. It is all very primal— or maybe it is feral.
There is a multitude of cafes selling fast food, and souvenir shops selling tat and tickets for that night’s raves in PACHA, or AMNESIA or F*** ME I’M FAMOUS, or any of the other hedonistic mega-discos around the island—and unbelievably cocaine use is promoted openly.
Ibiza Town, the capital on the other side of the island, is very different. A typical old Spanish Puerto (port) of narrow streets clustered at the foot of an ancient Arab (or Crusader?) fort set high on the headland with individual boutiques selling Ibiza style— usually crumpled white linen for both sexes. And a new town of elegant name-brand shops, restaurants and cafes along wide avenues that radiate out from the port area, now converted to a smart marina.
We took coffee under the arches of the old theatre to escape the fierce midday heat. It was originally built in 1868 and still functions as a theater pub with musica en viva (live music) every night.
Inside, like the saloons of the Wild West a long, dark and narrow well-stocked mahogany bar with a stage at one end—and the barman the ultimate immoveable object. Probably in his 60s, bullet headed and 5 by 5 of solid muscle—he could bounce any number of obstreperous youths onto the pavement outside. But he probably has no need. This is a venue for adults and not lager louts. What a pity we could not stay for the night. The compensation was late lunch at the ultimate chiringuito.
On a rocky promontory on the far side of the bay, just a steel container that serves as a bar and kitchen; plastic tables and chairs on gravel under canvas sails, and a simple menu that consists of sepia (cuttlefish), or sardinas, or gambas (prawns) or lubina (sea bass) a la plancha (on the grill hot plate with olive oil and garlic) with a tomato and raw onion salad and crusty bread to mop up the juices. And the wine list is simple too—you can have red or you can have white.
The cabaret was a bonus. Sunbathing on the rocks were 4 topless women, two naked women—and two naked men. All tastes tolerated in Ibiza. Life stripped down to the bare essentials in more ways than one. And so different to the fierce and sometimes barbaric bare essentials that I experienced in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Eivissa may look North African and Arab, but it is a totally different world: the Arabian Gulf is no permissive and tolerant society. The women are covered from head to toe in black and shapeless robes—and faces are veiled. And the love that dare not speak its name truly dare not speak its name.
To get some insights into this cruel and fascinating and rapidly changing world read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. You can preview it on my website:
and download it for just US$2.99 if you have a Kindle. Or, if you don’t and you prefer a paperback, you can purchase for just Euros 12 from:
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