Reflections on a Journey: Returning
Back in 2008 I travelled through Andalucia and Morocco and wrote about my journey on this blog (Search for Andalucia or Morocco). One significant stop off we left off our list was the city of Seville, which along with Granada and Cordoba form the main triangle of cities to visit in Andalucia. So last week my former travelling companion and I set off once again to complete a journey started two years ago.
This time as we had both been fully employed for a long period of time, as opposed to recently graduated students, we decided to go for a more higher end place to stay, which as it turned out, was the same price as staying in hostel in the city centre. The reason for that we found was because of the distance of the hotel from the city. If you ever decide to stay at the Al-Andalus hotel, be prepared for an hour’s walk, or taking the number 34 bus which costs €1.30 per person each way.
For Islamic history enthusiasts such as myself, Seville doesn’t seem to have much to offer when compared to Granada’s Alhambra, or Cordoba’s Masjid (Mezqita). But this isn’t the case. The Alcazar, or royal palace is an exquisite building richly adorned in Islamic art and decoration, and if you are in Andalucia then it is definitely recommended to visit. For me personally it provided a relief after having visited the cathedral. Very little is left of the original Masjid that stood in its place, and now all you have left is this glaring and gloomy behemoth of Gothic architecture filled to the brim with items of shirk. Seville’s main point of attraction is the Giralda, or bell tower, which used to the minaret for the Masjid. But to be honest there is nothing overtly special about it apart from its size. The current exit for the cathedral still maintains traces of its Islamic past. The Masjid of Seville, much like the one in Cordoba also has had an orange tree garden, and as you wander round you will see at one point the main fountain would have had its water flowing through a grid of parallel lines around you, evoking the sense of ‘a garden beneath which rivers flow’. The gate leading out back into the street is also original, it still carries Arabic inscribed on the door.
Apart from the Alcazar and the Cathedral, there is very little much else to see. Much of Seville’s appeal is that it epitomises modern Andalucian culture, if you’re into bullfighting, tapas and flamenco then there’s plenty for you to explore. We also visited Plaza de Espana which is a very elaborate decoration piece that doesn’t serve much of a purpose apart from being a nice place to hang out. Visiting the bullfighting arena and its museum confirmed to me its place in the history of barbaric and inhumane sports.
Just like Cordoba and Granada the main points of interest in Seville can be gathered in most two full days. I would recommend people to visit all three cities together, as one on its own doesn’t really do it justice, Andalucia I feel, should be explored as a whole. One thing I mentioned in my previous travel posts was the lack of Muslims travelling to see their own history, and I noticed the same thing here yet again. The only other apparent Muslim tourists I saw were a Moroccan couple. Aside from that I didn’t see any other Muslims from Europe exploring this region and taking in what it should mean to be a Muslim in Europe today. Reflecting on what those who came before us left behind and how we should be following in their footsteps. I suppose it does leave one feeling a sense of sadness, so why not just travel to Dubai instead, and wander around an oversized, overpriced shopping mall and have a halal Big Mac to make you feel better? Travelling the world to reflect on people who came before you is recommended to us by Allah in the Qur’an, and I think if more of us started taking our Creator’s advice it may prove a small step in improving the state of Muslims in Europe today. But aside from that I enjoyed my time, and Andalucia continues to be one of the best places I have visited in the world, and would recommend anyone (especially Muslims) to visit it.
And to Him is our return.