For nearly 700 years Ronda was an Islamic city, and during this time is believed to have had 7 or 8 mosques, none of which exist today, except for the Minaret of San Sebastian which was converted into a bell tower after the adjacent mosque was reconsecrated a Christian church. It was here in 1485 that Ferdinand II is believed to have ordered a mass to offer thanks for the capture of Ronda.
The mosque wasn’t particularly large, but being the closest to the central mosque frequented by the city’s rulers and elite families, the mosque in Plaza Abul Beka probably served as the main mosque for merchants and middle ranking families of the city.
When visiting Ronda, getting out into the little villages is one of the must do excursions that would render your vacation incomplete if you didn’t do, however a lot of visitors to Ronda don’t have access to a car, so Benaojan is one of the options to see an authentic white village.
Located on the southern boundary of the Sierra de Grazalema, Benaojan is convenient because both bus and train visit the village, and the trip is only 25 minutes from Ronda. My own trip saw me take the train along Mr Henderson’s railway walk, a comfortable and air conditioned journey that does however stop at Benaojan Estación, a small hamlet below the main village that requires a 20 minute walk before you see what Benaojan has to offer.
Jimera de Libar, easily reached by train from Ronda, by walking from Benaojan, or by car from both Cortes de la Frontera and Benaojan, is a delightful white village in the Guardiaro Valley of the Serranía de Ronda. Limestone mountains for the Sierra de Libar tower over the village and birds of prey frequently look down on the ant-like people going about their business.
In recent years the village has become exceedingly popular for holiday makers choosing to rent self-catered homes away from the hotels of the area, and then use the village as a base from which to explore the hiking trails of the Grazalema Natural Park. Mr Henderson’s railway walk from Benaojan to Jimera de Libar is a popular local excursion or day trip from Ronda.
The city of Cordoba, located on the Guadalquivir river, has been a significant part of the history of Spain since Roman times, but reached its zenith during the Islamic era when the city was the capital of the Cordoba Emirate of Al-Andalus.
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No single word or phrase is adequate to describe Cordoba, her comlexity is obvious even from a first glance, with numerous architectural periods, and the stark contrast between the Casco Historico and the modern city which live side by side and never seem to meet. In the old town, streets are narrow and windy with small houses tucked into every available space, whilst in the modern city wide avenues and large apartment buildings stand at attention.
The Arab Baths, known in Spanish as the Baños Arabes are one of Ronda’s most important tourist attractions, and some argue more important than the unquestionably beautiful Puente Nuevo, or Ronda’s other claim to fame, the Plaza de Toros, home of Ronda’s bullfighting tradition.
Ronda’s Arab Baths are similar to the design perfected by the Romans, except that steam was used to sweat out pollutants from the body rather than soaking in hot water as the Romans used. The Moors of Spain were also Muslim, so religious traditions were important, a Mosque was located next to the baths, and the baths were more than just a sanitary facility; they were also a place where locals and visitors alike would stop to purify and cleanse their bodies before entering the Mosque to purify their souls.