Granada City - The Alcaicería

Browse for hours in the Alcaiceria or Great Bazaar. © Michelle Chaplow
Browse for hours in the Alcaiceria or Great Bazaar.

alcaiceria

The Alcaicería, home of the Great Bazaar of Granada, was originally a series of streets between Plaza Nueva and Plaza Bib-Rambla, bursting with stalls selling Arabic silks, spices and other precious goods. Nowadays the only remaining section is Calle Alcaiceria, beginning just off the Calle Reyes Catolicos, and extending back as far as the Cathedral. It is an area rich with history and local culture, still packed with interesting, exotic things to buy.

 

 

Origins of The Bazaar

Alcaicería is a name which was used all over Moorish Spain and parts of the Middle East. The Bazaar was one of few Moorish traditions to survive the Christian conquest; Bazaars existed not only in Granada but across the Christian realm. The name Alcaicería, surprisingly, has Roman origins: the Arabic al-Kaysar-ia means "the place of Caesar", to thank the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, after he granted the Arabs the exclusive right to manufacture and sell silk in the sixth century. From then on, all Arabic bazaars were named in the same way.

The original Alcaicería of Granada was built in the 15th century, and survived until the 19th century, when a fire sadly destroyed it - caused, ironically, by a workshop selling Granada's first cardboard matches, which itself caught fire. A replica was built, but the result was more pastiche - the new Alcaicería was less than half of its original size, and was a cheaper, modern version of the Moorish style - neo-Moorish. As a result, after a comparatively short time, it is already looking the worse for wear.

Unlike the current Alcaicería, the original was home to more than 200 shops squeezed into a labyrinth of streets and alleyways. Each was very small and had a red ochre coloured door, which was tilted upwards to open (much like a garage door); when opened the door sat above the stall, providing an awning to protect the silks in the event of rain. The streets of the Alcaiceria were sealed by iron gates, to prevent guards and noblemen from entering on horseback, and were locked overnight to protect the precious goods and artefacts on sale inside.

The Bazaar Today

These days the Alcaicería is home to Granada's souvenir stalls, selling a variety of Arabic craftwork, such as the fajalauza (traditional local painted ceramics), taracea (wooden inlay, in items such as desks, chessboards, or trinket boxes), and typical granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps). You can see a modern take on these lamps throughout the city centre; white versions are used as streetlights, and they are found as decoration in teterias (tea rooms), shops, and bars. The Alcaicería’s stalls also offer ethnic clothing (a remnant of the original market selling cloth and silks), knick-knacks and souvenir memorabilia. Traces of the old market tradition can be found around Plaza Bib-Rambla with stalls selling Moroccan herbs and spices, fruit, silks and granadino trinkets.

Take care when walking around this area; it is popular with pickpockets and local gitanas (gypsy women) offering to tell your future or read your palm, for a price. You can also have your name written in Arabic script.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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