Header Banner - Google Adsense

Naming Andalucia

Travelling across Andalucia this holiday season - and yes, it is still officially holiday season until the last of the Three Kings has left the territory - I was reunited with my fascination for place names. Wherever I travel around the world I am intrigued, and often amused, with the names that flash by me on road signs, and here is no different. Southern Spain's Arabic roots show up in so many names. Take Málaga province's Benalmádena, for instance, with Ben meaning "son of" and "al madena" denoting a "miner". Or how about the popular "Gudal"? That originates from the Arabic for valley. We have therefore the Guadalhorce Valley and the Guadalquivir River, for example. I've been to Pedregalejo, a beach just east of Málaga City on the Costa del Sol, many times, but only just recently found out the name means "a distant rocky patch". A "pedregal" in Spanish describes a rocky area. That was blended with "lejos" or "far away" to point us right over to that rockiest of all Málaga beaches. Some place names around us here in Andalucia come from words easy to find in any dictionary - take Granada (pomegranate) for example, or the towns of "Cabra" (goat) or "Aldeaquemada" (burnt village) in Jaen province. And I really couldn't leave Jaen alone without dissecting "Despeñaperros". What an awful name! It translates roughly as "de-cliff the dogs", in other words, "throw the enemy off the cliffs"and I'm never quite sure whether that refers to the Christians vs. the Moors or vice versa. On a lighter note, I'll never forget the day I was listening to a regional traffic report and "Gota de Leche" came up. Couldn't help smiling at that one, and trying to imagine myself explaining to people that "Yes, I'm from "Drop of Milk". If I remember correctly, that's somewhere in Seville. Then there's "Trasmulas" (behind the mules) back in Granada. Think of all the stories that must be behind these names...
Blog published on 4 January 2008