Do you want to find out some little-known interesting facts about Andalucia’s most famous towns, cities and pastimes? Which films were shot in Seville, why the Mezquita was built with its pillared arches, which Beatle loved Almeria, who brought golf to Andalucia?
Our Fascinating Facts series are five snippet-sized unusual pieces of information about well-known places you’re likely to visit while you’re in Andalucia.
The first thing you'll see when you arrive at the Seville Fair from the city centre is the portada - the gateway, where you traditionally enter the fairground. Everyone gets their photo taken in front of the portada.
The Cadiz Carnaval, like most decadent celebrations, was officially banned under Franco's dictatorship from 1937. While most Spanish towns and cities followed the decree, the Gaditanos, being famously independently-minded, continued with their annual celebration.
Since 2002 Malaga´s major draw has been its Picasso museum. This 66-million euro project is housed in the 16th-century Palacio de Buenavista. The permanent collection - including 155 works donated by the artist´s daughter-in-law, Christine Ruiz-Picasso, and her son Bernard - is divided into periods, illustrating every stage of Picasso´s extraordinary career.
The city's name started out as "Xeres" in Roman times (though the Phoenicians were here before them), then became "Sherrish" under its Moorish rulers (giving its name to the fortified wine, finally ending up as "Jerez de la Frontera" in the late 14th century, due to its location on the border of the Muslim and Christian-ruled regions. In Catalan, Italian and French, sherry is still called "Xeres", harking back to the Roman/medieval Castillian word, "Xerez".
Jaen´s name comes from the Moorish word geen or jayyan, meaning stopping post on a caravan route. King Ferdinand III captured the city from Ibn-Nasr, who subsequently founded the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1246, and Jaen had a strategic position on the frontline between Christian Spain and Moorish Granada. It was used as the gateway for the armies in the Reconquest, and Ferdinand and Isabella launched their final assault on Boabdil´s Granada from here in 1492.
The British engineers and miners who worked in the 19th and 20th centuries wanted to make themselves a home-from-home. So they built English-style houses complete with front gardens, right in the middle of Huelva. The Victorian Barrio Obrero, also known as the Barrio Reina Victoria, which dates from 1916, is a microcosm of suburban England in Andalucia. Based on the concept of a garden city, it has avenues of mock-Tudor semis, with lawns, hedges and rose gardens.
Nothing to do with Bizet´s opera, these are hillside townhouses with private walled gardens. They originate from Moorish times, and the design of the carmen expresses the Islamic idea of the inner paradise, a reflection of heaven.
When first built in the 10th century, the Mezquita was (and still remains) one of the largest mosques in the world - at 24,000m2, it accommodated 10,000 worshippers, being second only to Mecca as a pilgrimage site.
Few people who saw the James Bond movie, Die Another Day, could forget the scene where Halle Berry strolls slinkily out of the sea watched by an appreciative 007. That beach was La Caleta, the island with the DNA replacement clinic was the Castillo San Sebastian, and the city of Havana itself, complete with 1950s American cars, none other than Cadiz.
Located at the top of the town, the Arco de los Gigantes dates from 1585, and was built in honour of King Philip II. The late-Renaissance arch was constructed using Roman masonry with sculptures and inscriptions, rescued from the Roman town which was probably destroyed around the same time (see Fact 3). You walk through this magnificent stone triumphal arch to get to the castle walls. There are three other gates in Antequera: Puerta de Malaga, Puerta de Estepa and Puerta de Granada.
No one can come to the hilltop town of Ronda, Andalucia's most-visited pueblo blanco, without being aware of its significance in the bullfighting world. From Pedro Romero, who revolutionised bullfighting in the 18th century by doing it on foot (as opposed to horseback) here, to corrida fans Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway (See FACT II), who both loved the town and visited frequently, to famed matador Antonio Ordoez, whose finca is nearby (his old friend Hemingway's ashes were scattered there). Ordoez started the Feria Goyesca, a colourful tableau of Goya-period costumes (the painter often portrayed bullfighters), based on his paintings. The spectacular pageant celebrates the painter (Goya), the bullfighter (Romero) and the art (bullfighting).
The origin of the town's name is from an early Moorish invader, Tarif Ibn Malik, who led a raid in 710. Tarifa's African heritage can also be seen in its impressive walled fort, Castillo de Guzman, which was built over an alcazar constructed under orders from the Caliph of Cordoba.
Seville’s fair is officially known as the April Fair, but in fact, it isn’t always been celebrated entirely in April, and sometimes even takes place in May. The date depends on when Easter falls, as the Feria takes place two weeks after Semana Santa (Holy Week).
On New Year's Eve (Nochevieja), families gather together again, for a big meal - they have to be finished by midnight (or, if they've gone out, be back home), so that they can eat the all-important grapes, las uvas de la suerte, together.
Like most festivities in Spain, Carnaval has religious origins, in terms of its timing and character at least. Celebrated in the week before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, it was an opportunity to indulge all urges before the abstinence of the Cuaresma (40-day period) started.
Carnival is the biggest event in Cadiz's calendar, and the most important of its type on mainland Spain, just as the Feria is for Seville. People flood in from all over Spain, and beyond, to enjoy the noisy, colourful, festive atmosphere, singing competitions, concerts (rock, flamenco, samba), comedy, children's shows, parades, firework displays and street parties. Carnaval is also celebrated in towns and cities around Andalucia.
Seville’s April fair has a long and varied history. Here are a few facts and figures associated with its past, and its present traditions. The first thing you'll see when you arrive at the Seville Fair from the city centre is the portada - the gateway, where you traditionally enter the fairground. Everyone gets their photo taken in front of the portada.