by Fiona Flores Watson & Chris Chaplow
This small hill village, with a population of around 500, is located in the Sierra de Grazalema, in the area of the pinsapar (pine forest) – the pinsapo is a rare Spanish fir tree, only found in this area of Spain (Cadiz and Malaga provinces). Benamahoma is on the A-372 road between El Bosque (5km) and Grazalema (13km).
Benahamoma is a charming mountain village, on the south west facing slopes of the valley located 14km to the west of Grazalema the village to which it pertains for administrative purposes. Village is quiet but has a certain amount of rural tourism. Walkers in the Sierra pass through the village. It is very foreigner friendly and everyone bids ‘buenos dias’ as they pass in the street. Benamahoma lies within the Grazalema Natural Park.
Benamahoma has a Moorish past, like many towns in the area - its name means “son of Mahoma (or Mohammed)”. It was highly valued by the Moors for its pure spring water – you can find the “Nacimiento”, or spring, at the bottom end of the village, next to the abandoned trout farm.
Two centuries after the reconquest the Moors were Expelled from Banamahoma in 1609. The village then depended on ‘Cuatro Villas de la Serrania’ until 1810 when, as a reward for the fierce resistance against the French (Peninsular War) especially by brothers Miguel and Diego Castillo, the dependency was transferred to Grazalema. As many other villages in the Sierra it was also the location of a massacre in the early part of the civil war. The main Grazalema to El Bosque road now bypasses the village as it follows the other side of the valley.
Stroll around town
The village is centred around two parallel streets, Calle Real and Calle San Antonio, one higher than the other – you walk up steps from Calle Real to each Calle San Antonio.
If entering from the Grazalema side, park your car at the beginning of Calle Real and walk into the village. Take the high road and drop down past the bullring, the church, the Jardin Memoria historica, and down to the fountain. Continue up the road to the ‘Naciemento’ and return via the low road stopping at one of the bars en route. Notice the Mosque like structure that houses the replica of the village saint, San Anton de Padua.
Moorish features of the village include Plaza del Ayuntamiento with its horseshoe-shaped arcading and long pools, while Plaza de España, a large square overlooking the valley, has a horseshoe-shaped entrance arch, as well as a fountain with Moorish detailing; the chapel next door to the plaza is called the castilito ofhermita-mezquita, and has the typical Muslim symbol, often seen on the rooves of minarets, of three balls topped by a crescent. An interesting mix of Christian and Islamic.
Most unusually, this village has a Parque de Memoria Historica, a small garden honouring those killed in the Civil War. Simple art works provide a moving monument to the villagers who lost their lives in the conflict.
Bullring - Interesting ‘village bullring with only four terrace rows for spectators. Now paved over you can drive through it. Used mainly for the Moor and Christians festival.
Church – Iglesia San Antonio de Padua an example of a small villaje Church, unusually anexed onto the bullring. Rectangular plan and single nave and small sacristy.There is an image of San Antonio de Padua. The two bells in the tower date from 1680 and 1786.
Fuente - water gushing from three spouts whose origin is the naciamento into a trough once for washing clothes but now for cooling feet. Watch people from outside the village filling water bottles on a near industrial scale.
Mantenal El Nacimiento - underground spring by the side of the road of 450 litres a second that gives rise to the River Majaciete the main tributary of the River Guadalete. The immediate are is fenced of. Note the green underwater plants that often grow in the mineral rich spring water. Proposals by the company Aguas de Grazelema (owned by Aguas de Lanjaron) to extract and bottle water here have been rejected by the Grazalema Natural Park board for fear of damamge to the spring.
Water Museum – now called Ecomuseum del Agua, located in an old water mill on the river Majaceite shows the importance of water as a energy source for the production of olive oil and flower milling. Later for power machinery for carpentry and textile production. It was also the first electrical generator in the Sierra.
Plaza Mirador Las Huertas and Plaza Mirador Andalucia with perimeter arches and empty fountain on Calle Real.
Getting to Benamahoma by Car
To visit Benahamoma from the Costa del Sol, by pass A-374 Ronda in the direction of Sevilla and turn west towards Grazalema on A-372. Pass Grazalema and continue for about 20 minutes following signs down to the village. From Seville, Jerez or Cadiz head for Arcos de la Frontera and take the A-372 east past El Bosque and continue up the valley to Benamahoma.
GETTING TO BENAMAHOMA BY BUS
There is a modest bus service, Monday to Friday run by Damas on the route from El Bosque to Grazalema. Just one buses a day in each direction. Check the timetable here.
The large modern municipal swimming pool is popular in the summer months, it is found 1km from the town next to the Camping Los Linares. just passed the Nacimiento. It has a café snack bar.
Benamahoma does not have any hotels, however the neighbouring towns of Grazalema and El Bosque do.
It does have a number of reasonable village houses for rental.
There are a number of walks in the vicinity of the village.
On good Friday of Semana Santa the Christ and the Virgin of Dolores leave the church. On resurrection Sunday the Sacred heart of Jesus does. On this Sunday a small bull on a chord runs through the village.
The village romeria, in honour of its patron saint San Antonio, takes place on the first Sunday of June, with the fiesta the following Friday. Corpus Christi is also celebrated.
Benamahoma’s main annual event is the Moros y Cristianos festival, which sees recreations of street battles of the 16th century, when the Christians expelled the Moors from Spain.
The “soldiers” are equipped with helmets, swords, shields, and even guns – the Christians’ are working weapons, like blunderbusses, which fire real gunpowder, while the Moors have exquisite inlaid, but non-functioning, antique arms made in Morocco. Villagers get into hand-to-hand fights, with positions in each fighting group being passed down through families as with hermandades. Benamahoma is the only village in western Andalucia which celebrates this type of festival, which takes place on the first weekend in August.
There is a tourist info kiosk located at the entrance to the village (El Bosque side) on Cuesta la Venta (opposite Restaurant el Bujo). Open Wed to Sun 09.00 to 15.00 hrs.
There are several bars and restaurants
At the entrance to the village on the road from the El Bosque are quieter El Bujo (Cuesta la Venta 1. 11.30 to 23.59 Mon and Tue closed except summer) with shady terrace, Restaurant Majaceite (Cuesta la Venta 9. 12.00 to 17.00 Wed closed) also with terrace and view over the river and Restaurant Las Huertas with car parking at back.
On Calle Real opposite the 'mosque' is Restaurant El Cancha (good for breakfast lunch and evening meals in the street in summer other seasons only luunch. Calle Real 23) practically next door opposite Plaza de las Huertas is Bar La Alameda. Bar Añoranzas is the bar next to Plaza de España, has tables occupying the pleasant stone plaza, with its views of the wooded valley.
Meson La Fuente in the lower part next to the fountain ironically selling Lanjaron mineral water and serves almadraba tuna from Barbate and good regional wines. terrace at front. Can be lively and large portions
There is also a pharmacy and two mini-markets on calle Real.
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