Faraján - Things to see
Entrance into the village is by one very short side road and very quickly you will find yourself bottled up in the Plaza. Park near the junction and look at the enabled wall murals first, which helps orientate visitors. Walk down to the square, which is dominated by the Parish Church of Nuestra Sra. del Rosario (Our Virgin of the Rosary).
Parish Church of Nuestra Sra. del RosarioThis church was probably founded on the remains of an old mosque in 1505 as a side chapel to the parish church, which at the time was located at the long-gone village of Chucar. When Chucar was abandoned in the early 17th century, it became the main church for the municipality, though by this period, Farajan was the only surviving community. The church saw much remodelling in the 18th century, as the population of the pueblo had more than doubled. The French probably caused some destruction but it was during the Civil War that the church was torched. Most of the fabric seen today only dates from the 1940s rebuild. Officially dedicated to, it is a simple building of one nave covered by a plain ceiling, with a side chapel on the Epistle (right) side containing a niches with images of saints worshipped and cared for by different families of the village. The main altar is crowned by an image of Jesus. On either side are images of Saint Sebastian and the Immaculate Virgin, the patrons of the village. The tower is like many others in the area and dominates its surroundings, it supports a three part brick belfry with metal protective roof. There was once a second tower which colapsed in a earthquake.
El Romeral & Balastar
Both of these sites can be found on the Alpandeire road two kilometres north of Farajan. Overlooking the road on the right is a rounded bare-topped hill with a few isolated trees. This is El Romeral (960m), which from the top offers a fascinating view right down the Genal valley. Romeral has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and a modern signpost points the explorer to the dolmen of Romeral. This directs you up a 4x4 dirt track, which terminates by a weekend farmhouse. From the track, a footpath leads up on the left onto the hillside, passing an old limekiln pit and into a fir tree plantation. This is where the mystery starts as any further indications of the dolmen disappear. For the casual explorer, the excitement of finding another dolmen evaporates in frustration and you are left wondering around a pine forest without a view or clue as to why you got out of the car. Indeed when returning to the sign, scribbles scratched on the paint say in Spanish ¿Donde? or “Where?
The Dolmen of El Romeral can actually be found on the other side of the hill, near a cliff top. It is interesting to note that the hill (El Romeral) has the same place name as to one of the great dolmens just outside Antequera. The top of El Romeral suggested by its apparent earthworks is the site of a Celtic/Iberian hill fort. This is supported by the historical notes of Vazquez Otero, who in the last century agreed it had been an ancient fort. From the evidence, this was almost certainly a Bronze Age hill fort. Its prominence in the whole Río Genal valley was more to do with showing off, rather than finding the most strategic defensive spot. As masonry from the Roman period has been found, it can be presumed this that little known settlement was in existence during the early Roman period. It is only logical to conclude that this hillside has had a continual occupation from the Stone Age taking advantage of the nearby caves of Los Almendaraches to the early Roman period.
On the other side of the road, looking down the small valley, was the site of the community of Balastar. Called Albalaxtear during the Moorish period, this dependant homestead had 15 families at the time of the conquest, totalling a population of 52. Named after the stream that enters the Río Genal, the community was based at the top of the valley very near the road, around a water mill, which was fed by a carved rock water channel. It was also situated on the old Cañada Real (royal drovers’ route), which linked Farajan with Alpandeire. An inhabitant from Balastar was found guilty in 1560 by the inquisition for following Moslem traditions and therefore some form of existence must have survived the Christian conquest. However, this is the last record of the community and only the stream name keeps the lost village’s memory alive on the landscape.
The Forest Road to Jubrique
Farajan is not as isolated as one first suspects, as a road of sorts starts on the Juzcar side of the village, just by a venta (country inn). Not very well signposted, it leads down to the ford over the Río Genal. This is a popular spot in the early summer, as the flow of virgin water is still strong and people swim here in the early summer. A part-time venta is only open on special occasions. It makes a lovely picnic spot before deciding to explore Chucar or following the side valley of the Arroyo de Guadarin for two kilometres up towards Jubrique. It is not a recognised road on many maps, but without being too adventurous, this road can be taken by a car and leads through some true hidden corners of the Genal valley.
For the more adventurous, a one kilometre walk downstream will take you into an area called the Vega Grande. This flat fertile land was the main market garden and wheat growing area that supplied the Chucar in the medieval period. On the right bank stands a group of ruined houses called the Casa de la Oliva. A medieval mill testifies to the importance of this well watered and fertile spot. For those who are looking for some true history, the Río Balastar joins the Genal at this point.
Other than the hidden outstanding beauty of the area, another vanished medieval village can be found, large and important enough to have been a parish seat. Chucar was a large community of approximately 200 persons at the time of the conquest. It was recorded in the 1492 and 1498 military census and in 1505, the parish church for Farajan, Balastar, Juzcar and Moclon was established in Chucar, with a large foundation of two benefactors and two sacraments. After the 1568 rebellion, the pueblo was repopulated by Christians and a survey of the church and some repairs were undertaken in 1604. Despite this, the pueblo did not survive and it can only be presumed that the remaining community moved to Farajan by the mid-17th century, just in time to miss the mini-industrial revolution that later hit this valley.
Today the ruins of the repaired 1604 church and earthworks can be found at Cortijo de Chucar, which also has a spring of the same name. It is on private property and requires permission to visit. Again water was a central feature and irrigation channels can be seen in the area, along with terracing. Also a numbers of nearby pens suggest that livestock was also an important part of the economy, places which today have been reforested.