The Alpujarras, One white village at a time
The region of mountain villages known as Las Alpujarras clings to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada, cloven by deep, sheltered valleys and gorges which run down towards the Mediterranean. The Alpujarra, as it is popularly known, in the singular, is famous throughout Spain because of its unique mini-ecology. Its terraced farmlands are constantly watered by the melting snow from above, constituting a high-altitude oasis of greenery which stands in dramatic contrast to the arid foothills below. This is ideal hiking terrain for adventurous travellers, provided you take along a tent and well-padded sleeping bags – the average altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level.
The cultural interest of the region lies in its fifty-odd villages, which were the last stronghold of the Spanish Muslims, or Moors. Soon after the Castillians took Granada in 1492, all the city´s Moors were forced to convert to Christianity. Those who refused took to the hills, settling in this remote, inaccessible area. Constant pressure from the Christians led to a bloody uprising, the Morisco Rebellion of 1568, which was ruthlessly crushed out, with the public execution of the leader, Ben Humeya, in the main square
of Granada. Soon followed a royal decree expelling from the Kingdom of Granada all people of Arab descent, since the “new Christians”, as the converts were called, were all suspected of being ¨crypto-Muslims¨ in secret. The villages of the Alpujarra were resettled with some 12,000 Christian families brought by King Philip II from Galicia and Asturias in north-western Spain. However, these unique hamlets have retained their
traditional Berber architecture – terraced clusters of grey-white box-shaped houses with flat clay roofs – which is still common in the Rif and Atlas mountains of Morocco.