Students learn Spanish and flamenco dance in the famous Granada cave quarter.
Sacromonte means "sacred mountain", but for Spaniards and foreign travellers alike it is synonymous with flamenco and all-night gypsy parties. A warren of narrow, cobble-stone alleys, the quarter rises on a hill opposite the Alhambra, and acquired its name after the discovery of remains believed to be of Christian martyrs in Roman times, including Granadas patron, San Cecilio; the Sacromonte Abbey was erected on the spot.
The hill is pocked with caves which were originally inhabited by Moors fleeing from the Christian conquest, and were later home to Granadas gypsy community. Although most of the gypsy families moved to more conventional dwellings in the 1960s, it still retains its gypsy connections, especially with the performances, known as zambras, staged in its caves. A "zambra" is literally a gypsy prenuptial celebration, but today refers to these parties in which the audience mingles with the dancers, singers and guitar players, as opposed to a more formal staged performance, or tablao. With its aura of mystery and deep-rooted tradition, the Sacromonte continues to be a powerful draw for visitors eager for a taste of typical Andalusia.
Those who want to learn more about Andalusian culture can enrol in Carmen de las Cuevas, one of the centers in the quarter which offer language classes and flamenco dancing lessons to foreign students. Aside from language courses, there are intensive flamenco dancing courses lasting a week or, in summer, a month, and an on-going program for those who simply want to learn the rudiments of flamenco dance on a casual basis. There are also one-on-one flamenco guitar lessons. Started in the 1980s, the school attracts numerous British, American, German and French students. Most enrol for two to four weeks, but many stay on for several months.
Accommodation is arranged with Spanish families, in hotels or self-catering apartments, but a more original option is to stay in a cave in the Sacromonte itself. Cuevas el Abanico offer self-catering lodgings in five caves, of one or two bedrooms, fully equipped with all the modern conveniences.
At one time the Sacromonte was considered Granadas least privileged district, but when you step outside your cave dwelling and see the Alhambra shining in the sun on the hill opposite you, youll feel like the king of the mountain.
Oficina de Turismo (tourist information office) - Corral del Carbon, Calle Mariana Pineda, Granada, Spain. Tel. 34 958 225 990.
Carmen de las Cuevas - Email: [email protected] Home page: www.carmencuevas.com
Cuevas el Abanico - Email: [email protected] - Home page: www.lingolex.com/abanico
Nearest airport: Granada (6 miles, 10 km)
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet