An Afternoon in Almeria - Exploring the Old Town and Alcazaba Fortress

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Tuesday 23 December 2014

An Afternoon in Almeria - Exploring the Old Town and Alcazaba Fortress

We had an unexpected surprise on Tuesday morning when some of the new friends we had met on Camping Los Escullos kindly offered to drive us into Almeria. They were heading that way to switch their rental car and wondered if we'd like a ride and a few hours to explore? We jumped at the chance and by Tuesday lunchtime had arrived by the coast on the outskirts of Almeria with 4 hours to ourselves to enjoy the afternoon heat.

At 25 miles away, Almeria is the largest city close to our camping in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. Founded in the 10th century by the Calipha of Cordoba to strengthen the Arab defence network on the southern coast of Spain, Almeria was intended to be his principal harbour. As an important strategic harbour, Almeria was attacked frequently throughout the centuries, including by crusading Christians, and the city was occasionally occupied by christian forces. However, it wasn't until the 15th century that the city fell under permanent Catholic control when it was surrendered on Boxing Day 1489. The result for modern visitors is that the Almeria of today contains an incredible mix of both Islamic and Christian history.

We set off first in search of tourist information to orient ourselves and after a circuitous route finally managed to track down the tourist office in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Right at the heart of the historic town, after the narrow streets and tall buildings of the old town, the plaza was a welcome breath of fresh air. Open and dressed in light stones, the buildings ringing the plaza felt like a different era to the ancient streets we had been walking a few moments before. Indeed, much of it was. Having been a souk in the Arab period, today it is home to the city hall (built in the 19th century) and the Monument to the Martyrs of Liberty standing proudly at the centre of the plaza.

Having paid a visit to the tourist office and now armed with a map, we began following signs to the Alcazaba Fortress. This medieval Muslim fortress, that was begun in the 10th century, had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1522, but after some rebuilding it still stands today and is open for visitors free of charge. With a triple line of fortified walls, expansive keep and majestic gardens the Alcazaba is an amazing sight. Built not only for defence, but also to house squares and a mosque, the Alcazaba was the seat of power in Almeria for centuries.

After entering via the switchback walkway we entered the first keep and began strolling upwards through the well maintained gardens and preserved waterways.  The preserved remains of the complex irrigation and water system, storing fresh water for the inhabitants in this challenging landscape was ingenious. Our route then took us through the second major defensive wall into the upper keep.  From here we enjoyed an expansive view over Almeria and the sea beyond, before heading further into the fortress to reach the Christian Castle, built much later (after 1489) in the most elevated part of the complex.

With ongoing archaeological excavations, the Alcazaba felt like history coming to life as we imagined how the bathhouses and palatial gardens would have looked more than a 1000 years ago, with people hurrying about their daily lives.  Our imagination was assisted by several information boards, some reconstructed typical  Islamic dwellings that would have existed within the walls and artefacts on display. Today, however, it was just us and a few hundred other tourists meandering casually over the walls and walkways of the past.

After a fascinating couple of hours enjoying the sunshine and atmosphere of the Alcazaba we made our way back into the old town towards the cathedral. Sadly, however, it was closed for lunch from 1.30pm - 4pm and we had to give it a miss today. Instead we continued on and down to the coast to discover a very fine sandy beach stretching several kilometres eastwards. With now very bright sunshine and still an hour and half before our ride home, we took a leisurely stroll along the front before veering inwards and back via the city streets to our rendezvous point.

We had enjoyed our afternoon in Almeria (thanks to the kindness of our new friends) and had a great time exploring the old town.  The Alcazaba was magnificently maintained (plus free and the tourist information given was very informative).  We definitely hope to go back and see more of Almeria during our stay in Cabo de Gata.

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park


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