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Almeria Castle, Andalucia

The castle at Almeria is part of a much larger historic monument, the Alcazaba of Almería. So what is an Alcazaba? In other places it might be called a citadel: much more than a castle, better fortified than a normal walled city, but just a little bit less all-encompassing. The arab rulers of Southern Spain in the middle ages evolved a style all of their own, with impressive palaces, administrative offices and all the trades and commerce necessary for their lifestyle protected behind the battlemented walls.

In 955 the first Caliph of Al-Andalus, Adb Al Rahman III established Almeria as an important port for trade throughout the Mediterranean. He authorised the building of the Alcazaba and the castle on a hill overlooking the bay of Almeria.

In the centuries that followed, under the protection of the castle, Almeria developed into a major trading, naval and shipbuilding centre. It was regularly visited by merchants from as far as Egypt and Syria, and also by Christian ships from France and Italy.

The Alcazaba at AlmeriaAlthough today the Alcazaba is principally an area of gardens with fabulous views overlooking the sea and the mountains, it was originally capable of containing and supporting a population of up to 20,000 people within its walls. These perimeter walls extend to a total of 1430 metres, making Almeria the second largest Moorish fortification in Spain after the Alhambra in Granada.

At one end of the Alcazaba is the (relatively) more recent castle, built after the Christian reconquest. The simple strong lines of the castle are set off by elegant touches of Mudejar embellishment. The word "Mudejar" denotes the style of architecture which was adopted in much of southern Spain as the formerly Moorish stonemasons and craftsmen continued their work under the influence of their new Christian masters. It is a style that leaves traces even in many modern buildings in Andalucia today.

Constructed of dressed blocks of honey-coloured sandstone, Almeria castle seems to almost glow in the sun. This makes a visit in early morning or late afternoon particularly rewarding. The castle and alcazaba are owned and administered by the Junta de Andalucia which has been gradually restoring the structure and putting in the attractive gardens. Although there is no admission fee, the number of visitors is quite low, giving those lucky few the opportunity to wander at their leisure, soak up the beauties of the castle and its surroundings, and maybe to dream of all the history that has gone before.

To find a hotel near Almería, try La Almendra, Cortijo Los Malenos or Venta El Museo.

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