Today, we woke up in Cadiz, Spain. The morning was dedicated to the Andalusian town Vejer de la Frontera. This town is a very well preserved example of Moorish architecture. I have never been to Morocco but to me, that is how a Moroccan town should look like. This hilly town is all curved and twisted streets, which is my cup of tea, but this particular town is austere and sterile, plain whitewashed facades with no embellishments of any kind. The only concession to color are tiled entryways into the homes. The only bright spot amidst the blandness is a multi-colored tiled fountain on the main square. The town projects a sad and gloomy air. Perhaps, it is its tragic past. Spain endured hundreds years of Moorish rule, then the Inquisition, fascism, and the Civil War. We were told that as recently as 50 years ago, in this town, women were confined to their homes and were allowed out only completely covered with the top layers of their skirts lifted over their heads to conceal everything but one single eye.
We walked on Juderia Street and read a sign informing us that once, here was the door to the Jewish Quarter that the inhabitants locked at night to protect themselves from invaders. And with no Jews left in Spain, who really knows whether they locked themselves up or were locked in, like in Venice, where the authorities did the lockdown “to protect the Jews from the just wrath of the people”?
There is no Jews left in Spain, just signs and small monuments informing visitors that once here lived the Jews, until they were expelled or massacred. Jews had led a relatively comfortable existence in Spain for hundreds of years until one day they were simply told to get out. The impact of this forced exodus was so dramatic that the rabbis put a sort of taboo on Spain for the Jews never to step foot here. But I must say that medieval Spaniards were much more humane than the 20th century Germans by offering their Jews a choice of conversion or departure, or the 20th century Russians by allowing their Jews to take along their earthly possessions.
Anyways…. Back in Cadiz, we walked around the old town, which we found very charming. Narrow pedestrian streets were lined with grand houses and opened up to small and lively squares. The Moorish touch to each house was expressed as a tiled antechamber that connected an almost always opened front door with the second door, often being an ornate gate, through which one could peek into the inner tiled courtyard. The tiles here were machine-made and Arabic in design unlike Portuguese tiles, but still gave the entryways a very distinct and joyous look.
Yesterday in Portugal, today in Spain, tomorrow in the UK.


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