By Mikel Gonzalez, Madrid – Spain
Let´s picture the Mediterranean as a vast museum, and the countries surrounding it´s shores as it´s galleries. Museum With no Frontiers idea is as simple, and as exciting, as that, and the exhibition program focuses in one common aspect: most of the involved countries share an Islamic past and still preserve beautiful buildings (let´s call them “museum pieces”) just waiting to be discovered by the discerning traveller. As for my country, Spain, the al-Andalus of poets like Al-Batalyawsî, Abû-l-Baqâ’Salah al-Rondî or Ibn al-Kûtîyya, it definitely hides one of the most amazing arrays of religious and civil buildings to be found in Southern Europe. For seven centuries most of the actual territory covering Spain and Portugal (al-Gharb al-Andalus, remember the “Algarve” region in our neibouring country) was the proud possession of the Ommeyad and Abbasi khalifs, and artists and architects from Damascus and Bagdad planted the seed of what would soon become a huge and self-inspired construction program. Mozarabes (Christians allowed to work for the Muslim lords) and Mudejares (mudayyan, “those allowed to stay” in the Iberian peninsula after the completion of the christian Reconquist) developed their own styles, so delicate and original that the Unesco decided to protect them as World Heritage. And if everyone knows the lavish Alhambra (al-Hamra, “the red one”) in Granada or the unbelievable Great Mosque (jamma al-Masjid, or “aljama” as we say) nested in Cordoba, few are still the curious travellers willing to skip battered fields and venture into Teruel to amaze themselves with fantastic Mudejar “skyscrapers”, or see the humble old ice-deposits of Valdealgorfa (al-Gurfa). With thousands of Arabic origin words in our language, Spaniards are sometimes not that conscious of the enormous amount of gratitude we ow to our Islamic forefathers: they enriched our vocabulary, defined our urban and rural landscape for centuries, and gifted us with distinctive poetry, science, traditions, art and architecture. MWNF trails offer a unique opportunity to discover this legacy of hidden treasures.