Below is an impression of the Albayzin written by the travel writer LEONARD WILLIAMS in 1906. He says that few tourists visit the Albayzin and it has a run down and ruinous appearance. I also read the impression of another travel writer from the 1920's who says the Albayzin just contains 500 gypsies who are "engañabobos" who rip off stupid tourists. I lived in the Albayzin myself in the 1990's it was an underpopulated dilapidated place, I was the only person to live in my street.
It has become fashionable in the last few years to criticize the rise of tourism and say that Airbnb and mass tourism has pushed the normal people out of the centre of the city by making it too expensive. I disagree with this opinion. In the last few years the Albayzin has become more lively, there are many more bars and restaurants and people have been able to invest in housing because tourist has brought income.
Normal people don't want to live in a place where you can't get to your house by car and you have to lug your shopping home up a labyrinth of cobble-stoned streets. For me the romance and charm of the Albayzin was enough for me to not be worried about the inconveniences, but I hardly consider myself to be normal.
Well, now that Covid 19 has destroyed tourism for the time being, we can see if all those people who have been prevented from living there can now rush back to reclaim it and live in the Albayzin.
MEMORIES, ADVENTURES, STUDIES AND IMPRESSIONS : BY LEONARD WILLIAMS
Published in 1906
Beyond the northern border of the Darro, and yet within the echo of his waters and the shadow of his woods, rises a steepish hill confronting the Alhambra, and, covering this hill from crown to base, the Albaycin. Few tourists penetrate the Albaycin, though numbers cast a careless glance upon the old, historic quarter from the parapet of the Place of Cisterns, or the lordly windows of the Tower of Comares. A thousand years have set its houses up and thrown them down, and set them up and thrown them down once more, so often that time, one thinks, at last is weary of his work, and even the ruins seem, as himself, perpetual. Ruins, indeed, they are, yet not inanimate. They seem to have outgrown the grasp of death, respiring with a subtle dignity the pride of ancient days, the life and legends of the past. So in a quiet and a reverential mood we must approach them. Then they will whisper to us all their secrets ; and we shall find that in these crumbling palaces and unkempt gardens, hidden away like stores of jewels in a cave, are half the glories of Granada.
There is an air about the Albaycin that belongs to it alone ; at least I am aware of nothing even faintly similar in other parts. Here, joined in closest union, are wealth and penury, humility and haughtiness, the orient and the west. Within the limit of the Albaycin the Christian church combines with the *aljama, the mansion of the Christian noble clings about the courtyard and the columns of the Moor. In either instance both together, locked in a last embrace, are falling to decay, although they do not seem to fall. Already, wondering at the haunted silence of these lanes, and tenements, and temples, we tread upon the ashes of two peoples and two creeds, though vines and blossoms caress the wrinkled walls like fresh-cut wreaths upon a grave, while here and there projects the cypress, starkly desolate. These contrasts have at any hour and any season a sweet and subtle magic ; but best of all observe them by the April or October moon. It is my custom then to plunge into the threadlike alleys of the old *faubourg, and clamber up them to the open space before Saint Nicholas. The drooping beams fall full upon the distant snows of the Sierra ; fall upon masses of indigo foliage and russet church-towers ; fall, too, upon the purple foothills, and the ruddy pile of the Alhambra opposite. Then all of these grow dim I often cross the summit of the Albayzin to watch the last *refulgence from the city wall.
Notes: Aljama is a term of Arabic origin used in old official documents in Spain and Portugal to designate the self-governing communities of Moors and Jews living under Christian rule in the Iberian Peninsula.
Refulgence - the quality of being bright and sending out rays of light. effulgence, radiancy, refulgency, shine, radiance. brightness - the location of a visual perception along a continuum from black to white.
Faubourg- A quarter of a city.
Buildings in the Albayzin: "thousand years have set its houses up and thrown them down". The Albayzin has lots of sturdy stone built houses which have lasted centuries but the author is referring to the large amount of houses which probably only have a lifespan of around 50 or 60 years. The walls are made of cheap materials when good quality cement was hard to obtain. The main limiting factor is the rooves which were made from "chopo" (Poplar wood) It is not long before they sucomb to woodworm or wood rot especially if the tejas (roof tiles) have started to let in water.