18 OCTOBER: Salobreña and Almuñécar

Posted on Feb 24, 2012 in category

Even ‘The Bomb’ was looking good cruising down the speedy A44 from Granada to the Costa Tropical. Ahead of schedule, we decided to make a slight detour and investigate a section of the Sierra Nevada mountains including the towns of Lanjarón and Órgiva. Lanjarón is famous for its healthy mineral waters and spas. Heavy traffic through its narrow main street and the little likelihood of finding a suitable parking spot, scared us from stopping there so we continued along the narrow, winding road to Órgiva, the capital of the Alpujarras. After an enjoyable morning tea in a family cafe next to ‘Iglesia de Nuestra Senor de la Expectacion’, we ascended the quaint narrow streets lined with white-washed terrace houses in varied states of repair. Gentrification of houses was evident but it was early days for major renovations and that many residents’ house were looking a little tired. At the top of the hill we came across the freshly painted ‘Ermita de San Sebastian’. A small, octagonal 16th century church, it was erected by the Bishop of Granada over a Moorish fortress to placate a widespread plague.


‘Ermita de San Sebastian’ built it A.D.1589


Órgiva’s ‘Iglesia de Nuestra Senor de la Expectacion’ with its 16th century twin bell towers is in the centre of the photo


Salobreña is also a quaint, white-washed-walled village built on a high plateau that overlooks a fertile plain on the Mediterranean coast. It was very pleasant walking on its pebbly beach and dodging the occasional larger wave. On turning around, I was struck by the prominence of Salobreña’s Moorish 10th century fortress (A.D.942). Historically, the fortress played a prominent role in the rule of the Nasrid kings. Washington Irving in his book, ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ alludes to a legend about the three daughters of Granada’s sultan, Muhammed IX. Fearing that his court’s suitors may dishonour his three beautiful daughters, he ordered them to be transferred to the Alcazaba at Salobreña under the care of a very strict matron. However, his three daughters spied from their tower three enslaved but handsome Christian knights whom unknowingly enchanted the sultan’s precious daughters. Eventually, two of the daughters decided to elope with their Christian lovers; however, only one escaped on horseback overland; the other daughter fell off her horse while crossing a river. Her fate was unknown.


The old town of Salobreña is in the distance along with remnants of its Moorish ‘Alcazaba’ or palace-fortress


Great views from the Alcazaba’s many reconstructed walls and towers



Residents of Salobreña should be extremely fit because of a lifestyle that demands continuously walking up hill and down dale


Almuñécar’s Casablanca Hotel was in a great location near one of its main beaches. Despite messing up our pre-arranged car parking arrangements that led to some inconvenience and more expense, we were upgraded to a sea view apartment which overlooked the powerful bronze statue of Abd al-Rahman I who first established Islamic presence here on August 15, A.D.755. The following year Abd al-Rahman I had conquered Cordoba making it the capital of his emirate.

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Islam arrives in Spain from Damascus with Abd al-Rahman I in A.D.755


Both the Phoenicians (9th century B.C.) and the Romans occupied Almuñécar, the former calling the town ‘Sexi’ and the latter ‘Sexi Firmum Iulium’ (A.D.49 made a municipium). A major industry in both eras was fish salting (‘salsamenta’) and curing. ‘Garum’ or fish sauce would be another product of this industry. Garum was the soy sauce of the Roman Mediterranean world. It was included in dishes rather than salt especially for those who could afford it. A way around the cost was simple – there were 4 types of garum products each varying in quality and cost namely, garum, liquamen, muria and allec (a type of Peck’s paste). Apicius, a Roman whose cooking book has survived, spent one tenth of his considerable fortune on Spanish garum (made from mackeral and called ‘garum socorium’) forcing him to admit to himself that he could not keep up this high standard of living. His solution? Simple, suicide! To give you an idea of its relative cost, a small urn of the top garum cost a labourer’s yearly wage. Garum was the fourth biggest export product traversing the Mediterranean Sea behind grain, wine and olive oil. In A.D.117 Spain exported 80,000 amphorae and this had tripled by the mid 3rd century A.D. Socially, workers in this industry were shunned but its profits provided social mobility for lower class Romans like slaves who were able to become wealthy freedmen and freedwomen. There was even a popular kosher variety that was very socially acceptable to the Roman middle-classes.



Salting factory 4th century B.C. – A.D. 4th century. Surrounding park land covers more salting pits – a huge business!



Another Roman site of interest is a section of the 8 kilometres aqueduct and adjacent Roman bathhouse (A.D.1st century). Water was needed for the townspeople but also for its salting factory. For more information on this Roman aqueduct including a map see: http://www.romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/almunecar/index.html


Like Salobreña, Almuñécar also has a prominent palace fortress called ‘Castillo Arabe de San Miguel’. Although first constructed in the 11th century A.D., the Castillo Arabe reached its heyday during the Nasrid dynasty in the 14th century A.D.


The tower on the left collapsed recently! Imagine a tourist saying, “Look out here comes a tower!”


Inside the fortress there are Roman houses with hypocaust flooring and within one tower restorers have found a section of seating for a Roman theatre. The small building on the top left corner is a small museum for artefacts found onsite

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                         A section of a Roman theatre discovered recently whilst restoring foundations of a tower.                    A terracotta vessel dedicated to the Roman fertility god, Priapus.

Tucked away in a Cryptoporticus ( a vaulted platform in order to terrace a hillside) built by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. is the ‘Museo Arqueologico Cueva de Siete Palacios’. The museum brilliantly displays a range of artefacts within seven ‘caves’ or vaulted rooms.


An impressive museum as it utilises and conserves an unusual Roman cryptoporticus construction


A statue of Minerva taken from the salt factory


A collection of artefacts excavated from the salt factory



A funeral monument dedicated to a prominent citizen of Sexi, Emilio Nigro Annio Arvaco, who was also an Augustales priest to the emperor. It was found near the salt factory.

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‘Augustales’ were priests who were often freedmen and freedwomen who could gain prestige and recognition in the community by euergetism or gift-giving.



The museum’s many examples of Roman ‘sigillata’ ceramics (bottom shelf in the above photo) especially the plates must have jolted the taste buds so we went in search of a good paella, our first in Spain. Bodega Francisco I provided a traditional tavern including sherries and tapas. The paella? O.K.


This bodega was like walking into a museum with its sherry and port barrels as well as memorabilia plastered on the walls


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