In the year 711AD the Visigoth king of Southern Spain, Roderick, was defeated in battle and overruled by the advancing armies of the Moors. Originating from Northern Africa, this was the beginning of their 800 year reign – a reign that would forever change the landscape and culture of the Iberian Peninsula.
The remnants of the Moors can be found littered throughout Spain, but nowhere is this merger more apparent than in Andalucía. The fusion of Moorish and Christian tradition and its manifestation in art and architecture, is one of the province’s most enduring and endearing features. Like La Mezquita, the famous mosque-cathedral in Cordoba, Malaga’s Festival de la Luna Mora is symbolic of a harmonic cross-culture union that has stemmed back centuries and come to define the region.
For the weekend of the 11th September, the small white washed village of Guaro is temporarily transported back in time. La Festival de la Luna Mora is a celebration of Spain’s multicultural roots and traditions, with the amalgamation of Christian, Moor and Sephardi influence found throughout the event. Illuminated with over 20,000 candles and nested within the Sierra de las Nievas mountains, Guaro transforms into a unique and impressive spectacle of Andalusi culture.
The festival has a feeling of primeval magic suspended around it and in the total absence of electrical lighting, carefully placed candles line the cobbled streets and weave a route through the Moorish style
street souk and village’s old district. The result is a romantic and somewhat surreal evening spent wandering and admiring the village’s ancient and enchanting streets. Indeed, the atmospheric glow of the town can be seen as you approach it, the quiet luminosity stark against the blackness of the surrounding mountains.
The street market itself is an abundance of colour and intricate patterns, selling the likes artesian handicrafts to Moroccan styled clothing and furniture in its many stalls. Emblematic and embellished fabrics hang above stalls selling dried fruits, spices and customary North African cuisine. Prospective buyers haggle over prices as Berber and Flamenco music fills the air. It is a mesh of tarot cards and fortune tellers, healing gemstones like agate and quartz are sold by hands covered in henna – it is
a Moorish dream in the heart of Andalucía. If you’re like me and have a hippy heart, be warned – the winding streets and candle light has intoxicating effect on your senses and as a result, your bank balance.
Musicians, artists and performers offer entertainment and amusements ranging from belly dancing to free ‘healing’ hugs, snake charming and more. Libations, food stalls and restaurants are readily available and offer a taste of both sides of the Mediterranean. Due to the festival’s ever growing popularity, it attracts performers of both national and international merit and hence, as is expected, the concerts hosted in the village’s amphitheatre continue way into the night.
Thousands of visitors flood the streets of Guaro each year so it is best to arrive early. The village is roughly 40 minutes away from Malaga and is found by driving towards Coín, free shuttle buses are also available from the designated parking outside of the village to ease congestion. The drive may be long but it is definitely worth it, although I must admit my bias – as any festival that leads me through the meandering roads of Malaga’s mountains and tells the story of her rich history has my heart sold.
Do you have a favourite Spanish festival? Let me know in the comments below!
A version of this article was originally posted on Residencia Estates