One of the most surprising and memorable experiences of this adventure so far isn’t your average tourist activity. It actually wasn’t planned at all and going into it without any prior knowledge or expectations made the whole experience a little better I think. As part of a little walking tour organised by our hostel, we were welcomed into the community of people living in the abandoned caves in the hills above Granada.
We were told most of the community currently living or squatting there were from Senegal, but it’s quite common for other nomads to pass through and stay for a few months at a time. We were told their way of life was very basic, but they were very friendly and welcoming people. Through meeting different members of the community, the hostel had been invited to bring travellers up to see how they live and gain a different and unique experience in Granada.
The hike up to the abandoned caves was a little steep, just on the outskirts of the Sacromonte neighbourhood. The whole place looked like a little shanty town, with dogs running around and small corrugated iron shelters scattered amongst the cave entrances. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable at the time, not sure what to say or where to look. What do I do with my hands? What do I normally do with my hands. So I stood there and took lots of pictures of the amazing view of the city below.
We were invited to go in and check out one of the actual cave homes. The first thing that surprised me was the dramatic change in temperature compared to outside. It was so much cooler in there than I would have expected. And the next was how much more they had inside than I thought they would. I mean, a lot of the caves would be very basic with not many furnishings – as was this one, but there was electricity, running water, and even a TV. This dude even had a huge Ruff Ryders logo spraypainted onto his roof – which he was super proud of.
We were offered some of their “coffee”, which was a weird mix of sweet and savoury flavours, to be honest I don’t completely believe it was coffee but I felt rude and thought, what the hell, I’ll give this a go. A few of the other travellers obviously didn’t feel comfortable drinking it and the locals looked a little offended when they didn’t accept their gift.
After doing a little more research I found out this community of ‘cave dwellers’ dates back to after the fall of the Moorish Empire in the 1500’s. Gypsies, like proper gypsies from Northern India came to Granada and carved their homes into the soft rock of what is now known as the Sacromonte neighbourhood. I even discovered you can rent some of these caves on Airbnb. Over the hundreds of years the dynamic of people in the community has shifted and changed but currently the neighbourhood is mostly made up of artistic people from different cultures from all over the world and is a tourist hotspot in Granada.
The caves which we visited are higher up on the hillside and were abandoned long ago. I can only imagine slowly overtime squatters came to claim them as their homes. Now they are filled with modern day gypsies – free spirited travellers, hippies and foreign refugees from all over the world.
I’m so glad I didn’t let my anxiety get the better of me going into this. Normally when an unplanned situation crops up I tend to freak out and over analyse everything. But I guess that’s what this whole trip is all about – learning to experience new things in new places. And meeting different people from all walks of life.