Remember when there was barely such a thing as a documentary for an English-speaking Muslim audience? Or if there was, the sound was muffled and the quality (and script), poor? Well thankfully this finally seems to be changing! Alchemiya, the new on-demand streaming service for Muslim audiences, offers an exciting range of programmes, covering everything from fashion to football. Naturally, I was interested in the travel section, so put my subscription to good use and decided to watch ‘The Muslim Traveller’s Guide to Granada’ (part one), which is produced by Alchemiya itself and hosted by the lovely Hanna Whiteman.
Hanna has lived in Granada for the past 11 years and is fluent in Spanish, making her an ideal guide through the narrow, cobbled streets that are her home. In 30 minutes we are taken to a number of Granada hotspots, including good places to shop and eat. Guiding viewers through the ancient Albaicin district, once the last remaining Muslim quarter of the city, we are taken beyond the high outer walls of the houses, and invited inside to view the city from miradors, with breath-taking views of the Alhambra complex and al-Sabika hill. The intricate network of narrow streets in the Albaicin still reflects the urban plan put in place a thousand years ago by the Nasrid dynasty, and as Hanna quips, the architecture, “is a good metaphor for the Muslim character as it reflects the divine attributes of outward majesty and inner beauty- and we Muslims can be like that: kind of grumpy when you first meet us but really sweet when you get to know us.”
We are also shown the city’s modern day mosque, the Mezquita de Granada, that serves its small Muslim community. The plans for the mosque were initiated in 1981, however, due to opposition from the church and the extreme right in Spain, it was more than two decades before it was finally complete. Today, the adhan is sounded from its small minaret five times a day, and we are told that there have been no complaints from residents, who have good relations with the Mosque. Mosque Director, Bashir Castineira, is a second generation Spanish Muslim, who has helped to ensure that old Andalusian Islamic traditions, such as writing the Qur’an on a clay board in ink, in order to memorise it, can be revived and practised in the Mosque, and in Granada once again.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the documentary (at least in my opinion), focuses on the ‘return’ of Muslims to the city in the twentieth century, 500 years after Granada fell to the Christians. This includes those who came for work or study, primarily Moroccans, but also native Spaniards who converted to Islam after rediscovering their Muslim roots. One woman, who had friends that converted before her, beautifully notes, “Allah speaks to each person in the language they need.”
I enjoyed watching this documentary; rather than simply presenting us with the (albeit beautiful) Alhambra, it is a good well-rounded piece, that deals not only with Granada’s magnificent past, but also with its current inhabitants, introducing us to a small, but thriving community of Muslims, comfortable in their identity both culturally and religiously. Hanna Whiteman, part of this community herself, is a good host and grants us access that as tourists we would not otherwise have. I look forward to watching part two!
Alchemiya is currently offering users a 7 day free trial worldwide. Click here for more information and to subscribe.