Al Hambra Palace

In the afternoon we left the beautiful city of Toledo. The bus would take us to Granada where al hambra is located. The journey was long and tiring; by this time I was feeling weak. I hope to manage this tour as strongly as I could be but I was definitely coming down with something. It was dark when we arrived at the hotel. It’s only a few minutes walk to the complex of al hambra. Tomorrow will be the day that would put a whole meaning to this trip. I came all the way for this place and would not miss it for the world. The temperature is still under 10 degrees and I was feeling under the weather already.

Toledo

The bus ride to Toledo took about 3 hours from Madrid. It was late Sunday afternoon when we arrived at the gate of the old city. The sun was almost set. The driver told us he has to get permission to enter the city. The winding and narrow road uphill to the hotel makes it difficult for the bus to maneuver.   We were left halfway. As I dragged the luggage over the cobblestone path, the winter chill slapped my face and made my nose and ears numb. I struggled for heat. A few layered of clothing that I had on just could not negotiate the wild winter of Spain. I rushed inside a hotel lobby to find warmth and comfort. It was the moment I realized the value of heat that I’ve taken for granted back home. The day was almost over and I wanted to see this city badly. The sunset was breath-taking as I stood on the edge of the fortress looking down the whole city. The view from up here was so magnificent that made me wonder how at one time in a not so long distant ago Islam had reached this place; and gone. I braved the chilling night and walked to the town square. Despite it was early in the night, not many stores open so we headed back to the hotel. I needed a warm shower and a good night sleep really badly.

The next day we woke up early but still found ourselves late for the sunrise. The morning revealed what we have missed last night the awesome city of Toledo. The walls of the fortress still standing strong all around the city

Making it looks so secured and well-guarded.

Mezquita (Mesjid) Cristo de la Luz

We came across an old mosque that was turned into a church and now becomes a small museum. As I entered what used to be a prayer hall my heart just dropped for a moment choking in disbelief. 

An ancient mosque still standing strong despite the changing beliefs it has served over time.
The inscription on the wall can still be clearly seen. The proof that once this place had glorified Islamic faith.
Mezquita (Masjid) Cristo de la Luz
Inside where it used to be the prayer hall.

Landing in Madrid

This journey, initially, was only a dream. My dream of going to see the great things of the past, but it’s just too unreal to be there. The place was so far away and very few companies have ventured out to that part of the world. As remote as it had been, I kept my dream alive by buying books about the place—the great al hambra of Andalusia. I wanted to see and be in the place that was once the center of civilization. What makes it so great is that the artifacts are still there, preserved at that place. From the history books, the narrations are diverse and sometimes biased. A lot of people have dug into the past of this magical moment in the history of humankind, but the stories seem incomplete and I could feel that there is more to it than what we could have imagined. Well, the past is in the past and it is gone crumbled away by the changing season. So when a group of my friends organized this trip, I knew right away that I was meant for it.

I pledged not to be fussy for this trip. I was not going to expect anything just taking in as it comes. Whatever happens, I will face it with a wide smile. Nothing would ruin this trip and will enjoy every step of the way. We endured a long flight to Madrid via Jeddah. We arrived in the afternoon and it was in the middle of winter. The sun was out but the wind chill made me scrambled for a winter coat. I did not have one. I just hate dragging around the thick winter clothing but when the cold air started to run you down, you wish to think better next time. A bus was waiting for us and by no time we were driven out of the airport and into the metropolitan Madrid. It was Sunday afternoon and the streets were quiet. I was told that Spanish people are very religious and would rest and do nothing on Sunday. We made a pit stop at a stadium home for the Real Madrid football club. I just could not care less about this football club and know no one of its players. But they say this is one famous club and home for a famous soccer player—Christiano Ronaldo. Apparently, he is no longer here and after a few pictures, we were off again. The next stop was the Islamic Center of Madrid. A very impressive building but when I went into the toilet it was littered by a pile of poo. The toilet was not working and no hot water. But as I promised myself not to be fussy. I let this one pass—aargghh how could someone do that? There were plenty of working toilets in the place. Anyway, forget it! We are going to Toledo next.

The time I lost my father-in-law

I remember the first time I met my FIL was when I visited his house to introduce myself. We chatted briefly and after a cup of tea I excused myself. That was almost thirty years ago after I finished my studies in the US. About two years later I married his daughter.  He was a respectable man in the community; everyone seemed to know him well. Being the only SIL of the house at the time, I could get anything I wanted…hehehe….close being a spoilt brat!. “Pa … can I  borrow the car?”,I asked him one morning after the wedding day. He had an old Fiat with that big round steering. “The key is on the wall”, he muttered without taking his eyes off the newspaper. He loved reading the newspaper and would read everything from cover to cover even the court notices in the advertisement section. And I loved that old Fiat; just rammed it over the puddles and potholes. It was so much fun I drove it for hours and hours. Alone.  He never really talked down or badly to me or any of his SIL (as I realized later on) no matter how ridiculous my behavior was. One time while I was resting in the afternoon a bloody big lizard crept into the room, crawling through under the lazy chair that I was resting. AArrrggghhhhh! I screamed my heart out like a crazy man running for cover. Everybody else in the house including my FIL just startled a little bit and looked away with a smile! Hey! That lizard is still in the house……how could you guys……my heart stopped for a moment as I tried to comprehend the whole scenario. My MIL took a broom and chased it away. I looked on as that beast leisurely crawled out of the house and everyone continued as they were like nothing happened. Apparently, the incident was normal and I should not freak out as I was and instead took charge of the situation. My FIL seemed to understand my predicament and talked some sense into me. Since having a lizard in the house is considered bad luck, my FIL held special prayers and assured me of nothing would ever harm me or my family. We are okay Alhamdulillah.

with one of his grandchildren

My FIL was a smoker. Althoughby the time I was married, I started to quit smoking, I would sit with him andjoined him rolling the cigarettes. Later, when I completely quit the cigarettes,I just could not pull it off and tell him to stop. I just couldn’t. I mean themotivation to quit should come from within. The energy and power come from yourown willingness to sacrifice smoking for something better in the long future. Idid not know how to tell him that and every time there was a chance to explainto him I felt it was so unnecessary; maybe later. Finally, that “later” time justnever came. I feel bad sometimes about it but keep telling myself that it wasbeyond my control. Ah well…life is so indecisive!

There was a time when he seeks advice from me. He wrote to me a letter during my study in the UK. It was about some family matters and I wrote back to him with a few advice that I thought appropriate for him to act. We never discussed about it later but I hope he understood everything I said. He was that kind of a person; humble with his fatherly status and willing to listen words of advice from anybody. A few weeks later I received a nice ring from him through the mail…..my advice was clearly indispensable…

my last ride with him …

My father-in-lawpassed away over a couple of months ago and coming back to the house now seems so empty. The fact that he is gone has not yetsunk in and the emptiness is still feltaround the house. The moment I miss the most was when he greeted our cominghome and even more so when we were to leave later on. And that would be the hardest part because hewould be sad and while I explained why we should go the tears would run downhis cheeks. I remember to hold his hands firmly and whispered to him that wewill come back for him so be strong and do not forget to take the medicine. Helooked up to the open road and then turned to me and smiled silently. No wordcould describe the painful goodbye but life had dictated the way we were. Therewere many goodbyes such as that one until he finally squeezed my hand that onelast afternoon. His hand was cold and weak. For a few days, he has beenstruggling to breathe as his lung was getting weaker and weaker. I let go ofhis hand and touched his cheeks. In silence, we were saying goodbye to eachother. He passed away peacefully with all of his children and family members gathered around him. May his soul rest inpeace.