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Saturday, July 23, 2005

A very memorable visit

Much has been said about the on-going troubles in London. So, I’m not going to add to that.

My parents are here visiting, and we thought Spain would be a great place to go; Al-hambra Palace especially. So, off we went. When the capitol was first ‘attacked’ on the 7th July, we were flying out from Gatwick Airport to Malaga on an early morning BA flight, 7:45am to be exact. It was only when I switched on my mobile at the baggage claim lounge; the tragic news came through from friends in the UK.

Anyway, after taken much time in sorting out our rented Opel Zafira, we headed to the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada. Driving west towards Motril via the costal road, we simply adored the scenic view along the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea… so beautiful. Weather was great; around 30degC. Just before the road got into Motril, we took the exit north heading towards Granada. One thing, Spain has good roads and driving was indeed pleasant.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAbout two hours and a bit from the time we left the airport, we exit right into the mountain towards Lanjaron (pronounced ‘lan-haron’). View was breathtaking amidst the winding road. Soon, we passed a series of huge wind turbines, constructed in the valley, rotating their gigantic blades rather gracefully… churning out electricity for the region, 'greenly'.

We soon arrived in Lanjaron town centre, a small urban area on the mountain slopes. Time to give another call to my dear friend whom we were visiting. Sulaiman (previously known as Simon) and his family - wife Y, daughter K (6), son D (4) and baby A(1) – left their busy city life and settled in the mountain about two years ago.

I started to know Sulaiman a few years back through our involvement in Silat Seni Gayong. He had been and lived in Malaysia for many times, and the only orang putih to be bestowed with PSSGM sendeng (i.e. authorised to be a teacher/khalifah). For the past year, I had been wishing to visit his new place in Spain but unavoidable circumstances always denied my plans.

‘Waalaikumsalam, where are you now?’
‘We’re here, in Lanjaron. How do we get to your place?’
‘MashaAllah… alhamdulillah. Well, did you pass the wind turbine?’
‘Yes we did’
‘Okay, you have to turn back. Go pass the wind turbine, and you’ll ….. ‘, S gave me the instruction.

So, we turned back.

The way to get up to their place was via a winding rocky uneven single track road, much suited for 4x4 vehicles. We went up slowly. Halfway up, we saw a wild mountain goat, skilfully jumping down the steep slope, what a sight.

After about 15 minutes, we spotted Sulaiman waiting at the track side with his stick.. very much like a hiker/sheppard/bushman.

‘Assalamualaikum, finally we are here!’
‘Waalaikumsalam, masyaAllah. Welcome, welcome. Not far to go. Now turn right and go down’, added S.

Following our mini Mpv, Sulaiman soon stopped us on a flat rocky surface.

Image hosted by‘You can park here’, he said.
‘OK. So, where is your place?’
‘It’s down there’, said Sulaiman, pointing to a couple of Mongolian tents (called ‘gur’), a small bright orange structure, and a nearly finished two-storey modest Spanish cottage house.

What a place!
Next door neighbour was miles away, no electricity, no tv, no radio, no sound of vehicles, nothing. Water was from a fresh natural spring within their land [Lanjaron is famous for its spring water, and it’s commercially bottled]. Hot water from a roof mounted solar panel. Vegetables and herbs from their own grow. Olive oil from their many olive trees. Fruits from their own fig trees, grapes trees, etc. It was a wonderful oasis…. a back-to-nature abode. A retreat, a place of solace for one’s soul.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn no time, Y brought up food from their modest kitchen within the bright orange building to the upper platform where we were sitting, admiring the place. On Moroccan mats, in the open, under olive and fig trees, we had a delicious dinner; kofta, rice, salad, etc… finished by a few cups of soothing Moroccan mint tea.

We brought some rambutans (from Tanah Serendah Sekebun Bunga), and Sulaiman decided to try growing them on his land. Let’s pray that one day there’ll be Spanish rambutans for all to enjoy. I joked:
‘Soon, there’ll be a sign down there on the road side: ‘Rambutan this way ->’,
and Sulaiman added, ‘Assam Jawa too’, as he’s trying to grow them as well.
We all laughed.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSoon, it was Asar time and Sulaiman stood next to the low wall on his cliff facing Mecca and called for prayer:

‘AllahuaAkbar AllahuAkbar….. ‘
‘Ashadualla illa ha illallah, Ashadualla illa ha illallah….. ‘, it echoed in the mountains.
It was surreal.

They prepared one gur for us, the top one… whilst they occupied the bottom (‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ they were called… with the central orange building housed a kitchen and wc/shower room). Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt was the first for us; to be in a gur. At the centre of the roof, there was a circular opening covered by another piece of the wrapping fabric, which could be folded via ropes attached, to let air and light in. Its interior richly decorated in bright colours.

After such a long journey, we slept soundly that night, under a clear sky full of twinkling stars. It was a tad cool…. so we closed the door, in addition of our fear of any wild nocturnal visitors; wild boars, foxes and mountain dogs were among others mentioned by the hosts. Goodness!

Our initial plan to leave in the early morning on the next day for Granada didn’t happen. The oasis was too serene and too peaceful to be left in haste. We didn’t get enough of it.

Sulaiman explained a bit about the area. The place was in Alpujarra (originally Arabic 'Al-Bukhara') region, the south-facing side of Sierra Nevada, the very last refuge of Spanish Muslims as they were expelled from Al Andalus in the 15th century. When Islam was outlawed, some of them fled into the mountains and lived in caves and hidden oasis for decades, undetected by the authority.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSoon, conversation with my Papa led deeper into silat stuff. Sulaiman showed us his parang panjang and a keris, bought in Malaysia. A veteran in such matter, Papa reckoned that the keris, albeit new, looked like it came from a batch of old good besi. Papa tested. After a short ritual, with Quranic verses and selawat, he made Sulaiman’s keris stood up unsupported. Sulaiman was gobsmacked…. and Papa consequently happily passed him the inner knowledge/ilm for doing that.

After breakfast, we again toured the place. Looked at their fruit trees, vegetable patches, natural spring, the yet-to-be-completed house, and the rest of the amazing sanctuary.

Then, I fried the keropok we brought. What a bliss....

Finally, as midday approached, we had to depart for the Alhambra Palace in Granada further north…. bringing with us a wonderful memory of the place we all long to be, again. Till next time….

Jazakallah Sulaiman & family for your immense hospitality; brilliant host. Hope to see you all again very soon. All the best.

Sulaiman teaches silat at a few venues including once a week at his oasis. In addition he also teaches the traditional Islamic archery. Last month he successfully organised the 1st Silat Melayu Europe Training Camp 2005 at his place, a rare occasion which I sadly couldn’t attend. Gayong Espana of which he set up is now affiliates to PSSGM.

Recently, with a friend, he started running a package holiday for Muslims.

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