When I was sixteen years old, I sat in my English class flipping through an art book when I came across the most stunning photograph I'd ever seen. What's that? I asked Ms. Bruno. The Alhambra, she replied. Built by Muslims in Spain generations ago. I gazed at the fountain with lions, the intricate artwork decorating the ceilings and said to myself I want to see this for myself some day. Years later, June 2001 I saw a flier on campus calling teachers to teach English in Spain. I'm going, I resolved. The summer after my first year of teaching I'm there.
Of course, as life continues to teach me, what I plan and the actuality of what He has destined for me may not align. July 2001 I met K, and July 2002, the summer of Spain, I married him [and to be clear, I'd have it no other way!]. Since then, the desire to see Spain continues to beat in my heart but we plan our vacations using a pragmatic method: The world is beautiful, lets fly to where its cheapest! In this way we've been blessed to see many countries such as Turkey, France, Costa Rica, etc. but Spain to date has not shown up on the list of affordable countries. Until now.
Monday we leave for Madrid, Spain. From Madrid we drive South to Granada, Cordova, Seville, and small towns along the way. [If you've been to Spain and have advice, please share!] I'm reading Ornament of The World, a fantastic book about Medieval Spain and how beautifully Muslims, Jews, and Christians once lived together. [Thanks Baraka!]. While I'm excited I also feel pensive. To visit Spain is to visit the ghosts of the past. I read how there was a time that people were considered uncivilized if they hailed from outside the Muslim Empire. What a reversal it is now. As our trip inches closer I realize why my heart seems to pull me to Spain. I want to travel back in time. I want to close my eyes as I stand in the Grand Mosque and imagine what was. I want to stand before the Alhambra and look out at the horizon as others before me. To be in the presence of what they built, is to be in the tangible presence of the past. I think Islam is undergoing an identity crisis. The unity of Al-Andalus is crushed and we are scattered across the earth like shards of glass. Reading about the invention of Algebra, the tolerance for other faiths, and the beautiful things that were once accomplished, I can't help but feel sad for what was. I am going to Spain to time travel. I'm visiting Spain to understand who we once were.