Slumbering Beauties

I have occasionally been asked about, or sometimes even been criticized for, my intermittent reporting on matters of the Catholic church. There were suggestions that my blog entries on monasteries in Mallorca, on churches, chapels and the Cathedral, or on festivities related to saints and saints’ days amount to promoting the Catholic religion or something to that extent. I keep explaining that an exhaustive blog on the subject of Mallorca would be flawed if it did not include references to matters of church traditions in a country as deeply entrenched in the Catholic religion as Spain was and still is. No, I am not a Catholic, I never was and I never will be. If I did a blog on Japan, I would certainly have to include topics of Shintoism or Buddhism quite frequently, don’t you think?

Every time, I point out that I continuously aim to give equal attention to other religions such as Islam, Sufism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Mormonism or Jehovanism. After all, there has been a time in Mallorca when Catholicism, Islam and Judaism coexisted in perfect harmony for a few hundred years, or so it is sometimes claimed.

Okay, I have never reported on Scientology and I am not sure that I will ever consider it relevant.

Allow me to talk about the Virgin Mary once more, on occasion of the recent Festivitat de l’Assumpció de La Mare de Déu (Ascent of Virgin Mary). The celebration is also called Dormició de Maria (Dormition of Virgin Mary).

I have visited a number of church exhibitions of the Slumbering Beauties over the last number of years and this year, was all intent on filling in the gaps that I might have missed in the past. Easier said than done. When I was in Palma last Friday, I approached six churches plus the Cathedral but, I found myself locked out in all of them but two. Saturday and Sunday, the same happened in the pueblos. Of seven churches, only three were open for visits at the time of my arrival. For your perusal, I am offering you reclining Mare de Déu Dormida examples taken in – from top to bottom – La Seu (Cathedral) and Sant Miquel in Palma, and Campos, Felanitx, Santanyí and Porreres in the Part Forana (the hinterland). I was told that the most beautiful Virgin Mary statue was laid out in the parish church of s’Arracó (Església de Sant Crist), but I did not get there before time and the display there is now no longer on view, until next year.

This year, some installations will be on display until August 22nd. The parish church in Santanyí will show its sleeping beauty (above) until August 21st, the parish church in Muro, until August 23rd, and the church in Alaró, until August 25th. In Palma, the exhibition at the Església de Sant Francesc comes to a close on August 22nd, as will the one at La Seu de Mallorca. An exhibition Mostra de la Mare de Déu d’Agost will be open at the Monestir de la Puríssima Concepció until August 23rd. A Funeral Procession of the Ascending Virgin will be held on August 22nd at 19h00 at the Església del Monestir de la Concepció.

The photos were taken, from top to bottom, in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 17th, 2012. The time was 15:28:09 and 13:34:54, Campos, August 18th, 2012, at 11:05:14, Felanitx, August 15th, 2012, at 11:56:02, Santanyí, August 18th, 2012, at 12:09:45, and Porreres, August 19th, 2012, at 20:28:38.

Slumbering Beauties

Ramadan in Mallorca

Tomorrow, July 20th, will be the first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, lasting for 29 or 30 days according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon. It is the Muslim month of fasting in which all followers of the religion of Islam refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations, from dawn until sunset. Today, July 19th, is the night of the New Moon, and not just in the Muslim calendar.

Most Muslims in Mallorca hail from Morocco or other North-African countries such as Algeria, Tunisia or Egypt. Quite a large number of Maghreb citizens habitually go back to their native country, wishing to spend the time of fasting with their families. We saw our neighbour Kamal packing his car to the hilt with boxes, suitcases, mattresses and even bicycles for his long sea journey back home to Nador (Ennaḍur) in eastern Morocco where his parents live, of Berber descent. Kamal will not return to Mallorca until the end of August after the feast of Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.

I am quite fascinated how similar traditions are throughout the world. In China, millions of people return home every year to their family of origin’s abode for the annual festivity of New Year. In Japan, it is customary to return home for the Sakura festival of Cherry Blossoms. In the USA, people head home for Thanksgiving Day, and in Europe, it used to be quite common to return home for Christmas. Not all of us may be quite so laden with presents, though, when we return home or am I fooling myself?

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 13th, 2012. The time was 23:02:33.

Ramadan in Mallorca

Alqueries, Rafals and Rafalets

When the Catalans came to Mallorca in 1229 to successfully conquer the island from the hands of the Almohad Caliphate, all Mallorcan land and its properties, titles and possessions had to be first catalogued and then, distributed. An inventory of all land, buildings, animals and goods was collated in a thick volume of handwritten pages called Llibre de franqueses i privilegis del Regne de Mallorca where apart from the stock taking, the liberties, privileges, rights and benefits granted to the king and his noblemen were carefully listed.

In that inventory, more than one hundred Alqueries, Rafals, Rafols and Rafalets were listed. An Alqueria used to be a small rural community, you could say a hamlet or settlement, consisting of a few buildings where one or more families lived together and worked the surrounding land. Rafals and Rafalets are similar and differ perhaps in their extension. Always, these Berber settlements in Mallorca were located at or near a water source, such as the one in the photo (above), a pou.

Today, you will find perhaps a dozen Alquería settlements, hamlets or pueblos all over the island, all dating back originally to the time before the Catalan invasion.

The photo was taken near s’Alquería Blanca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 8th, 2012. The time was 15:54:15.

Alqueries, Rafals and Rafalets

The Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró

The Puig d’Alaró makes for an exciting outing for a number of reasons. You could hike up the northern ascent from Orient which will take you just under two hours before you get to the Castell d’Alaró, or you could choose to hike up from Alaró and the southern approach. On top of the impressive rock, the fortress allows glimpses into history with sometimes bloody chapters, going back to the Arab period and quite possibly even to the Romans.

Even further up, you will find the Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró and the 17th century chapel of the Mare de Déu del Refugi. The restoration work at the Hostatgeria has now been completed, at long last, and currently there are four dormitories with bunk beds for four each, with more to be furnished any time soon. The refuge is capably run by a young Catalan couple who rent out beds for 12 € per person, or offer a half board arrangement at 24 € per head. There are reductions for children. The hostel brings the number of refuges along Mallorca’s Dry-stone Route up to six, along with Tossals Verds, Muleta, Can Boi, Son Amer and Pont Romà. A stay in the refuge can be thoroughly recommended if you seek rest in peaceful surroundings of historic heritage and good food. Up here you are closer to the essence of life if that is what you might seek.

Alaró and the hamlet of Orient are within walking distance and the cozy restaurant of Es Verger is just a half hour stroll away. You will have heard of Es Verger‘s fabulous lamb specialties, all slow-cooked in the wood-fired oven at affordable prices (Paletillas are now served at 16 € a piece) and all eaten with great gusto.

The photos were taken near Alaró, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 21st, 2012. The time was 16:25:02, 15:04:14 and 14:48:03, respectively.

The Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró

The Festa de Firó in Sóller

For the last few days, the town of Sóller has been celebrating its annual Fires i Festes. Today is the last day of festivities and the most important of all celebrations, the Festa de Firó. The Firó celebration always happens on the Monday after the second weekend in May, i. e. today. The Firó goes back to a date in history, when on May 11th, 1561, some 2,000 Moorish intruders arrived in the Port de Sóller from Algeria, with nothing but unfriendly motives and aggressive plans. Luckily, the then Viceroy in Ibiza had sent a warning to the citizens of Sóller who could prepare themselves for a possible attack and organize their defense. For the last 120 years, the town of Sóller has been celebrating the legendary battle and its favorable outcome with an annual reenactment of the historic skirmish of Moros i Cristians (Moors and Christians).

In 1561, the Sarraïns (Saracen pirates) landed on the Platja d’en Repic , pillaging and looting whatever got in their way. They soon had the upper hand, marauding houses and capturing the parish church. The pirates’ Wazir (leader) did not take long in declaring victory in the Sóller Plaça, triumphing over the local farmers. The Sollerics and their Valentes Dones (brave women), however, regrouped under the helm of Capitán Angelats, counter-attacked and finally managed to overpower the intruders. I expect it will be the same today, and everyone will be happy ever after, until next year.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of and @potti (José Juan ‘Potti’ Luna).

Moltes gràcies.

The Festa de Firó in Sóller

Water Music

One could argue that Mallorca lived a moment of advancement and prosperity during the period of Moorish jurisdiction. During that time (902-1229), progress was made by refining agricultural methods, by introducing plants hitherto unknown on the island, by developing new forms of management of water resources, by governance of land areas and communities in newly determined juridical districts, by reshaping seafaring routes through accomplished maps and atlases and by starting new trade relations with North Africa and the European continent.

A lot of these achievements had to do with water. Perhaps water was more scarce and precious where the Berbers came from and thus more knowledge and wisdom was coming with them in the way they dealt with water resources and water management here on this island. The settlers only ever founded Alquerias (settlements, villages) where they had found a water source. Once found, they took great care to channel the precious liquid and to store it in ample Aljubs (cisterns). From here, they would conduct the water to where it was needed through canals or watercourses, or other forms of irrigation.

Alfabia is a good place to study the Moorish ways of water management. The estate goes back to an Islamic settlement near the Font d’Alfabia, a water source in the Puig d’Alfabia mountain, from where it was channeled through watercourses to storage reservoirs near the residential quarters, and from there through canals and ducts to the fields and terraces of plantation areas and gardens.

The sound of water is ever-present in Alfabia like an orchestrated composition of water music. Sit back and relax and you can enjoy the peace and solitude of nature, accompanied by the sound of trickling water, interspersed with chirping bird sounds and the resonance of wind in the trees. Bliss.

Admission fees have recently gone up to 6.50 € in Alfabia. Oh well.

The photo was taken near Bunyola, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 11th, 2012. The time was 15:15:31.

Water Music

The Poetry of Clouds

I never cease to be amazed by the utter beauty and the poetic quality of clouds, here in Mallorca. For the last few days and in the run-up to the Full Moon on Sunday, May 6th, we had some spectacular Cumulonimbus clouds. You may have noticed them yourself.

Please allow me to quote an excerpt from a poem by Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), titled I Have the Wisdom of One Condemned…

… I dreamed the earth’s heart is greater
than its map,
more clear than its mirrors
and my gallows.
I was lost in a white cloud that carried me up high
as if I were a hoopoe
and the wind itself my wings.
At dawn, the call of the night guard
woke me from my dream, from my language:
You will live another death,
so revise your last will,
the hour of execution is postponed again …

The photo was taken near Costitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 1st, 2012. The time was 13:58:17.

Post script: My friend John spurred me to remind you of the very exerting Cloud Appreciation Society. There you will find everything you always wanted to know about clouds, and more, including a cloud appreciation manifesto, photos, music and poetry. Thank you, John.

The Poetry of Clouds