Salares is a gorgeous little village tucked in a river valley with a deep gorge crossed by a neat ‘Arabic’ bridge. It’s ancient church tower was once the minaret of the town’s mosque, and can be seen above a beautiful maze of houses, that are dissected by steep, narrow paths. How does modern life fit in? It fits in well; there is one good broad ‘paseo’ from the main road that runs in beside the town from the main road, giving the town access and space. This is where they set up the stalls, the marque and the displays for the Festival Arabe Andalusí.
It is a very Spanish Arabic festival, with flamenco dancing as well as belly-dancing and a brass band and clowns as well as dressage and falconry, but it is all the better for its variety: all the more fun.
I missed the first day this year, having gone down the valley to see a flamenco performance at Bodegas Bentomiz in Sayalonga. But on the Saturday I wandered up at midday, when not so much is happening, between the plastic-toy stalls, the donut stand, and past the marque where the brass band would shortly perform to almost bump into José Manuel Carrascal near the henna-tattoo stand. I’m glad I didn’t crash right into him though; it might have upset the boa constrictor he was wearing.
José Manuel, who runs
Fauna Sur, is a falconer with an interest in other exotic animals. His birds include eagles, owls, crows and falcons and they are wonderful.
He had them in a covered pen, these gorgeous birds. “They are not tame,” he told us, as he brought one out and then another. “They belong to themselves. They come to the glove when they are hungry for their meat reward. They will not fly unless they are hungry”. Then he hurled the bird upward and it soared to a balcony ledge and perched there glaring round to see what lay below, turning its head when he heard the falconer’s breathy whistle for it to come back.
I watched and watched and the crowd stayed with him, though it was a long display. At a certain point thirst drew me off to the Los Arcos bar and I went back down the parade to see what else was about.
There were dancers in costume coming out into the crowd, ready for the next round of entertainments. I love the laid back atmosphere of these fiestas, though the lack of any reliable timetable can be frustrating.
I love the flags and decorations; I love the costumes, whether it’s the traditional outfits of the horse riders, the flamenco dancers dresses or the belly-dancers dresses – and especially the fact that all these performers seem to be enjoying it.
The horses were also being dressed up, one with an elaborately plaited mane. The three riders I watched turned and danced their horses back and forth. One of the riders was very young, maybe just 12 or 13, but was guiding her horse to walk backwards, stand and circle around a wooden lance she held, with consummate skill.
Then I went back to the birds.
Now José Manuel was having some trouble with a young falcon that was newly trained that wouldn’t come down. The problem was distractions – not human nonsense, but flocks of house martins turning and flying and turning again in the evening light. I walked up through the town to the balcony near the townhall to watch them and thought them beautiful birds. The little falcon was certainly interested in them, but after fidgeting and flying from one roof top to another roof top for some 20 minutes he finally came down to the falconers wrist.
The time had come for me to get home too. As the crowds were coming in for a night of music and dancing and the main road was filling up with cars I headed out. Brilliant fiesta though; must spend more time there next year!