Information on the the town of Yegen, the Alpujarras and Andalucia
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The origin of the name Alpujarra is uncertain though many believe it is derived from the Arabic Al-Bugscharra, meaning mountainous pastureland, and the area has been called such at least since 1432. It stretches from the Sierra Nevada watershed in the north to the Mediterranean in the south and from the valley of the Rio Guadalfeo in the west to the valley of the Rio Andarax in the East, encompassing parts of the provinces of Granada and Almeria.
For many years Las Alpujarras remained hidden and unknown, even in the rest of Spain, because of its difficult access and abrupt, steep landscape. The land has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and in prehistoric times many bloody wars resulted from wandering tribes trying to gain control of its fertile soil and abundance of minerals. Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, all established themselves and left a great heritage of archaeological remains.
But the greatest impact of all was made by the Moors, under whose rule from 711 to 1492, Las Alpujarras reached its most prosperous. By making maximum use of natural resources and constructing a sophisticated irrigation system they achieved intensive agriculture and by planting mulberry trees for silkworm farming they made it renowned for its silk industry. When the Moors were defeated by the Catholic Kings in Granada, Aben Humeya set up resistance to Christian rule in the Alpujarras and 80 years of guerrilla fighting followed until Philip 11 expelled the lot of them. To counteract the loss of its inhabitants he ordained that the area should be repopulated and 2,500 families were brought from the north of Spain, amongst whom the land and all it contained was distributed.
The geography of Las Alpujarras is spectacular: from sea level to the highest peak in Spain (Mulhacen, 3,482m) in 30 kms. It contains 15 summits above 3000 metres and contains 65 plant and several insect species exclusive to the area, more than in many European countries put together. The bird population is massive and varied, from song birds to owls to rare species in the high mountains and it is still possible to see the majestic flight of the royal eagle as well as other birds of prey Reptiles and lizards are well represented and in the wilds it is possible to see wild boar, ibex, foxes, badgers and even wild mountain cats.
The climate is the Mediterranean type with a hot, dry period of at least two months in summer. Most rainfall comes in autumn but there are great contrasts in quantity, from 300 mm a year in the coastal areas of Almeria to 1,500 mm or more in some of the higher valleys and peaks. Because of the great differences in height, Las Alpujarras claims the greatest range of temperatures of any area of Europe, with winters which can be almost tropical near the coast or as severe and bleak as those of the north of Europe in the highest peaks.
The architecture of Las Alpujarras strongly resembles that of the Berber villages in the high Atlas mountains and is a legacy from the Moors along with the layered terraces for farming and the irrigation system. The villages are small and seem to hang on the sunny sides of the hills; large churches surrounded by square, whitewashed houses with balconies bright with flowers, flat roofs with the typical Alpujarran chimneys, all jumbled together in narrow, winding streets.
The economy of the Alpujarras today still depends to a certain extent on a type of small subsistence farming which has carried on unaltered through the centuries. Mules can be seen toiling on the fields, goats grazing the steep mountain sides. The main local products are wine, almonds and olives but almost anything grows in some place, from avocados, dates and mangoes on the tropical coast near Motril, to cherries, raspberries and strawberries, walnuts and chestnuts on the higher slopes. It is a bright land of contrasts and surprises.