On the road to learn about love again, this time to the Spanish island where most people from Essex travel to, Mallorca. I overhear conversations about booze and serrano ham as we board, so I know instinctively what I might expect. But even at 6am I cannot help but hear my tickling brain-what was the Muslim presence in Mallorca? As we know, Muslims ruled the island for over 230 years and its remnants are just as scanty as on mainland Spain; churches forcefully placed into old mosques and hidden corners of knowledge that the Moors left their legacy here but more on that another time. Olive oil production, even the wine worthy Malvasia grapes in the north near Banyalbufera above the terraced cultivation, the island has plenty of evidence of a once powerful part of the emirate of Cordoba in the 10th-12th century.
After an eventless journey from Luton, my husband and I landed to the news that our bag was lost, so had to walk around in the same clothes for two days. We are renting a farmhouse, which is beautifully peaceful and amazingly simple to navigate. We pick charron fruit for breakfast from the small land that surrounds the house and happily lounged on the porch as the storms were brewing for the first two days. The island is under orange signal and as I look up, the dark clouds approach frighteningly, as if bringing the end of the world.
It was another end of the world for the first Muslim who stopped here, Isam Al Jaulani in 902 on his way to Makkah, as the governor of the Balearic island appointed by the Umayyads. And wherever Arabs and Muslims go, they establish water systems; this is no different in Mayurqa. Even today, 67% of water comes from the Font Dela Vila well, engineered by the Arabs and Muslims. The terraced land was an agricultural genius that slices the mountain range into sizeable chunks and a pleasure to drive along.
The Arab baths are discreetly tucked away, the Spanish know how to market it just enough not to celebrate the Arab presence. Its garden design inspired me to dream up a garden one day I would own, God willing.
We spend the first and our last day in the capital, Palma de Mallorca that has not impressed as much as a small village would in Andalucia. There is just too much infrastructure here; the kind of place where you smell tourism as the main source of life. There is one place, though, we loved- Pere Garau market. A real working-class municipality market in the northern part of the city, where you get to see local mallorquins.
Nature, on the other hand, is accessible and always on your face, whether it is scorching heat or the rain pouring down, it is always close enough not to miss it. On our second day a torrential rain arrived by around 9am and entertained us until the afternoon. I sat on the porch wrapped with the only scarf I had, wishing the sun came out immediately. Now we know that windows should not be left open, otherwise all paperwork soaks in its own ink as they get hit sideways by the friendly rain. We also know that the house inside feels warmer, friendlier than any other time. The thick walls protect the inside; and I continue to sit on the porch, dreaming about all the pearls I will buy, now that I have no clothes to wear them with. Life in a farmhouse in rain can be beautiful, after all. It is in these simple circumstances I accept that I am, still, indeed, attached to my linen clothes I packed for easy wear here.
The air is always sweet and delicious here, the one thing that cures my spirit, whenever I am under the Spanish sun. The mornings are fresh, with dew on the windowsills, the mist playing above the pool and I happily watch it before we head out to discover another hidden beach, usually a good 20- minute climb from any main road.
A week was enough to drive around hidden olive farms and buy seven litres, walk along the white sand beaches, drive up the Tramuntana mountains, sweat in the afternoon sizzle, bike along the northern edge of the island following the curves of the sea, burn in ten minutes, or grill fish at home as we listened to the crickets singing in the evening. We laugh so much my tears flow, my husband is funnier than he has ever been, or maybe I am, too? I moan and whine like my grandmother used to when she was out and about. Life in a farmhouse is all encompassing- you are alone, as the sun ducks down, it is you and the cicadas.
Life on a island is confined, restrictive and in some ways brutal. There is nowhere to hide- not from the gushing winds that come at any inopportune time; not from the low water quality when the guards ask you to get out of the sea, because the sample water has returned indicating it is not clean enough to swim; not from the evening darkness of a sleepy village with one street light where you hear nothing but your neighbour’s dog barking. Everywhere I walk on an island, I get to an edge. I turn just to find another. Island living is to be at the edge, your place of unsettledness all times. There is something deeply uncomfortable about that; yet it teaches me to be on my toes, so I can walk to the other side to see more edges again and again. There is no point of settling for eternity; it is about stretching through yet another discomfort.