Portugal and Spain: Let's Explore the Melting Pot Culture of Iberia

Lisbon, Portugal

Changi airport

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Lisbon: Portugal and Spain: Let's Explore the Melting Pot...

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“Hi, it's u­­­s, Georg­i­n­a, Bri­tt­a, and ­Lee­ Lin­g­”

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Once upon a time, there was a place where the Christians, Jews, and Muslims were lived together harmoniously for a few hundred years. This place was the Iberian peninsula and this will be a trip to see and understand the 2000 years of Islamic, Christian and Jewish religious influence in this region.  I urge everyone to join this trip to come with an open mind and then we can decide for ourselves if it is true that Muslim influence made Spain the most advanced, wealthy and populous country in Europe - and if the 700 years of Muslim conquest in Spain was a precursor to the European Renaissance. 

Portugal and Spain: Let's Explore the Melting Pot Culture of Iberia starting at Lisbon, PortugalCúpula da Mihrab da Mesquita by Jose Luiz licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

If you have not seen Andrew Graham Dixon's BBC 3 parts series "The Moorish South" - please take some time to watch it. I believe that after seeing it - you will be excited to join us for this trip.  

It is a holiday after all so it won't be all serious stuff, we will be doing many other fun things together such as flamenco dances, cooking classes and exploring ancient caves that were inhabited 120,000 years ago. We will be visiting during the start of the Christian season of lent, which means we will also experience the colorful Mardi-Gras celebrations.

Walk in the Footsteps of Caliphs and Kings

Alcázar de los Reyes Católicos by Gonzalo Castán licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Once home to Roman governors and Moorish caliphs, Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos became the home of the Spanish kings in 1328. Located in Cordoba, this is where the rulers Fernando and Isabella lived for over eight years. It was here that they first heard Christopher Columbus pitch his idea of searching for a Western route to India and from where they orchestrated the reconquest of Granada.

Visit the UNESCO "City of Three Cultures"

Toledo Skyline Panorama, Spain by Diliff licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

The city of Toledo is a UNESCO world heritage site and is uniquely interesting. It is commonly known as "City of Three Cultures" for it's Muslim, Christian, and Jewish heritage, and for the amazing fact that the three religions have managed to live harmoniously together for centuries. We will visit the highlights of this city such as the Toledo Cathedral (a 13th century Gothic masterpiece), the roman era Alcázar de Toledo, the Santa María la Blanca Synagogue (the oldest synagogue in Europe), the masterpieces of El Greco, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, the Mudéjar style churches and the underground city .

Discover Zaragoza's Influence on History

Basílica del Pilar - Río Ebro, Zaragoza by Paulo Brandao licensed by BY CC 2.0

In Zaragova we see 2000 years of history in just one block. We will have a chance to discover the Roman and Renaissance-era Zaragoza. As we stroll by the painter Franciso de Goya`s favourite places we will be able to appreciate the legacy of the Mudéjar people in the city`s streets, buildings and squares. To discover the sweet side of Zaragova, we will take a Chocolate tour! The chocolate-making tradition started in Zaragoza in the 16th century and since then has become tradition, as evidenced by the numerous chocolate shops, cake shops, and companies that exist. Some have even been in business since the 19th century.

Soak-up the Rich Culture of Seville with Flamenco Dance

On Stage Workshop: Flamenco by Flavio~ licensed by BY CC 2.0

Seville another interesting city with a history similar to that of Toledo and Cordoba. In Seville, aside from visiting the amazing buildings and hearing interesting stories, we will be learning how to dance the famous flamenco dance. We will also be sleeping in history - staying Paradors which are castles or monasteries that have been converted to tourist accommodation.

Marvel at the World's Largest Gothic Church

Seville cathedral, Spain by Gary Campbell-Hall licensed by BY CC 2.0

This massive cathedral called Catedral de Santa María de la Sedeholic cathedral although it is sometimes referred to the Seville Cathedral. It is the final resting place of many of Spain's past rulers.

Stroll Through the Peaceful María Luisa Park

Fountain of the Frogs. Maria Luisa Park by Jose A. licensed by BY CC 2.0

María Luisa Park eas once part of the Palace of San Telmo. However, the land was donated to the people of Seville and developed into a beautiful public park starting in 1911. The park is home to many monuments, ponds, fountains and the famous Plaza de España - itself an excellent example of Moorish revival architecture.

Tour Alhambra Palace, One of Europe’s Most Significant Monuments

Alhambra Palace at dusk by Jebulon licensed by BY CC 1.0

Alhambra is a fortress complex located in Granada. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of a Roman fortress. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Much of the Muslim architecture remains and is a testament to Moorish influence in southern Europe.

See how Granada’s Mosque Became a Catholic Cathedral.

Capilla Mayor II, Granada Cathedral by Wenjie, Zhang licensed by BY CC 2.0

The Mezquita of Cordoba is now a Roman Catholic cathedral, but it was once Mosque. When it was built by the Muslim Umayyad dynasty, it was the second-largest mosque in the world. After the Spanish Reconquista, it was transformed into a church. Although and some of the Islamic columns and arches were later replaced by a basilica - it is a lasting legacy of the Muslim culture that once ruled here.

Wander Through Ancient Streets of Albaycin

Albayzin neighborhood, Granada, Spain by Xavi licensed by BY CC 2.0

The Albaicín (or Albayzín in Arabic), is the former Muslim district of Granada. It has narrow winding streets flanked by traditional houses carmen, where a freestanding house surrounded by a high wall. Inside the wall, you will often also find a and has a small orchard or garden. The area was advanced in the medieval area - with hoses supplied with drinking water via pipes. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit One of the World’s Most Important Islamic Sites

Nicolas Vollmer Follow Colonnes de la Mezquita by Nicolas Vollmer licensed by BY CC 2.0

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption was once called by a different name - the Great Mosque of Córdoba. This is another example of how the Catholic Church rebranded Mosques after the Reconquista. The site was actually originally a Christian church that had been converted to a Mosque when the Moors took over the region. It remains a contested place as the Catholic Church has repeatedly denied Muslim requests to pray here.

Visit the Sagrada Família - Perhaps Europe's Last Great Church

Sagrada Familia nave roof detail by Sabadell licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

The Sagrada Família is a large unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Construction of great cathedrals often take centuries and Sagrada Família is no exception. Work is ongoing with it currently set to be completed in 2032. With the decline of religion in the western world - this may be the last great cathedral built there.

Experience the Bizarre and Surreal Architecture of Gaudi

Gaudi's Barcelona by Christine Zenino licensed by BY CC 2.0

The Sagrada Família isn't the only building in Barcelona designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), there are many buildings and even a whole park designed by him. Much of his architecture is described as bizarre or surreal - and makes you wonder how it is that it can even stand.

Taste unique Andalusian Cuisine with a Food Tour

Tapas! Giant heap of seafood, those anchovies were as big as fingers, also baby octopus and calamari. by Ed Matthew licensed by BY CC 2.0

Located near the coast, Andalusia cooking is full of fish and other seafood - but also includes olive oil, wine, and sweets that are notably Arabic in origin. We will learn about all this from chefs during a food and wine tour.

Experience Mardi Gras in Portugal

Sagrada Família by Andrew Booth licensed by BY CC 2.0

Before it became a Brazilian celebration - Mardi Gras was celebrated by the Portuguese. In fact, it was the Portuguese colonial influence that introduced Mardi Grad to Brazil. we will experience this festival first hand and enjoy all the revelry - the last hurrah before the start of the pious and reflective season of Lent.

Delve into Caves Where Neanderthals Once Lived in Gibraltar

St Michael's Cave, Gibraltar by Hannah and Simon licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Moving to Gibraltar, let's transport ourselves back 120,000 years to the era of the Neanderthals lived! The Gorham’s Cave Complex is another UNESCO site and is important in understanding the global story of human evolution. Archeological excavations have shown that Gibraltar was the last refuge for the Neanderthals around 32,000 years ago. the site is a wealth of information on how the Neanderthals and early modern humans lived and behaved; what plants they ate, the birds and animals they hunted, where they acquired materials for their tools, and what their environment was like. There is evidence of their complex social behavior including a rock engraving carved by the Neanderthals which indicate their ability for abstract thought.


21st Feb Singapore To Lisbon

22nd Feb Lisbon Airport, Lisbon Tour

23rd Feb Carnival in Lisbon

24th Feb Lisbon - Gibraltar - Gibraltar tour

25th Feb Gibraltar Tour, Gibraltar - Seville

26th Feb Seville, Seville Tour

27th Feb Seville, Seville Tour

28th Feb Seville - Granda, Granda Tour

29th Feb Granda - Cordoba, Cordoba Tour

1st March Cordoba - Toledo, Toledo Tour

2nd March Toledo - Zaragova, Zaragova Tour

3rd March Zaragova - Barcelona, Barcelona Tour

4th March Barcelona to Singapore

5th March Singapore