On a recent trip to Granada, Spain, we visited the Alhambra which I use as a setting in Gates of Hell. In this short video, you can get a taste of the atmosphere at the Nasrid Palace along with some Spanish guitar music (which I love!). Below the video, I have included an excerpt from the scene. You can also see all my pictures from the trip here.
Excerpt from Gates of Hell. ARKANE thriller #6
The taxi sped through the city and Morgan gazed out at the streets, busy even at this late hour. Granada sat at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Morgan was thrilled to be back. Her father had brought her many years ago, a teenager keen on discovering more about her roots. Her name came from this area, and her ancestors had roamed these craggy mountains, only an hour from the ocean in the southeast corner of Spain. This was Andalucia; the word conjured its past, the soft fullness of the Arabic Al-Andalus, a melting pot of influences from ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines through to Muslims, Sephardic Jews and the Catholic Church that still dominated here.
Morgan thought for a moment of her sister, Faye, back home in England. A twin in blood, but so different in looks and personality. Faye's daughter, Gemma, looked like a Sierra, with darker skin and almost black hair, more like Morgan's child than her blonde sister's. Her own family was so mixed in origin that this multicultural area of Spain would always feel like home.
They rounded a corner and caught sight of the Alhambra, the fortress on the hill a forbidding welcome to new arrivals. The eleventh-century palace had been constructed by a Moorish emir, and even though the Reconquista of Spanish Christendom had taken the city, the Islamic architecture still remained.
They pulled up to the gates and bought tickets for the flamenco event, heading in through the wide entrance.
“Where's the dancing?” Morgan asked the ticket seller.
“In the Court of the Lions,” he said, glancing down at his watch. “The last set has just started, so you'll have to hurry.”
Morgan led Jake quickly through the terrace of the western-style palace towards the Moorish buildings beyond. The mournful sound of flamenco guitar floated on the balmy night air, and Morgan breathed in the scent of flowers from the extensive gardens. She could see across the valley to the narrow winding streets of Albaicín, where she had stayed with her father so long ago. She heard his voice telling her stories of how the cave dwellings of Sacramonte had sheltered their ancestors as blood was spilled on these streets.
They reached the Court of the Lions, surrounded by the stunning arabesque architecture of the ancient Moorish kingdom. Slim pillars in cool ivory-colored marble led towards soaring archways intricately designed with filigree geometric shapes and Arabic calligraphy. The overwhelming sensation was light and delicate, as if the stone palace was constructed of magically spun air.
The Court of the Lions was open to the night air, a courtyard surrounded by one hundred and twenty-four white columns topped with decorated archways. In the center of the courtyard, a great alabaster fountain supported by twelve marble lions spouted water, sparkling in the subtle lighting that only seemed to enhance the otherworldly atmosphere. The courtyard was filled with people, eyes riveted on the scene before them.
A young man sat on the edge of the fountain, plucking his guitar while next to him stood two older men and a woman, singing a song of the gitanos, the Romani people of Spain. In front of them, a young woman danced with the proud stamps and hand claps of flamenco. Her scarlet dress with full ruffled skirt accentuated her dark skin and her full eyebrows arched as she turned, arms raised.
Morgan saw her face in profile and recognized the young girl in the picture in Santiago's room, the granddaughter he was estranged from. Her dance mesmerized those watching, the embodiment of duende, the soul of Andalucia that undulated through her hips and the arch of her back. Morgan had heard that true duende resonated with a heightened awareness of death and a dash of the diabolical, and there was truly an edge of darkness as Sofia moved. The shadows at her feet were almost living things that she stamped back into the depths of the earth. The wail of the older woman's song grew louder, a desperate lament for the loss of their homeland. Sofia whirled, her steps faster and faster until she stood motionless at the crescendo, the guitar silenced by the applause.
She held the pose as the noise died down, waiting for quiet again. She turned and gestured to the guitar player, and Morgan caught the look that sparked between them, recognizing an intimate knowledge. This was Sofia's boyfriend, perhaps the cause of the rift with her family. He had the look of a Moroccan-Spanish Arab, his long dark hair worn loose about his face – a Muslim, perhaps, or a gitano, a man Santiago may have considered beneath his pure-blood Jewish granddaughter. The young man began to pluck the strings and one of the other men from the group stepped forward to dance with Sofia, stamping with fast heels.
A figure stepped from the crowd, standing poised on the edge of the open ring. He wore the black shirt and tight trousers of flamenco and his strong features brought to mind a toreador, a bullfighter in his prime. He had been wounded in battle, his right eye scarred and sightless, but Morgan's gaze was drawn to his wide chest, muscled arms, and his posture of dominance. She tensed at his entrance, aware of the imminent danger Sofia was in, but perhaps this man was just a member of the troupe, a plant for dramatic effect.
The man stepped forward, raising his arms, commanding attention as he stamped rhythmically towards Sofia. She turned in the dance, away from the man in her troupe, indicating her acceptance of his challenge. The man began the dance of the bullfighter, and they circled around each other as the music soared. There was a chemistry between them, and even though the man was old enough to be her father, he was attractive, a dark intensity in his gaze as he danced closer to Sofia, calling his olé as he clapped. She spun in his circle, tilting her body towards his. Morgan saw the guitar player's eyes narrow at this rival. The taut strings of attraction held the pair at arm's length, but as the music reached a crescendo and the song ended, the man reached out and pulled Sofia to him.
The young woman's eyes widened, her mouth opened in a gasp. Morgan stepped forward, suddenly realizing the threat. Then the spotlights flicked off and the fire alarm rang out, its piercing shriek echoing around the Court of the Lions as the whole area was plunged into darkness.