GRANADA – Housing the remnants of Spain's last Muslim communities, a string of tiny villages surrounded by snow-capped mountains in Alpujarras constitutes Granada’s last Muslim stronghold, where halal food attracts a growing number of tourists.
“We are about 20 families, about 100 people, and most of us converted to Islam,” Qasim Barrio Raposa, owner of Café Baraka told OnIslam.net.
“We have been here for about 25 years and we are totally integrated with the people of the area.”
“Everybody knows the Muslims and Café Baraka in Orgiva,” he added.
Lured to Orgiva by his spiritual quest, Qasim found a close knit Muslim community in the Alpujarras region.
“Twelve years ago I started to have a calling for Islam and I began to study some books,” he told onIslam.net.
“I went to the mosques and came into contact with the Sufi Naqshbandi order in Spain which led me to visit the Orgiva community.”
“Most of the Muslims there are converted people from occident - European, American - and live in the countryside,” Qasim added.
“In one of these visits, I started a business with one brother from the community and we called it Café Baraka.”
Qasim’s journey to Orgiva led him to accept Islam and to leave his native Bilbao where he had worked in the restaurant sector.
“In one year I converted to the Islam and I left my home town and came to Orgiva to live in a ‘halalway’, because my job was always a waiter in a restaurant,” he said.
Orgiva is a cosmopolitan town with a colorful mix of nationalities living together in a bohemian atmosphere.
Situated 59 km from the city of Granada, Orgiva has a population of 6,000 and sits at 450 metres.
The region, comprised of fifty-odd villages, was the last stronghold of the Spanish Muslims after the Castilians took Granada in 1492.
The Muslims who refused to convert to Christianity took to the hills, settling in this remote area.
In Orgiva, Qasim started a halal organic restaurant which became a popular meeting place in the celebrated Alpujarras region in the province of Granada.
“Café Baraka is a place of meeting for the people of the Alpujarras who like natural and organic food,” Qasim told OnIslam.net.
“Everybody who visits us likes our ambience and our meals.”
Located in the town of Orgiva, the capital of Las Alpujarras, Café Baraka uses organic produce in its dishes and it supports the local producers of the area.
Café Baraka specializes in both Spanish and eastern cuisine offering dishes such as shawarma, kebabs, cous-cous, tajin, hummus, Spanish omelet, guacamole, gazpacho, and natural juices.
An assortment of pastries are sold, as well as, teas ‘sweetened with fructose or honey from the Alpujarras.’
From May to October, homemade ice creams, milk shakes and lemonades are offered.
As a Muslim, Qasim wanted his business to reflect his philosophy so he has a no smoking and no alcohol policy and he serves halal food with many vegetarian and vegan dishes.
“We usually have animals like chicken or lamb and we sacrifice them according to halal standards,” said Qasim.
“With a number of organic food shops in the village there is a thriving organic food scene,” Qasim added.
“We try as much as possible to use locally sourced produce.”
Qasim’s restaurant quickly became a meeting place for the area’s diverse and colorful population.
The café, the architecture of the buildings, the minarets that were transformed into church towers, the irrigation system that was maintained and still used today, as well as, in the Mudéjar building, have all indicated a strong Muslim legacy is still evident in Alpujarras region.
According to Qasim, the Muslims in the Alpujarras region are a close knit community which has been taking shape over the years.
“We have a place in the cemetery,” said Qasim.
“We have a big place of meeting (dergha) in the countryside and we help each other.”
“Ramadan is very easy here because the environment is very relaxed in general and we can meet every day,” he added.
Same as Qasim, many people arrive in Orgiva searching for meaning to their lives.
“A lot of people arrive in Orgiva searching for meaning in their lives - Orgiva is famous for that - and some of them find the Islam here with our community, Al-Hamdulilaah.”
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