A Castle Climb and a Legend

Earlier this week, my program climbed el Castillo de Santa Bárbara, or the Castle of Santa Barbara, which overlooks the city of Alicante. From the rooftop terrace of my building, this is the nighttime view of the beautifully lit castle.

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While making the trek to the top, one of the resident directors of the program recounted the legend of the Cara del Moro, or Moorish Face. La Cara del Moro is a shape in the side of the mountain that resembles the profile of a man’s face, which can be seen when observing from below.

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The legend goes something like this…

The city was once ruled by a Moorish king who had a beautiful daughter named Cántara. Although many suitors came to try to win her hand in marriage, only two stood out: Almanzor and Alí. To decide between the two suitors, the king gave each a task. Almanzor was to go to India in search of silk and spices, and Alí was to bring water to the city by building aqueducts. Each was given one year to complete his task. Almanzor set out with a fleet of ships, while Alí stayed behind to begin work on the aqueducts. However, as the days passed, Alí let his task sit idle and began courting Cántara. The two fell madly in love and spent many joyful days together, and Alí’s work on the aqueducts remained unfinished. Their happiness was interrupted when the year came to an end and Almanzor’s ships, laden with goods from India, appeared on the horizon. Upon realizing that his lovely Cántara would be married to Almanzor, Alí was filled with despair and threw himself off the mountain. When Cántara saw that her lover had committed suicide, she, too, was wracked with grief and followed suit. Shortly afterward, the king discovered the fate of his only daughter, and with great sadness threw himself off the mountain as well. It is said that the profile of the king’s face can still be seen in the mountain today. As for the tragic lovers, it is said that the city’s name comes from the combination of their names, Alí and Cántara, into “Alicante.”

The castle itself is full of the history of its various invaders and inhabitants, but I’ll save that for another day and share the views instead. Enjoy!

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Thanks to Marisa for sharing the legend and to this blog I used to double check names.

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