Sandstorm from the Sahara hits Spain

 

For the past couple of days, we have been experiencing a weather phenomenon, known in Spain as a Calima.  This is a sand and dust-laden wind, originating in the Sahara desert in North Africa.

A Calima wind generally raises temperatures but lowers visibility due to the fine yellowish-brown air-borne dust.  You could be forgiven for thinking this was fog or industrial pollution and, indeed, a strong Calima may cause respiratory problems in humans.

Sand storm over Spain via Nasa

This amazing photo by British astronaut, Tim Peake, from the International Space Station shows the huge sandstorm currently engulfing the Iberian peninsula.

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

But it’s not all bad news.

The particles contain vital nutrients and minerals which are good for fertilising both the land and the sea.

Sand settled on the car

This weather phenomenon normally occurs around this time of year and lasts a few days leaving lots of cleaning up to do.

The good news is that the situation should improve by Thursday of this week, as a cold front introduces clearer air.

 

Have YOU ever experienced an unusual weather phenomenon?

 

Earthquakes in Málaga: How likely are they?

Two weeks ago, at 5.23am on Monday 25th January, I was jolted from my slumbers by a noise in the bedroom. My initial thought on awakening was that we had intruders, but I quickly realised that the noise I could hear was the wardrobe, moving and creaking. Once the bed started shaking, it became clear that this was an earthquake – the first I have ever experienced.

The whole episode only lasted for about ten to fifteen seconds.

Earthquake near Malaga, Spain

Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, the quake was centred 162 kilometres south-east of the city of Málaga, in the Alborán Sea, off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of the next week or so, we were to experience hundreds of smaller aftershocks – some of them gently obvious, whilst most passed without notice.

Almost five years ago, in May 2011, nine people were killed as two earthquakes struck in quick succession, bringing down scores of buildings in the historic city of Lorca, some 200 kilometres east of the Axarquía region.

The most deadly earthquake in modern Spanish history struck in Arenas de Rey (in Granada province) at 9pm on Christmas Day 1884, with an estimated magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. As a result of that quake, which lasted just twenty seconds, 839 people were killed and 1,500 were injured. More than 14,000 homes were destroyed or damaged over an area covering 6400 square kilometres in the provinces of Granada and Málaga.

Houses of Moorish construction fared better than their more modern counterparts, due in part to construction methods, but there were devastating consequences for the Axarquía region, with sixty per cent of the houses in the village of Periana damaged and the nearby hamlet of Guaro reduced to rubble. There was substantial structural damage to property in Vélez-Málaga, Canillas de Albaida and Cómpeta.

Poor communication and the remoteness of the affected villages delayed news getting out, making the task of providing rescue and assistance for the victims extremely difficult.

In January 1885, King Alfonso XII visited many of the sites devastated by the earthquake, showing his concern for the plight of inhabitants and helping to obtain much-needed aid for local people affected.

A bronze statue to commemorate the King´s visit at that time can be seen leaning on the railings of the Balcón de Europa in Nerja.

King Alfonso XII stands on the Balcón de Europa, Nerja

All these earthquakes occurred in a seismically active area near a large fault line beneath the Earth’s crust, where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates brush past each other.

There are frequent micro-quakes (known as tremors) in southern Spain – almost every day in fact, but as they rarely exceed 4 on the Richter scale, most go unnoticed. It is only occasionally that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or more occurs.

As such, according to the European Seismic Hazard Map, the risk to the Iberian Peninsula is classed as “moderate”.

Seismic Hazard risk in Europe

Although science has no way of determining exactly when an earthquake is going to occur, statistical evidence plays a vital part in any earthquake prediction. Historical data and close analysis of other earthquake zones are the only real indications of impending earthquakes. Such evidence suggests that Spain suffers a relatively serious earthquake once every 100 years, which in reality means that there is little ongoing awareness of the small but potential risk, as no-one is alive who remembers the last one.

Spain is hit by about 2,500 micro-quakes a year, but only a few are strong enough to be considered important.

Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar

The beauty of the landscape in the Axarquía, to the east of Málaga, is due to natural changes over millions of years, earth tremors being just one of them.

So, let´s keep this in perspective. Hundreds of people die on the roads every year yet we continue to jump into our cars every day, don’t we?

I remain, your intrepid reporter – shaken but not stirred!

 

49 COOL reasons to visit the Axarquía (Málaga) this winter

49 COOL REASONS

For those of you who don’t know, the Axarquía means “land to the east” (of Málaga city) – hence the name of this blog, East of Málaga.

La Axarquía is roughly a wedge-shape of land extending along the coast as far east as Maro, with a northern edge close to Antequera, and bounded by mountains on each side.

Acknowledged as having one of the best climates in Europe, the weather rarely gets too cold in this part of Spain, even in January and February. You’ll still need to bring a jacket, but you’ll probably be able to cast it off when you sit eating your lunch in the sunshine.

White arches on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Of course, it’s always a great time to visit Málaga province with the Festival of San Isidro in May , the Passion play at Riogordo and the amazing parades during Semana Santa (Easter week) or the San Juan fireworks and festivities to welcome the longest day in June.  But, when the skies are grey and the weather wet and wild in northern Europe – here are forty-nine COOL reasons to visit the east of Málaga this winter:

1.   Beautiful clean beaches which you might not get all to yourself – but in many places you will.
2.  Sunrise and sunsets are particularly spectacular during the winter months.
3.  Walk down the streets and there are oranges on the trees – how cool is that?
4.  We have some of the prettiest white villages in Spain, and here are just three – Frigiliana, Comares and Cómpeta
5.  Ski-ing in the Sierra Nevada snowy mountains is only one and a half hours away, now that there’s motorway all the way to the final turn off near Granada.   You really can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon.

Frigiliana, Spain

The white mountain village of Frigiliana

6.  Eating fresh fish on the beach – the local delicacy is espetos (or fish-on-a-stick!)
7.  Forget your stereo-typical image of the Costa del Sol.  This is authentic Spain.
8.  Cost of living is low compared with many places around the world (and Europe) meaning your holiday money will go much further.
9.  There are flowers in bloom all year round, with beautiful Birds of Paradise, hibiscus and bougainvillaea to brighten up the place.
10. If you fancy a fiesta, we have them in December and January, too.
11.  Gaze at the boats in the Marinas in Málaga, Caleta de Vélez and further east along the coast at Marina del Este.

Bird of Paradise flower

The Bird of Paradise is in flower, right now

12. You can see snow on the mountains whilst you are basking in sunshine.
13. Buy a ticket for the biggest lottery in the world – El Gordo (in December) and El Niño (in January) – you never know your luck!
14. It’s usual to be given a free tapas with each drink you buy.
15. We have almond blossom in January and February.
16. There are loads of places to visit for day trips including El Torcal, the Dolmens, Granada, and Málaga.

El Tornillo rock formation at El Torcal, Spain

El Tornillo rock formation at El Torcal

17.  Málaga was founded by the Phoenicians almost 3000 years ago, and later settled by the Romans and the Moors – and we have some of the architecture to prove it!
18.  It’s family friendly (and safe) – you’ll see all the generations out together taking their evening stroll.
19.  We have some amazing food markets and street markets.
20.  You can try some delicious local wines, which are very good value.
21. Climb to the top of the highest mountain in Málaga province. La Maroma stands 2066m and looks majestically over the Axarquía.
22. Enjoy a walk around the scenic Lake Viñuela or up Rio Chillar.

Rio Chillar views, Nerja, Spain

Enjoy a scenic walk along the Rio Chillar in Nerja

23. Visit the Buddhist stupa near Vélez-Málaga – you didn’t expect to see one of those, did you?
24. We have some great hiking routes offering stunning views.
25. If cycling is your thing, we have steep mountain roads and La Vuelta de España visits Málaga each summer.
26. You’ll probably encounter a herd of goats on the road as you drive near some of the white villages.
27. There are fewer tourists around at this time of year.

Fancy walking through this archway in Canillas de Aceituno?

Fancy walking through this archway in Canillas de Aceituno?

28. See the hand-built wooden jabegas (traditional local fishing boats) on the beach.
29. Walk along the gorgeous pebbled streets – with each village having their own unique design.
30. Meet up on the Balcón de Europa in Nerja, with views across the Mediterranean Sea.
31. See the traditional farming methods still used here – with oxen and mules.
32. Count the old men sitting on benches under the shady trees, watching the world go by.
33. See the hillsides terraced with vines, almond and olive trees.

El Acebuchal

Mountains and hillsides of La Axarquia

34. There are rugged cliffs and secret coves.
35. Stunning natural park areas, both inland near the mountains and even extending out into sea.
36. Every town and village has their own Christmas lights, but the display in Málaga each December just gets better and better.
37. There are around 320 sunny days every year.
38. There are hot-chestnut sellers on street corners.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights 2014

Malaga’s gothic Christmas lights 2014

39. If you love star-gazing then the countryside around the Axarquía is the perfect place.
40. On clear winter evenings, as the sun sets we can sometimes see another continent –  yes, the Rif mountains in Morroco, Africa.
41. For all you culture-vultures, there are many world-class museums in Málaga including the Centre Pompidou, the Russian museum and, of course Málaga’s most famous son – Picasso.
42. Gorgeous, long promenades along the coastline to stroll along in the winter sunshine.
43. The sales (rebajas) start in the shops on January 7th, where you’ll find leather shoes and bags made in Spain, and cheaper prices in Mango, H&M and Zara than anywhere else in Europe.

East of Malaga: Making paella

Making paella on the beach

44. Eat paella on the beach.
45. If you enjoy watching football, Málaga CF are in the top Spanish league, La Liga.  Buy some tickets to experience match-day or at very least watch the match on TV for free in one of the bars.
47. There are usually special offers on budget flights such as Easyjet, Ryanair, Monarch and many more airlines.
48. Sit outside on a sunny terrace, to have a drink or meal, without your coat on!
49.  It’s the perfect place to base yourself for a tour of classic AndalucíaCórdoba, Granada, Seville, Jerez, and Ronda are all on the doorstep with good road and rail links.

REMEMBER: Before somewhere becomes your favourite place, it’s a place you’ve never been before.

What are you waiting for?  When will YOU be visiting Málaga?

Reaching for the Stars in Málaga this Christmas Eve

Malaga Christmas lights 2015

Málaga always puts on a good show at Christmas.

The display of Christmas lights was so good last year that I wondered how they could follow it.  I needn’t have worried.

Malaga Christmas lights 2015

Malaga Christmas lights 2015

This year, we’ve been treated to thousands of tiny twinkling lights, with moons and stars which form a net across the pedestrianised shopping street, Calle Marqués de Larios.

Once again they are AMAZING!

Malaga Christmas lights 2015

It’s an absolute joy to join the crowds of Christmas shoppers, who collectively gasp, clap and cheer when the lights are switched on at 6.30pm, each evening!

We’ve had such mild weather recently it’s easy to be fooled by the blue skies and warm sunshine, but yes, it really IS Christmas Eve.

You can still get in the Christmas mood by visiting the outdoor skating rink in front of El Corte Ingles store, or go to see one of the sixty-seven (yes, 67!)  Bélens (crib and Nativity scenes) around the city – of which one of the best is at the Town Hall.

Malaga’s Christmas lights shine from 6.30pm – 2am daily, until 6th January 2015.

Malaga Christmas lights 2015

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a great big THANK YOU for following my blog, and my Christmas wish for you is that love, hope and happiness fill your hearts this holiday season, and for all your dreams and wishes to have wings.

¡Feliz Navidad!  MERRY CHRISTMAS, folks!

 

You might also enjoy:

OH Come, All ye Faithful – all about the beautiful bélen in Torre del Mar

Spain’s BIG FAT Christmas Lottery – El Gordo

 

Photos from 35,000 feet: Axarquía coast and inland

 

Love flying 9

I love flying and whenever possible I’ll jump at the chance of a window seat. It’s fascinating to see the land below from a totally unique perspective and particularly if you know the area well, at ground level.

Last Thursday lunchtime I flew back to the UK to see friends and family for a few days. As is often the case, my plane took off from Málaga airport and headed out to sea before banking left to cross back over the coast of the Axarquía. From my window seat on the right-hand side of the plane, I had a bird’s-eye view, and the best and clearest view I have ever had.

Caleta harbour and Torre del Mar

We crossed the coast over Benajarafe, giving me a great view of the harbour and marina at Caleta de Vélez with Algarrobo Costa just above (and slightly to the right in the photo) and Torre del Mar below.

Torrox point

From the wider angle, you can also see the point of land sticking out which is where the lighthouse is at Torrox Costa, with the start of Nerja beyond.

Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar

As we continued to fly inland, Vélez-Málaga came into view and, if you look closely, you can just about see the motorway (Autovía del Mediterraneo) cutting across the landscape before Torre del Mar begins.

Cómpeta

The white mountain village of Cómpeta was instantly recognisable, as the tops of the mountains above the village suffered and remain scarred by the devastating fire last summer.  

Mount Maroma, highest mountain in Málaga

We flew directly over the bare, pointless peak of La Maroma, the highest mountain in Málaga province – standing at an impressive 2065m (or 6775ft), and dominating the skyline of the Axarquía.  You can clearly see the village of Canillas de Aceituno in the lee of La Maroma (towards the bottom right of the photograph).

Lake Bermejales

And finally, after flying over Mount Maroma, we left the Axarquía region where the distinctive shape of the reservoir of Lake Bermejales came into view, and the town towards the bottom left of the photo is Alhama de Granada.

So, are you a window or an aisle seat person?  Do you enjoy flying or is it just a means of getting from A to B?  Let me know, won’t you?

You might also enjoy:

Photos from 35,000 feet: Approaching Málaga

 Taking the fast train (AVE) from Málaga to Madrid