OCTOBER in the Sierra sees two of our favourite festivals. In various places throughout the Sierra evidence of the former Moorish occupation remain but their existence is tolerated but not much acknowledged. Almonaster La Real, to its inhabitants' immense credit, has adopted a much more open point of view and actively celebrates its past and its links with Islam. There is a permanent Islamic Visitors Centre located within the town. The remains of the castle atop the hill dominating the town contain a breath-takingly gorgeous little mosque, Mezquita, which remains virtually unaltered since the 11 th century. As so often in Andalucia the mosque was erected on the site of a Visigothic church, which succeeded a Roman temple, which had been built on the site of an earlier Celto-Iberian holy place. For 5 days the mosque is handed over to Sufi Moslems from Morocco and the town resounds to the sounds of the Adhan (the morning call to prayer) and they hold services and concerts of Moorish and Morrocan music and dance. The 19 th century bullring next door to the mosque, yes, you really do have to see it to believe it, is converted into a Souk and stalls and street parties of musicians and dancers spill out into the town.
Our other October highlight is the IberJamon Feria del Jamon y el Cerdo Iberico, which is held over a weekend in Aracena towards the end of the month, usually around the 21st. As the name might suggest is a full-blown hedonistic celebration of the Iberico pig and all that it provides. All of the local producers have large stands offering the various paletas, jamones and sausages at very competitive prices. In addition all of the hardware necessary for the serious pig raiser is on show and the whole exhibition is dotted with informative talks and displays and competitions of jamon slicing. As one would expect there are a number of bars in the complex and a large amount of seating space is available and the crowds are periodically entertained by bands of local musicians and dancers. It is an ideal opportunity to get a large group of friends together, take a table, buy a leg and a bottle of manzanilla and sit back and enjoy the spectacle
October is also the month of the chestnut harvest. The tens of thousands of the trees in the Sierra turn amazing shades of copper and gold and rain the bounty of their delicious fruits down on us lucky humans. The vast majority of the walking paths through the Sierra are lined by chestnut trees and so this bounty is available to all to be eaten raw, roasted, pureed, or pickled in alcohol. However it must never be forgotten that chestnuts are one of the most important cash crops to the inhabitants in the Sierra and so climbing over fences into adjoining fields in pursuit of a particularly large fruit is seen here as theft. The Guardia Civil have had to increase their patrols along the main road, the N433, to discourage the hordes of eager non-locals who pile into the Sierra for the harvest, from intruding beyond the road verges where collection is permitted, into the adjoining fields.Close