The hidden gems of Andalusia

For an authentic Andalusian experience, the port city of Marbella’s Old Town is a good place to start. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 October 2020

The hidden gems of Andalusia

  • The towns of Málaga province offer a tranquil alternative to Spain’s typical tourist attractions

MÁLAGA: It’s been a challenging time for Spain and its tourism sector, battered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Well, which country in the world hasn’t been impacted by strict travel restrictions? But there’s something about seeing the liveliness of Spain, with its distinctively festive and open character, dampened because of the state of the world that is particularly unusual.

And yet, the other night, as I was ending the day in the mountainous village of Benahavís, people were quietly chatting while having dinner and all of a sudden, guitarists started singing joyously in the distance: a scene that brought back a sense of ‘normal.’

Marbella’s Old Town is a port city. (Shutterstock)

The southern region of Andalusia has, throughout its history, attracted foreign writers, artists, and travelers with its magnificent views and deeply cultural cities – renowned for their Moorish architecture. Previously ruled by Arab caliphs for 800 years, the province of Málaga is home to quaint white villages and numerous small towns that are well worth visiting.

For an authentic Andalusian experience, the port city of Marbella’s Old Town is a good place to start. It’s a lovely location with old white, terracotta-roofed houses, charming balconies, wall mounted flowerpots — as seen on Calle (street) Carmen — and bursts of bougainvillea and white jasmines.

Plaza de los Naranjos, lined with abundant orange trees, restaurants, and a simple church is a good central meeting point. Most of the churches in Andalusia were originally mosques, converted after catholic monarchs regained control over Spain in the 15th century.

Churros is the sweet local snack. (Shutterstock)

The majestic white-and-mustard-yellow Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation is in the nearby palm-fringed Plaza de la Iglesia, where architecture and history enthusiasts will also appreciate the remains of a former Arab fortress facing the church.

The cozy Plaza Puente Ronda has a number of great tapas joints, including Cafe Cortes and Cafe Mia. Right next to the plaza is the picturesque Calle Ancha with its melange of restaurants, small hotels, and a quirky shop called Zoco Zoco, filled with trinkets from Morocco.

For a sweet local snack, it has to be churros, so make your way to Churreria Marbella Plaza de la Victoria. If you’re feeling indulgent, go for the hot chocolate for dipping and drinking. Alternatively, Pasteleria Cantero offers many sugar-dusted pastries, as does La Canasta on Avenida Ricardo Soriano. You could take your snacks to-go and enjoy them in the adjacent Alameda Park and you can find sculptures from Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali in the nearby Avenida del Mar.

Mijas Pueblo is a mountain village with a population of around 8,000. (Shutterstock)

I’d also advise a trip to Mijas Pueblo, a beautiful mountain village with a population of around 8,000, known for its donkey taxis and stunning views of the Mediterranean. The perfect vantage point is the Mirador Jesús Jaime Mota.

There are dozens of local shops offering delightful (and tasty) mementos to take home with you, including the family-run Spanish Ceramic Paradise, which has multitudes of handmade, vibrant ceramics produced by local craftsmen in different cities, including Toledo and Seville.

The well-stocked Sabor a España specializes in caramelized nuts, brittles, marzipan, nougats and orange blossom-flavored honey. Speaking of food, in Plaza de la Constitución, treat yourself to an exquisite meal of Basque cuisine at El Mirlo Blanco Restaurant.

Benalmádena is home to Europe’s largest Buddhist temple. (Shutterstock)

I mentioned Benahavís, a tranquil town founded by Arabs many centuries ago. It’s a great choice for a short getaway, where you will be especially well taken care of at the rustic, intimate Amanhavis Hotel and Restaurant.

This earthy-toned boutique hotel provides nine themed rooms designed with Andalusian history in mind. There is a distinct Arabian touch in Amanhavis’ spaces: one chamber is named after Granada’s last sultan, Boabdil; a mural in the swimming pool area depicts a desert scene; and an ancient Moorish tower can be spotted from the terrace.

Last but not least, take a road trip to the town of Benalmádena — surprisingly home to Europe’s largest Buddhist temple. Erected in 2003, the interior of the Benalmádena Stupa portrays scenes of the life and enlightenment of Buddha. Its exterior view is striking, overlooking the breathtaking vastness of the Costa del Sol, where land meets sea.

Kim Kardashian West can’t get enough of this part-Arab designer

Updated 01 December 2020

Kim Kardashian West can’t get enough of this part-Arab designer

DUBAI: Kim Kardashian West loves her some Amina Muaddi heels. 

Whether she’s sporting the brand’s Lupita sandals for an at-home photo shoot or celebrating hitting 190 million followers on Instagram wearing the Holli slingbacks, the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star often champions pieces from the Jordanian-Romanian footwear designer.

This week, the reality television star and entrepreneur was recently spotted wearing a design from the Paris-based brand yet again. 

Kardashian West posted a series of snaps on Instagram  in which she’s wearing a bold outfit — complete with glistening blue, leather trousers and a fitted turtleneck top — which she accessorized with a pair of Muaddi’s in-demand heels.

The heels she picked out were the Jordanian-Romanian designer’s Begum glass pumps in blue, featuring a starburst buckle detail on the shoe’s vamp and the brand’s signature flared heel. 

Kardashian West championed theItaly-made brand just a couple of weeks after Muaddi made her foray into handbags and jewelry. The designer unveiled two entirely new creations, a satin handbag and crystal-embellished earrings alongside her Fall 2020 collection of shoes.

 The celebrity-loved footwear designer first announced the news that she would be expanding her footwear empire with a range of handbags titled Aminis in September via a series of images of the new bags being manufactured.

Muaddi’s cult brand has garnered a loyal following of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin Bieber among many others.

Her most famous collaboration to date is the limited-edition footwear capsule collection with multi-hyphenate superstar Rihanna’s Fenty, which dropped in July. 

The 34-year-old recently dropped her second footwear collection with Fenty following the sellout success of the first Amina Muaddi x Fenty line.

The partnership is set to be honored as Collaborator of the Year at the upcoming 34th edition of the FN Achievement Awards, which is set to go virtual on Dec. 8. 

Previous recipients of the Collaborator of the Year honor at the annual FN Achievement Awards – often called the “Shoe Oscars” – have included Tommy Hilfiger and Kith’s Ronnie Fieg.