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Sleepless in Granada
by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

Lisette and I wanted to discover Granada after having spent a stimulating week at Cortijo Romero, the Personal Development Centre near Orgiva in the Alpuharras. My dear friend, being Sephardic originally from Istanbul, spoke 15th century Spanish, Ladino, fluently. As I spoke Spanish too and could understand Ladino, we had an interesting time travelling around, meeting locals and exploring the area.

We had both attended a creative writing course facilitated by the talented author and facilitator Allegra Taylor. Lisette wanted to go back to her Jewish roots, the Iberian Peninsula. In 1492 the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella changed history forever and in their ignorance exiled the highly educated and powerful Jews along with the Moors. The Jews were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire by the ruling far sighted Sultan. Thus the worldwide Jewish diaspora began.

We first went to Cordoba, another Jewish destination with a Juderia, seeking the statue of Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher and the Mesquita before moving on to our major destination, Granada and The Alhambra.

How disappointed I was in the town strewn with Trustafarians, filthy long haired tattooed and body pierced hideous dropouts with huge black or dark brown dogs, wearing chains and studded dog collars - the unattractive male species not the dogs!  They littered the pavements lying opposite shops selling Moroccan lamps and tables reminiscent of souks.  I felt I was regressed into a retro 70s time warp. Been there, done that. I heard that these undesirables lived in caves alongside the gypsies. I was repulsed when I saw them. Where was cultural Granada, home of Flamenco and beautiful flower filled Andalus courtyards and patios?

Worse was yet to come. I had booked a boutique hotel in Albaicin, the Casbah part of the city famed for its uniqueness with its narrow white sinuous streets.

We were delighted with the hotel with its typical Andalusian inner courtyard and fountain. We had booked for four nights and were told by the receptionist, who was actually situated within the courtyard, that the hotel was fully booked. Our nicely furnished traditional bedroom overlooked the busy street with cars coming and going, i later discovered through the night. I don't recall how we spent our first night or where and what we ate but when it was time for bed, Lisette took a sleeping pill because she complained of insomnia. A wise woman it turned out.

We retired around midnight. I lay in the comfortable bed hearing the never ending traffic cursing that we were not in a quieter bedroom overlooking the courtyard. There must have been a loose pothole cover, because every time a car went over it, it made a distinctive sound which I am incapable of describing in words. It was like Chinese torture because in the end I was waiting and listening in advance for the repetitive sound. Like a dripping tap, the sound would not stop. Even that was hell for me as I am sensitive to noise.

To sleep, perchance to dream? No way Jose! Lisette slept soundly while I suddenly heard knocking on what appeared to be metal. Knock knock! Male voices down below in the silent street.  I got up and peered out of the window. The street was lit but empty. Where were the voices coming from? Wide awake, I went back to bed. More knocking. Boom boom. Plus the pothole sound that continued. It was a living hell. Another night of this and I would have gone out of my mind.

Selfishly, I decided to wake Lisette from her slumber, hysterically telling her I could not sleep. Drowsily she told me to leave her alone and go back to sleep. I was beside myself by now. It was the worst night of my life to my recollection. I needed sleep after being exhausted by the heat of the summer day walking around the city. This was sleep deprivation.

What to do? I got up and, in only my night dress, braved the large palatial cold stone steps down to the all night reception. The girl looked surprised at my sudden appearance at 3.00 am. I complained about the knocking. She seemed to be disinterested. I then realised I was not the first to complain. I demanded to be put into another room. She explained the hotel was fully booked. Exasperated I demanded she call the police. Her reply amazed me. 'They won't come'. she said. 'Why not?' I wanted to know. 'Because there is no one there'. was the curt reply. Why were persons unknown knocking if no one was there?


'Is there a brothel next door?' I asked confidently. She nodded without smiling.

'Yes and it's only open during the day but the Arabs think they can come at night'.

So there was nothing to be done but return to my room for the rest of the sleepless night. Fortunately we had not booked the room through an agency on the net and so the next morning we immediately checked out.

Being a keen photographer,  the following morning, I examined the pothole in the road emblazoned with the embossed symbols of the city. Next I moved on to the building next door. Round the corner the entrance had an plain sinister iron gate with an ornate grill that you could see through two thirds up the gate. I would not have been the first to have peeked in. Boom boom made sense in broad daylight. I took photographic evidence of the black iron gate standing back incognito.

It was now about 11.00 in the morning. I saw the TV on and three woman in black negligees sitting watching, smoking, laughing, chatting and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. There was an older tarty voluptuous blond woman standing smoking by the TV perhaps the brothel owner or perhaps one of the working girls. I thought brothels were in action during the night but this one was day time only. Perhaps the punters were on day shifts, like the girls. I wondered what the hourly rate would be and if there was a menu for the services like in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

I longed to take a photo but did not dare because they might have seen me. Then I bolted because one of the whores opened the gate, crossed the road carrying a small plastic shopping bag and carefully deposited it in the rubbish bin. I was curious. What was in the bag? Used condoms? I was not that curious to investigate however.

With apologies to the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle' this episode was certainly 'Sleepless in Granada'.

Written in Monistiraki, Athens in September 2015 after a sleepless night due to the Mexican bar downstairs below my lovely rented studio waking me up at 2.00 am with never ending very loud noise until 5.00 am!!! History repeating itself.