Almería doesn’t enjoy the notoriety of Sevilla, Granada or Córdoba; it probably doesn’t want it anyway. In some ways, it doesn’t even seem to belong in Andalucía. The accent is more akin to that of Múrcia, and the coastal temperature doesn’t reach the highs of inland Andalucía. The citizens here once almost voted to govern their own state, separate from Andalucía, but there doesn’t seem to be the persistent individuation or separatist tendencies found in some other regions.
Almería doesn’t instill awe, or even surprise, initially. The architecture often fails to leave an impression as mostly basic dwellings (there are, of course, exceptions), and the number of closed-up shops and businesses is disheartening. It doesn’t satisfy the jet setters who migrate to places like Magaluf, Cafe del Mar, Marbella or Formentera, nor does it attract the backpackers in earnest search of healthy servings of quaint. To the west, sprawling greenhouses are so vast that they can be seen from space.
There are, in abundance, families lining the beaches (which are numerous), who enjoy the simplicity of the sand, water and the chiringuito. There is a strong fishing industry that produces a great diversity of seafood, and tapas to rival any in Spain. Friendliness abounds here, and the local is quick to demonstrate, personally sometimes, the small charms of their corner of Spain. And there are layers of history of disparate societies like the Moors and the early Catholics of the Crusades, Berber pirates, and current African immigrants. There are remnants of the Spanish Civil War, such as a bomb shelter preserved by conscientious architects.
Similar to the landscapes of both northern Africa and the American southwest, Cabo de Gata and the Tabernas desert have provided locations for many movie sets, including Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Patton, Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, and Richard Lester’s How I Won the War (with John Lennon in a minor role). The Paseo Marítimo is where Lennon began to write his classic Strawberry Fields Forever.
But the true redeeming qualities stem from the attitude and collective personality of the people who live here. The slower pace of daily life. The loud and friendly bar tender, the inquisitive local who interrogates visitors on their impressions of their city. The pretty girl dressed up for Feria in honor of the Virgen del Mar, in her long dress and a big red flower in her hair. The relaxed conversations on terraces and patios overlooking the ocean.
My time lately has been spent writing a few articles, one of which has led me down the speculative old path of John Lennon’s Spain. And soon I’ll be back in Madrid. But Almería, with its charming residents, its food, the dry landscape of a reddish hue, and its coastline, has already left an impression on me, further demonstrating the diversity of Spain.