Our vision at Azahara has always been to incorporate art, poetry and creativity into our holistic approach to land husbandry. Growing food is of course creative, but to really appreciate the landscape, we’ve been clearing pathways through the olive grove where we plan to create beautiful, restful places to sit and admire the sights, sounds, smells and sensations, to read and write poems, or just to ponder.

Along the way, we envision verses of Andalusi poetry and hadiths relating to nature, hand-carved in wood and painted onto decorative ceramic plaques, leading us forward and deeper into our awareness. These will be available to sponsor as sadaqa for Azahara, and will also provide an income for local artisans.

Poetry has always been a key element of Muslim culture; some would call it the original Islamic art, as it was present from the beginning of Islamic history, before the development of the more familiar visual arts such as calligraphy, geometry and arabesques, that we tend to associate with Islamic culture. Islamic scholars were traditionally polymaths, and many were poets themselves. Learning grammar, rhetoric and poetry was a basic part of a classical Islamic education; a great deal of knowledge was conveyed through poetic form, as its traditional metric and rhyming forms make memorisation easier.

Beginning in the 9th century or thereabouts, a new form of Arabic folk poetry called Muwashshah emerged in Al-Andalus that bore distinct Hispanic elements. Muwashshah never came to replace courtly poetry in classical Arabic, but it did have an important influence on early Spanish folk poetry and the troubadour tradition in France.

When she started swaying as she walked
Her beauty fascinated us, oh my Love!
Something captivated us in the moment
A branch that started to bend as soon as it came to life…
(From Lamma Bada)

In every culture worldwide, from haikus to ghazals and beyond, nature provides ample inspiration for poetry. Reading poetry in nature takes us into a reflective state, ideal for appreciating the environment – and also for writing poems! Among the courses we are developing at Azahara are poetry writing workshops along these dappled paths.

My eyes delighted in the sight of a flower
whose stalk was bent over with the weight of dew.
It was as though, upon seeing my sleeplessness,
it wept for me a shower of glimmering tears.
The rose, resplendent and free in its rosebed,
grew even more radiant in the afternoon sun.
(Ibn Zaydun)

We look forward to welcoming you on a poetry walk, or even a poetry writing course, under the olive branches at Azahara!

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