Iâ€™ve been living in Madrid, Spain, for a year now, and am quite enamoured by the country. There are so many different aspects of this place to soak in â€“ from the history-seeped structures to the colorful culture and mouthwatering foods. Here are just a couple of reasons why I am in in love withSpain:
Itâ€™s traditional to begin AND end a long Spanish day with a cup of thick, intensely dark hot chocolate, often with a side of churros (long, deep-fried dough pastries for dipping). A chocoholic like me canâ€™t complain!
You can roll out of bed in a shalwar and t-shirt and step onto the streets of Madrid or Barcelona, perfectly in sync with fashion. The baggier, the better! Could â€œdressing upâ€ get any easier?
Stroll under the Damascene arches of the oldest surviving mosque in Europe, the Mezquita of Cordoba, dating to 785 A.D, w. Wander through the ethereal Nasirid Palaces of the Alhambra in Granada, the Muslimsâ€™ last stronghold in Spain and treat yourself to a milky TÃ© Pakistani in an evocative teterÃa.
Beards and Piercings
Dark-bearded men and women with nose piercings are as ubiquitous on the streets of Spain as in Pakistan. So you can comfortably sport your preferred style of facial hair (if you are a man), or a nice twinkly nose piercing (if you are a man or woman), without the least fear of being stereotyped â€œterroristâ€, â€œpunkâ€, or, the most annoying, â€œexoticâ€!
Express yourself like a true Pakistani in the Spanish language! From OjalÃ¡ (Inshallah), Venga! (Chalo Chalo), Que? (Kya?), even Ala! (Hai Allah/Allah Tobah!), the flavour of spoken Spanish is remarkably similar to Urdu or Punjabi, with many words derived from Arabic.
In most places in the world, being addressed as â€œpretty girlâ€, â€œlittle girlâ€, or â€œqueenâ€ by a complete stranger would be slightly offensive, and probably discomfiting. Not in Spain! Shopkeepers, street vendors, waiters, passersby, men and women can call you all those things in Spanish without a trace of sleaziness. Now why wouldnâ€™t that make you feel good? Add to that their beaming smiles and ready greetings,, itâ€™s impossible not to feel happy and welcome in this country.
Rabo del Toro (Oxtail Stew)
This is the Spanish version of a Pakistani Aloo Gosht or Nihari! A succulent bull or oxtail, slow-cooked in its own stock and a rich gravy of onions, tomatoes, potatoes and other vegetables and spices, till the meat literally falls off the bone. Scoop it up with crusty pieces of bread just like you would do with Naan or Roti back home!
Spainâ€™s most iconic dance form has roots in Arab and Gypsy (â€œRomaâ€) culture. Roma people were originally from the Indian subcontinent, and migrated to Europe about 500 years ago. The mix of cultures produced a unique dance that emphasizes not feminine delicacy and beauty, but feminine power and strength â€“ stomping, sweating, shouting and all! You gotta love it!
Nightlife â€“ Ronaq!
Go for a walk in any barrio or neighborhood in the city center at 1 AM on a weeknight, and find warmly-lit restaurants and cafes bubbling with customers, street performers juggling fire on the sidewalks, couples strolling along with toddlers in tow. And then on the weekends??? Soundproof windows are recommended if you want to get any sleep because there is always something taking place in the streets of Spain! You canâ€™t help but fall in love with this placeâ€¦