Benarrabá’s nativity play has been going on for over 50 years.
A small sleepy village in the Serranía de Ronda, Benarrabá, will be bustling at the weekend. Its traditional Christmas play is taking place on Sunday and all the locals have been preparing the streets for a live version of the nativity scene.
This year there is a new element to the celebrations - a Hebrew market. Midday today is the planned inauguration of the bazaar which will sell traditional artesan products of the village and the surrounding area of the Valle del Genal.
The tastings of ‘mosto’ (sweet wine) and ‘gachas’ (a type of wheat porridge), storytelling and activities directed towards the young such as horse and bike races make up part of this event when even the market stall holders dress in the traditional costume worn in the time and place of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The main event begins at 8pm on Sunday with the religious play depicting the birth of Jesus which has been taking place here for over 50 years. In the open air, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar, mounted on mules, will arrive accompanied by pages, kings, shepherds, advisors and angels who form a group guided by a star and then process to the nativity scene. The best mule in the village carries the star which appeared in the sky to announce thebirth of Christ.
The most emblematic parts of the village, like the Plaza Veracruz, will be used to act out the various scenes, from the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem to their stable visit from the Three Kings.
If there is no rain on the night, visitors will be able to enjoy the traditional architecture of the white village as they move from scene to scene. Much of it, as with other white villages in the area, is derived from the era of Moorish occupation. In recent years the streets of the old centre of the village have been tidied up and improved, a process which serves to highlight the dazzling white of the walls and the bright colours of plant pots.
A landmark building is the church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación which dates from the eighteenth century. Its noteworthy tower, visible from most parts of the village centre and its façade are some of the most important architectural features of the village.
Another outstanding construction is a house situated in the Plaza del Cabildo. The building, which dates from the end of the eighteenth century, has a façade of remarkable and unusual colours which was hidden for many years beneath something much more ordinary. It is believed that its peculiar style might be related to a custom derived from northern Spain.
Most significantly, Benarrabá looks out, from a privileged position, over the Río Genal. From the high village is one of the most impressive views of the lush green river valley below.
Cork oak trees, other kinds of oak, pine and chestnut trees make up the forest which runs down the hillside to the river below. Along with these trees are the ferns, heathers and strawberry trees which are abundant in every part of the surrounding landscape. And in the darkest shadiest areas wild mushrooms can be gathered in the rainy season.
There are a variety of routes for walkers to follow. The one especially recommended joins Benarrabá to Genalguacil, a village which lies on the far side of the valley. This walk runs partly alongside the Río Genal where it is worth stopping for a while to enjoy one of the loveliest parts of the whole area.
The river and its legends
The Genal river has numerous myths and legends attached to it which reveal, at the very least, its important history. One of these tales insists that it was on the banks of the river that a family of Muslim dyers invented the colour crimson. According to popular legend the vivid dye had magical properties, thanks to the quality of the river water and a beetle called Qarmaz.
From Benarrabá many paths lead to panoramic views, like that of the Sierra Crestellina national park or out over the Campo de Gibraltar.