Exploring the Soul of Andalucia with expert tour guide Haim Casas.
Today Sunshine Weddings Spain has the honour of talking with a very special guest and tour guide, Haim Casas, founder of ‘Alma-Exploring the Soul of Andalucia.’
Hi Haim, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today and for offering to give us an educational insight into the soul of Andalucia.
Firstly, tell us a little about yourself, I believe you were born in Cordoba?
Yes, I was born in the beautiful city of Cordoba, the city of Maimonides, but spent part of my childhood and youth in Cadiz—the oldest European city, founded by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago.
Following on from time spent in Cadiz I moved to Sevilla to study law at the University there.
Growing up surrounded by such rich diversity in culture, identity and history, as that found in Andalucia, really marked my life.
How did you become a tour guide?
It was a natural decision for me to make. I’m fluent in Spanish, English and French which has permitted me to travel and spend time abroad, but also to interact with people excited in listening to me explain about the rich history of Andalucia.
I believe some of the key traits needed to be a good tour guide include: ability to communicate effectively, charismatic personality and a deep understanding of the tour area.
I have a deep love and knowledge of Andalucia, knowledge which I take great pleasure in sharing with others.
I also believe you cannot understand Andalucian history without its Jewish influences and most of my tours have a focus on the historical connection of Spanish ancestry from a Jewish perspective.
I like to explore the dialogues between Jewish, Christian and Muslim rules of the era and the rich cultural exchange they offer.
But of course, not all my tours are about religion, I also like introducing the flamenco culture and I also do wine tours, where I take my clients to the most typical taverns and wineries of Andalucia, explaining, at the same time, the fascinating role of wine in the society and in the literature of Al-Andalus.
So, what would be your ideal tour for wedding guests wanting to explore Andalucia?
I find that a lot of wedding guests, who are perhaps staying on the Costa del Sol, like doing day trips inland to enjoy a taste of southern Spain’s countryside and culture.
All my tours are tailor made for the family, meaning that some are more religious than others and some tours may last just one day, whereas others can go on for a week or more.
Before the tour I always do a prior interview with the clients to find out their interests so I can do a personalised planning of the tour.
Depending on their preferences, I might take them to the Realejo of Granada, the old Jewish neighbourhood of Muslim Granada, from there you can see the Palace of La Casa de los Tiros, built in the sixteenth century or the Palace of los Condes de Gabia, and the Church of Santo Domingo, founded by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.
Another place I recommend and love to take my clients is to Cordoba’s well-preserved Jewish quarter, located in the historic centre. There I like to organise a jewish shabbat experience and if the clients wish, I sometimes even invite friends from the Jewish community so that they can meet local Jews and it gives the tour a more authentic experience.
I also highly recommend going to the Barrio Santa Cruz in Sevilla, the former Jewish quarter of the city. Located in this old quarter are some important sights, such as the Alcazar Palace and the Giralda Tower of the Cathedral.
Then to finish off the tour, I always try to fit in a first-rate dinner and flamenco show at a typical Andalucian tablao.
Which is your favourite place in Andalucia?
Now, this is a difficult question, it would be somewhere between Cordoba, Cadiz and Sevilla, the three cities where I was raised. In fact I would say that these three cities have marked my life.
On behalf of Sunshine Weddings Spain, thank you for sharing your story with us, and for giving us an insight into the rich diversity of the culture, identity and history of Andalucia.