Anusha Ghaffar: España as Text 2022

Photo by Safa Ghaya (CC by 4.0)

Anusha Ghaffar is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing her degree in Nutritional Sciences. She is a first generation student and her future goal is to be on Optometrist, and she will be attending Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry starting fall of 2022. Anusha is in the Honors College, participating in the Spain study abroad program, as she loves to travel and broaden her mindset about the world. She is excited about the various things she will learn in this course, especially about the culture and history in Spain and how they influence one another around the world. 

Madrid as Text

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

“A Haggling Success Story.”

By Anusha Ghaffar of FIU at Madrid on June 12th, 2022.

After the first two days of waking up with 3 hours of sleep, I was wondering why we had to meet at 9am to go to a flea market. We had the entire day to do so, so why couldn’t we just sleep in today? As me and my roommates charged down 4 flights, the extra flight of stairs due to there being a ground floor, we made it exactly on time without a second to spare for the second time this week.

The cool and dry air slapped our face as we barged out of the apartment complex, and everyone looked up with a wide gaze as the door hit the wall with a bang, snapping them awake. The 9:30am weather felt refreshing compared to feeling like getting baked in the 5pm convection oven, as it is evident the city captures all the heat throughout the day. El Rastro is a flee market held every Sunday at 9am with merchants selling their goods and collection. The vendors got more saturated as we walked closer to Calle De la Ribera de Curtidores, which is where the market is held.

After we broke up from the group, I wanted to try to bargain with my little Spanish skills. My first stop was a place selling shirts with silks from India, which was only 10 euros. Something like this would not be less than $20 each in America. I grabbed three shirts, and put on an act of trying to be a fluent Spanish speaker, but that evidently failed when I said“¿puedo tener venticinco?” not realizing how atrocious the grammar was. As soon as he said no, he explained in Spanish, andI stared at him blankly, processing what he is trying to say at a pace of a slug. I ended up giving him the full price, but this time built the courage up to try and have a conversation with him in Spanish. None of my Spanish speaking classmates were with me and could not hear, therefore there would be no embarrassment. I told him how I was getting this for my sister, and he was telling me how nice and good quality the material is. He then said I was “muy guapa” and I was confused since according to my Spanish 4 teacher, guapo meant handsome and I didn’t realize that there was a feminine term for it too. I told him the shirts were muy bonita, and left to satisfy my shopping cravings. Since most of the class speaks Spanish, This was my first experience without a Spanish speaker holding my hand while I try to interact with a seller. It was a genuinely ecstatic experience and left me wanting to do it more.

I shopped and bought a bunch of gifts for my family. through the vibrant pops of different colors, I noticed the vendors were really diverse, and selling different things from shirts and dresses, glass painted plates, cameras, fans, bracelets, cameras, to even random computer parts. My focus was on buying clothes and accessories for my friends and family. The very last vendor held my greatest bargaining success story, and I will be proud of it the rest of my life. The vendor was selling bracelets for €1, I grabbed a tube filled with 11 bracelets, and confidently said to a younger seller “once con diez euros” and he said okay! I just bargained my way out of paying an extra Euro. That was a euphoric experience, as I had just successfully bargained in a different language. I could not wait to tell everyone. 

The bracelets I bargained. Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

This was an amazing experience for me, as even in Pakistan my mom bargains for me, bargaining in America is not common. After spending about three hours there, we decided to head back around 12, and the market was packed. So many tourists and locals poured out of that street. Looking back, that early wake up was very worth it, as the weather was magnificent and the streets were not as packed. New real life experience and learning culture is what I came here to learn, and this class is satisfying that everyday.

Segovia as Text

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

“Ironic Admiration.”

By Anusha Ghaffar from FIU at Segovia on June 13th, 2022

The arches of the structure mountained over the city, with restless ventejos flying over the rocky, yet smoothly defined surface. What was the structure that stood so proudly in front of me with its welcoming gesture? The closer it got, the more details were shown. This was the famous aqueduct of Segovia, looking over the beautiful city view in its path. It was known to be built by Romans, and this is one of the only grand structures built without cement. This aqueduct is stretched 14 kilometers wide and creates a sense of border for Segovia. It wasn’t just the aqueduct that left the eyes of a visitor in awe, it was the city view with the clear sky and the greenery that all complimented each other. A glance to the top has eyes circling the ventejo birds, family of sparrows, who never stop flying until they are ready to mate. This aqueduct system is still used until this day. 

The kid in me got brought to life when snow whites castle was mentioned. The Alcázar de Segovia was used as an inspiration for the castle of snow whites movies. This was mind blowing to me as Snow White was my favorite movie growing up and now I am in her house. What was even more moving was the mudejar designs inside where Queen Isabella lived. Mudejar is Islamic inspired art and architecture used in many popular architectures in Spain. Being Muslim hearing this makes me very proud that our culture and work has been appreciated throughout the centuries, although it may not be done ethically. There was a painting in a room where there was a depiction of a man killing a Muslim which was very ironic to me as the whole castle reflected the Muslim art beauty. 

One thing I will not be able to wrap my mind around is that how can one have so much appreciation for the work of another, but also violently push them out? Why did many churches and palaces have the desire to have the mudejar style when they could barely tolerate Muslims? This question is raised in every city, and it’s answered when I see the beautiful mudejar art. There is so much admiration to the point where fake Arabic is used in Christian burial site designs. 

The day ended with a hike overlooking the city. The feelings felt were indescribable and have never been felt before. It was as if I was a Disney Princess living in a fairytale walking through a meadow and picking flowers. The endorphins felt was a study abroad moment that I will remember that changed my life. At that moment all that I felt was bliss. Looking down at the city where Roman’s built an aqueduct fool proof of earthquakes, the grandeur of Catedral de Segovia, and the palace of Queen Isabella, I was in disbelief that I, Anusha Ghaffar, was experiencing this moment. And just like that this experience is packed up in a box called history, just like the rest of the city walls.

Cordoba as Text

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

“Religious Shock.”


By Anusha Ghaffar from FIU at Cordoba on June 18, 2022.

Ecstatic to finally see a mosque in Spain, the class packed all their belongings and headed to the trains. After seeing many cathedrals, it was refreshing to see something new. After the tour of Cordoba city, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba lied calling the name of the class awaiting to astound us all with its beautiful architecture and the history the walls held. The grand finale was worth it.

Walking in, I saw everyone’s eyes widening and jaws dropping. I saw the longing of many’s desires to finally step into their first mosque ever. The beauty of this mosque cannot be put to words as it is so easy to get lost in the endless two arch, red striped design. It looked the same everywhere, yet the eyes could not draw away from it. The feeling was indescribable.

Although most historians disagree that the mosque was built first, there was “evidence” that the Basilica of Saint Vincent stood there before. The mosque was created in 785 CE by Abd Ar Rahman, who made the prayer direction, or Qiblah, to the South instead of South east. This is very interesting to me, I have never heard of a different qiblah other than the one to Mecca. After researching this, it had said it was due to the difference of interpretation of a Hadith, which are sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Mihrab, which indicates the direction of prayer, was decorated with magnificent Arabic calligraphy. That area was architectured a certain way so that the voice can echo in the large mosque, and prayers can be heard throughout.

Normal mosques do not have paintings of living things, but there were sculptures of people in here. The fact that there were sculptures and crosses throughout the mosque was really hard for me to get used to, but the cathedral portion really got me into a religious shock. The brightness illuminating the pure white walls, the very high ceilings compared to the mosque, and it being the middle of the building can be interpreted as an anecdote. The interpretation, as the tour guide mentioned, was that Christianity is above it all and in the light of the world versus how the mosque is dark, gloomy, and shorter. I was in shock to learn this, as I would not have thought of it like that.

Although it upsets me that the mosque was turned into a cathedral, I am also very thankful it was. I am glad they decided not to destroy the beautiful Islamic architecture, and left some moorish history for us all to devour the beauty of. I wish there were more mosques left to discover but we take what we can get.

Sevilla as Text

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

“Coexisting Architecture.”

By Anusha Ghaffar from FIU at Sevilla on June 22, 2022.

Walking into the Cathedral of Sevilla, it was not of surprise that this used to be a mosque due to its teardrop shaped entrance and outside orange tree area. The orange tree garden is the area where Muslims wash themselves before entering a mosque and it is turned into a garden for the cathedral. I noticed most of the cathedrals that we have been to were also mosques beforehand. This cathedral is the largest gothic cathedral in the world. The intention for when it was built was to make it the grandest in the world. Least to say, the cathedral is enormous and beautiful with its moorish influence.

The Giralda minaret was a tower used by Muslims to call for prayer. This minaret was built with Roman blocks, used as a call for prayer for Muslims, then turned into a church bell for Christian’s. It is amazing how three civilizations can utilize the same architecture for their own purposes throughout the years.

La plaza de España was built in 1929 to help revive Sevilla’s greatness. This beautiful plaza has tile works for every region in Spain. I was there two hours before sunset and the sun was hitting the plaza just right. I was in awe of how beautiful the plaza looked and the greenery outside. Everything was perfect. The weather, the angle of the sun, to the sound of the flamenco music, to the swan sitting with ducklings surrounding it. I’ve never had a better stroll in my life.

Sitges as Text

“Identity in Art.”

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

By Anusha Ghaffar from FIU at Sitges on June 26, 2022.

The morning started with a clean breeze, and everyone rushing to grab breakfast. I knew this was a small, beach town but I was overtaken 30 minutes after being in the city to finally see the waters. I was in shock with how beautiful the glacier blue water dancing in the sunlight looked, and was taken a back to home- Miami? More like Deerfield Beach to me being from Broward. Sitges is where locals who live in Barcelona go for the beach. Witnessing the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea I could see why they would go here.

Before I felt the taste of home for the first time in three weeks, we had started the day with going to Cau Ferrat Museum, which was home to Santiago Rusiñol, evidently promoting Modernisme in Catalonia. Modernisme is a style of Catalonian art that defines a huge part of their identity with the style. It is mainly expressed in architecture around Barcelona, most evidently in decorative arts such as ceramics. This museum was a mark Rusiñol left for everyone as a part of himself, as this building still being shown today shows how he is still existing right now.

His art collection was mind blowing and overwhelming, as 6 paintings from Pablo Picasso were on the wall in front of me. El Greco’s work was also there. The fact that I was standing in front of something that Picasso and Greco touched and produced is still something I cannot wrap my mind around, although it was not even the first time I have experienced standing in front of their work.

Sitges is like a birthmark to Barcelona, as it contains Modernisme art and creates a part of self-identity to the Catalonians, who are a vital part of Barcelona’s history. Barcelona would not be Barcelona without it.

Barcelona as Text

Photos by Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

“Modernisme Scar.”

By Anusha Ghaffar from FIU at Barcelona on June 24, 2022.

Modernisme is like a scar to Barcelona. The term scar is a more accurate way to describe it as its definition is “a mark remaining after injured tissue as healed”. Barcelona is a part of Spain but will always be the capital of Catalonia. To this day Catalans still march and protest for their independence. Their language Catalan and Modernisme is a vital symbol for Catalan identity. The art started as a movement to add to Catalan culture, and it now simply became a part of Spain’s identity. That is why I see it as a scar, rather something Spain was born with and accepted, as it had to fight its way up to be acknowledged.

Gaudi’s work was prevalent in Modernisme. La Sagrada Familia had everyone in an awe with the mix of architecture in the Cathedral. It was so simple yet had a grandeur presence with its glass-stained work, which is prevalent in Modernisme. The two different sides of colors made it feel like I was lost in a forest. The yellow, green, and blue side showed the birth of Christ and light, while the yellow, orange and red showed water and light. The colors beautifully dance throughout the cathedral.

Park Guell was beyond amazing with its broken-up glass created to art. This is a beautiful example of one’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure, because the glass was literally trash turned into a beautiful architecture that now brings tourists from all over the world to see. Gaudi did an amazing job representing Catalan and keeping the artwork alive until this day to help never forget Catalonians.

Barcelona brings me back to finding my own self-identity. These Catalonians were living in Spain, but they figured out a way to make sure their mark was and is shown. This makes me wonder what my self identity in the melting pot of America is. What makes me unique? I do not fit in with born and raised Pakistani’s, yet I also do not fit in with traditional Americans. One thing this class has taught me is that you do not need to fit in, rather find something similar or relatable, even if it is miniscule, and to find a way to coexist and understand those around you. What separates you from another is no more than a mental barrier, as in the end of the day we are all human. Spain’s history with different religions have taught us this countlessly, and now Catalonians wanting independence has also shown this part of Spain. Being with this group with diverse people with different backgrounds has also first handedly taught me this.

As the trip ends with Barcelona, I find myself and my classmates enriched with knowledge from each other. A unique sense of perspective and understanding has been built from learning hard facts, seeing history unfold, having conversations about different perspectives, and sharing my own point of view is an experience of once in a lifetime. I will always remember the deep meaning of my study abroad’s experience and how much it has changed my perspective on life. No matter the different backgrounds, religion, race, and culture of my peers on this trip, all I know is that we are one big family.

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