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- Town history
Arenas is a typical white village with narrow streets and with corners of Andalusian charm. The town extends along the foot of a ridge on which stands one of the most important Arab fortresses in the region. Its remains, as well as other vestiges of Al-Andalus, place Arenas on the Mudejar Trail of Axarquia county.
Not far from the town, in the parish of Daimalos, are some of the sights one must see in this municipality. One of them is a curious spring that will put your superstition to the test.
MUST-SEE SIGHTS IN ARENAS
MONUMENTS AND BUILDINGS
On top of the ridge that overlooks the town are the ruins of Bentomiz Castle. This was a fortress until the year 1487 and served as a refuge for Moriscos who rose up against persecution in the 16th century. Today, one can see the remains of eight-sided tower, a number of rooms and part of the outer walls. From the site of this former stronghold the panoramic views are breathtaking.
The 16th century parish church of Santa Catalina Mártir, XVI, is the outstanding monument in Arenas. It was built on the site of a former mosque of which the minaret is still preserved. This Mudejar style church was ravaged by fire in 1926, in which the renaissance altarpiece and hand-crafted roof were consumed. A costly renovation was required to restore it to its former state.
At the entrance to this town in the country of Axarquia, there is a ceramic mural by the artist Virgilio Gonzalez and an old oil mill. Oil is the essence of the local gastronomy.
In the parish of Daimalos, its 16th century well remains as a reminder of the Arab past of these lands. Also from the period of Muslim rule, the minaret functions as the bell tower for the Mudejar style Church of the Conception, which is listed as a Site of Cultural Importance.
Nearby is the spring known as the Perdida or Fuente del Amor, so-called because whoever drinks its water will find their partner. At least, that is what the legend says.
There are two ways to get to Arenas from Málaga city by car. One of them along the E-15 road towards the Torrox road and take exit 274. Then, continue along the Camino de Algarrobo and the MA-4111 until you reach the Bajo stream, in Arenas.The second route is through the N-340 towards the MA-24. Later, you have to join the E-15 road towards the Torrox road. From there, follow the directions in the first route.
Several trails pass through the most attractive lands of Arenas. Two of these itineraries lead to the summits of the Cerro Alto and the Bentomiz. For the most experienced walkers, there is a third path that links the town with the Jaral. Along a five-kilometre trail, one can see traditional cortijos, the remains of the old Arab castle and La Maroma, the highest peak of the Sierra de Tejeda.
The feast day in honour of Santa Catalina and San Sebastian constitute the main event hosted by Arenas throughout the year. Also highly popular is Carnival and the Candelaria, which is held in September as part of the fire ritual. This features dancing and singing by the verdiales, the characteristic folk singers of the county of Axarquia.
In Holy Week, the processions in Arenas take place between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday. This is a celebration with deep roots in the municipality that combines tradition and religious fervour.
In October it is time for the Mule Festival, which includes mule packing demonstrations and performances of all kinds.
Roast kid with almonds and larded rabbit are two of the classic dishes of Arenas. In addition to these exquisite dishes is the 'cavaores' stew (prepared with chickpeas and rice), migas (bread sautéed in garlic and accompanied with fried cured pork, olives and herring) and fennel stew.
Olive oil is the essential ingredient of local cuisine, while sweet wine is the traditional local beverage.
The lands that are today occupied by the municipality of Arenas have been inhabited by humans since time immemorial. Bentomiz Castle, whose origin has been established in the time of the Iberians, could have been occupied and successively modified by the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans. The fortress built on the hill of the same name played a decisive role in the history of the village, especially during the Muslim period. Turned into a citadel, it was one of the three most important Arab bastions in the central area of La Axarquía, together with the castles of Comares and Zalía in Alcaucín.
Following the conquest of Arenas in 1487 by Christian troops, the inhabitants of the castle were allowed to maintain their religion and their customs. The privileges obtained thanks to a pact with Ferdinand the Catholic disappeared following the Morisco rebellion in La Axarquía in the 16th Century. The inhabitants of the fortress pledged allegiance to Aben Humeya and led the Christians eventually to occupy the bastion in order to reinforce their surveillance and defence of the coast and the mountains.
According to popular tradition, the Christians did not have sufficient troops to drive the Moors out of the castle. So they hatched a curious strategy. One night, they tied burning oil lamps to a large flock of goats and sheep. When the animals were led to the gates of the fortress, the inhabitants fled thinking they were being besieged by a formidable army.
The Morisco community was expelled almost in its entirety, and families began to arrive from other areas of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly from the area of Jaen. The details of this repopulation process are given in the Survey and Distribution Book of Arenas, which is kept in the Archive of the Royal Chancery of Granada. The local council also has a copy of this document.
The village is part of the Mudejar Route around the area of La Axarquía, awarded a Regional Tourism Award in Andalusia, which also encompasses Árchez, Salares, Sedella and Canillas de Aceituno. The characteristics that make these villages unique are their layouts and architecture, packed with minarets, arcades, parapet walkways and other elements that evoke their Arabic past.
You can find the fried goat with almonds and the shredded rabbit among the signature dishes from Arenas. Other typical dishes include the "cavaores" stew with chickpeas and rice, the migas with olives and herring, and the fennel stew. Among the products produced here are olive oil and grapes they use to make the famous sweet wine from Arenas.
- Inhabitants (1,001-2,500)
- Inland area