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The Arabs named Almería Al-Mariyya, which means 'mirror of the sea'. There is an Eastern feel to this sun-bleached city with its Moorish-style houses and signature Alcazaba fortress. The links to the North of Africa remain strong with frequent ferries going to Morocco and Algeria. In the Plaza Vieja, the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) preserves the banner presented by the Catholic Monarchs when they banished the Moors in 1489.
A stroll from the traditional heart of the city is rewarding. Try walking from Puerta de Purchena through the labyrinthine streets of the historic quarter to the busy port via colonnaded squares and the fortified Cathedral. Make sure you take time for a coffee or copa (glass of wine) along the way, and do not miss the lively Mercado (food market) just off the Rambla.
Fish, fried, grilled and casseroled, grilled meats and spicy Arab-influenced dishes feature the menus in Almería. Try 'sopa de Almería' (shellfish soup), embutidos (cured meats), gachas (spicy clam stew) and patatas a lo pobre (sautéed potatoes with green peppers). At night, head for the Puerta de Purchena, where everyone seems to be. The surrounding narrow streets are packed with popular restaurants and busy bars.
In the historic district, little specialist shops crowd among tapas bars in the narrow streets, radiating out from the Puerta de Purchena and along Calle de las Tiendas and Calle Real. Jugs are made using centuries-old techniques, in shapes inspired by Phoenicians and Arabs. The Moorish influence can also be seen in decoratively woven Jarapas blankets. You will find tagine cooking pots at Bazar Arabe on Calle Almanzor next to the Alcazaba. Stock up on food specialities at the busy covered Mercado. Go south from there, on Calle de los Reyes Católicos, for the excellent El Libro Picasso bookshop. The Paseo de Almería is good for fashion and shoes, with the Marin Rosa department store and fashion staples Mango, Zara, and Women’s Secret lingerie. Off the Paseo, along Calle Rueda Lopez, La Vinoteca wine cellars in the Galeria Almericentro shopping centre have a mind-blowing selection of wines. In the city’s business district, the Mediterráneo shopping centre on Avenida del Mediterráneo has plenty of fashion stores and a supermarket.
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