Most Beauteous & Strange Zahara

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Surely among the most beautiful village festivals in the world, Zahara de la Sierra transforms its narrow streets into flower-filled forests to celebrate Corpus Christi each year. It’s been done for 500 years, apparently, so you would think that more people knew about by now. But despite being declared a fería of national tourism importance, it remains very much a special village day for almost the exclusive enjoyment of the villagers – much like every other festival up here above the glittering lake. There are some who say it’s to do with the lack of parking at the top of the piste-style lanes.
Recruited to don Antonio’s working party, I joined in the effort of tethering branches of eucalyptus and reeds, flowers and hierba buena to the outside of houses along our narrow street at 7am, (bolstered by strong homemade liqueur provided by Maria from next door). By 9am, the village was positively sylvian, and children were rolling down the grassy roads, the nun was radiating joy on her inspection rounds, and everyone was getting dressed for church. There was a procession – a circuit for the saint and the marching band, followed by paella and dancing to a live band (11pm-6am). The next morning the forest was removed, and life returned to normal.

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