The moors are famous for bring technology, order and learning to the Iberian peninsular. Today, 600 years later, this heritage is still clearly visible whether it be the thousands of terraces they built to catch the rain and to grow their crops, "las norias" (large wells where the water was brought up by machinery driven by donkeys walking in a circle) or their villages with all the latest technology of the 5th century.
The villages needed a good spring for fresh running water, plenty of thick fertile soil close at hand for their crops and a good strategic position such as on a rocky outcrop hence the dramatic locations of villages such as Uleila del Campo, Sorbas and Benitagla.. Here they could keep a look out for enemies and defend better taking advantage of the steep slopes. Making the streets as narrow as possible shaded them from the sun and made the villages easier to defend and meant they did not have to sacrifice to much good agricultural land, as long as two donkeys could pass in the street that was enough.
These closely knit streets ensured close relations and ensured good cooperation. They claim that this explains the friendly nature of the villagers and explains why they talk so loudly; the only people who talk quietly are those who are talking
There are few places around with so many villages in perfect proportions. The moors built their mosques as big as possible, choosing the most prominent position within the village to further enhance their size and therefore their visible command of the village and the area around. The leaders of the village and the better-off built their houses on the main square, also situated high in the village, their wealth and power being clearly visible in the only wide space in the village. The poorer people built on the edges of the village at the bottom of the slopes and would have to take the brunt of any enemy attack.
When the Christians invaded and took over a village they pulled down the mosque and built their church on the same foundations or in many cases they only removed the Islamic features and added the elements of a Christian church such as towers, spires, alter etc. Nothing could be a clearer indication that a new order was in place.
Roofs at TwoWaters
The architecture of the houses is based on the style of building that developed in the north, being brought down by the invading Christians. Having said that it was a style that was heavily influenced by the superior technology of their Muslim neighbours, hence "la teja arabe" (the arabic roof tile). The Christians favoured the pitched roof over a flat roof as it offers a more airy top floor where they could store their harvests and dry all the products of the big "matanzas" (killing of the pig). A melon hung from the ceiling in an esparto grass sling could last up to three months.
The most distinctive feature of a local house is the gable roof or as it is known in Spanish "techo a dos aguas" (roof at 2 waters). It may be simple but is very attractive and effective against the heat and the rain. Its attractiveness lies in that as the end walls rise up to the apex of the house, roofs and walls are always intermixed, so avoiding the "shoe box" look of 60's bungalows built with hip roofs. A house with a gable roof is more practical as well because it requires less timber, scarce in these parts and it can be more easily extended to cater for a growing family, you just build out on either of the 2 end walls and you will avoid the difficult water joint of a hip roof extension.
In the Filabres mountain region detached farmhouses are rare and extremely highly sought after. Historically the locals lived in the tightly knit villages or in a cortijada, a collection of cortijos built together either in a row or in a group. The two main reasons for this are water and to control the urges of the young males. Water was important because while in other areas underground water may be near to the surface and one family could dig their own well, but in this area the water was down deeper and necessitated the cooperation of several families who would build the well together share the water and live in a cortijada adjacent to the well or noria as it is known in Spanish.
While they may have required several families to build the well they were very often originally from the same family, the father would divide his land between his children and their families, so for this reason they still carry the family surname, Los Gómez in Sorbas, the wife's name (and hence the name of the daughter's name , the grand daughter's name etc. e.g. Las Alejandras and Los Antonicas in Lubrin or even their nickname such as "Los Feos" (The Uglies) in Cobdar.
But what better way to harness the rampant energy and control the urges of a young man than to say if you really love her build two rooms onto the house and when you are finished, then you can marry her! If it were but a whim his energy would sap and the marriage would never happen. If he finished it a new family joined the cortijada and a new house would start to grow.