Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oranges and Almonds

The orange trees in the museum garden are now blossoming. The scent is overpowering, too much for the bees.

I planted these trees in 1996 and it's great to see them flowering. They fit in well because of the medieval Muslim connections here. In the garden we excavated a well which belonged to the Merinid Dynasty who occupied Gibraltar beteen 1333 and 1374 (see 16th February post).

Above (centre) 14th Century Muslim well in the Gibraltar Museum garden (archive photos)

We found later structures, all linked to water storage and transport, which showed that the area had been a premium location because of its proximity to freshwater sources. They included a 16th Century cistern and drinking trough for animals:

...and later (18th and 19th Century) channels and arches linked to an aqueduct (notice the 19th Century cobbled floor):

This information gave sense to the 14th Century Hamman (Bath House) which is located in the basement of the museum. The location must have been chosen because water was easy to obtain here:

Part of the 14th Century Hammam in the Gibraltar Museum (archive photo)

Nearby, where the present Roman Catholic Cathedral is situated, we found the remains of a mosque which would have had its own courtyard of orange trees. So the orange blossom (and the intoxicating scent) of our garden today is a continuation of a long heritage:

But recent archaeological work in Cordoba, the capital of the old caliphate, has raised the doubt of the degree to which orange trees ornamented gardens and mosques. It seems that Almonds may have been just as popular. Either way, oranges and almonds give us colour and scent and are constant reminders of spring in these latitudes:

Above three: Almonds (archive photos)

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