Four features define my city of Xerés, now known as Jerez de la Frontera. Even though my understanding of one of them is, at best, a little unclear, these are features that begun in my day and became perfected over time.
Firstly, there are the magnificent Spanish horses that are related to the thoroughbreds that were brought from Al Magrib that, because of the excellence of the water and the strength of the breed, came to surpass anything that our African cousins could imagine. Secondly, the chalky terrain and the year-round sunshine allowed us to produce world famous wines that were exported all over the many kingdoms. Over the years, techniques have changed but the essence of the land is still found woven into the rich flavours that almost caress the palate even as it imparts a rich glow.
Thirdly, Xerés is famous for flamenco and art and culture that was the keystone of our culture and the foundation of the culture of this land. Contrary to some, the roots of flamenco go much further back than thought by historians, all the way back to the roots of the Iberian Peninsula itself; an expression of individualism and, yes, resistance.
And of course, Xerés, or Jerez was, for many years on the boundary between the land controlled by the Arabs and the land controlled by the northerners. So, as time went on with no resolution, the town became known as Jerez de la Frontera.
When I was in my youth, Jerez had become part of the kingdom of Al Andaluz and light shone on its development. My family and I spent many hours cultivating the terrain on the edge of the township that sprung up over long-forgotten roman ruins. Our architects brought the building techniques of Al Magrib with them so that, during the long, hot summer months blessed shade could be sought within the walls of the town without having to venture too far into the suffocating heat of midday.
Luckily, my life passed in quiet servitude to the local to the wali, our governor who was but a vassal of the magnificent caliphate of Córdoba, far to the north. And, after my time, I watched as changes happened, as the town turned into one of the most vibrant cities of southern Spain and attracted events such as the world-famous motorcycle Grand Prix, something that relies on specially constructed horseless carriages.
Xerés, now known as Jerez de la Frontera offers the lucky visitor many attractions, from the amply stocked wine cellars to the noble horse training centre, which can be visited daily, to the unsurpassable horse fair, which celebrates this ancient and noble animal.