13 Dec 2016 | Archive

Walls of Malaga


As we tumbled out of the taxi my foot hovered over a shallow puddle. Although the Malaga December evening bore no remnants of neither Autumn nor Summer it still held out a hint of a tropical hand: mild, still air, a dry Guadalmedina river bed  and post-flood evaporation. river-malaga

The Hotel Posada del Patio is a combination of at least two old buildings. As we walked towards the more modern half and glanced up to the left I saw its traditional saffron speckled beige walls and wrought iron balcony rails staring back down. They suggested an echo of the middle-ages. We stepped to and through the sliding glass doors and I was struck by a moment’s need to either hesitate or speed through. The entrance floor was also glass and the shock of walking ‘on air’ caused me to falter. Beneath my feet there was an aerial view of an ancient world that had been put ‘on hold’. The sub-floor spotlights picked out a constant day light as the tops of red dusted walls fell short of holding up the floor. I looked down and then up again unnerved by the transparency.

As we strode towards the reception desk a spindly African sculpture tipped her masked head up from the below-ground and whispered ‘Yes, I’m anachronous and incongruous but deal with it mate. I’m art and that’s what counts’.   afrika

A couple of days later I actually ventured sub-terra within the hotel. It wasn’t difficult, the lift drops there and the stairs arrive too. The hotel is built on the ruins of Malaga’s ancient sea walls- the first one of which dates back to the third century and the second the eleventh century. glass-floorOver time Romans, Muslims, locals and invaders have had bricks to add and defence in mind. This city was clearly worth ring-fencing.

And all this made me think. It made me think of time and it made me think of the human instinct to acquire property and to then fortify it so that the acquisition process STOPS HERE.


I have often fallen into the trap of seeing time as something linear. I’m not the only one though, consider these concepts, none of which I created:-


  • Past-Present-Future 
  • January, February, March …
  • The 12 hour clock
  • The 24 hour clock
  • Eram quod es, eris quod sum (Latin) “I was what you are, you will be what I am.”

Looking up from the old city walls I realised the lessons from TV shows such as Time Team that on planet earth time goes upwards and forwards. For thousands of years humans have excavated and dug deep to explore our past. No wonder our instinct is to look up to the sky when we contemplate the future. We are hard wired to sense that ‘back then’ is down and behind while the unknown is up and in front.


These two walls, Roman and Muslim stand three metres and eight hundred years apart. They were built to do the same thing- to demarcate and create a stronghold. The problem is that wall builders just cannot beat the clock and ultimately lines in the sand are withered by the waves and a stronghold becomes weak in the face of new ideologies and technologies. the-wall-under-ground

There are remains of Roman walls throughout Europe. Consider also the wall of China, the Western one in Jerusalem and even the one under Donald Trump’s Sombrero. They are all conceived with purpose and civil engineering skills. Their long-term fate however remains in the hands of humans who in time will always seek to disassemble what old foes built, even if they are foes no more.