Jimena de la Frontera is a typical ‘reconquest’ village. The words ‘de la Frontera’ indicate that it was on the border between Moorish occupied Spain and the invading Christians. It is a fine example of an Andalucian ‘white village’ with a castle dominating the town. The town occupies a steep hill, Mount St. Christobal, on a ridge between the rivers Hozgarganta and Guadiaro at a height of 203 metres.
Since the paintings were made in the cave of Laja Alta, near Jimena, around 1,000 BC, numerous civilizations have gone through the lands of Jimena: Iberians, Roman, Visigoth, Arab and Christian, of which many ruins are preserved. The cave paintings represent sea scenes and depict Phoenician style ships.
It is in the Roman period when the region was at its real height, due to the intensive agricultural exploitation of the plains crossed by the rivers Guadiaro and Hozgarganta. The Roman town of Oba, situated on the hill above Jimena, already founded by the Iberians, even minted its own money. Oba was abandoned by the Romans in the 4th century AD and, apparently, by the local population as well until the 10th century AD when a group of Spanish Christians established a church and settlement in the shadow of the by now ruined Roman remains. They called their village Jimena.
The Moorish occupiers of Andalucia ignored the village until around 1150 AD when Jimena found itself at the frontier between Spanish Christian forces and territory held by the Moors. The Moors built a castle using some of the Roman remains and called the place Ximena. In the arch over the gateway there is a stone visible today with a Latin inscription. They held it sporadically until finally expelled in 1456. The castle saw its last development during the Peninsular Wars when the wall surrounding the Moorish tower was built.
A walk up through the village, through the winding, rambling streets to reach the vantage point of the castle is well worthwhile. The people of Jimena are proud of their village particularly their plants. Colourful pots and planters decorate many of the houses. Nor have they entirely lost their traditional way of life. Do not be surprised to see, hitched to a bar, a family donkey. The streets are, after all, more suitable for donkeys than motor vehicles.
Once at the castle the view is inspiring, so much so that it is a favourite spot for local artists as well as those more interested in history. Seeming almost close enough to touch, to the north, you will see the first craggy slopes of the Alcornocales National Park one of Europe’s largest Mediterranean forests. The main species is the cork oak, the bark of which is still cut revealing first the shiny crimson trunk that fades through ginger as the bark re-grows. The Park is also home to Imperial and Royal eagles not to mention deer and wild boar.
In Jimena itself, in the vicinity of the village square, dominated by its ornate clock tower, you will find a few bars and restaurants. They all serve tapas as well as full meals. The food is traditional Andalucian including one dish peculiar to this area, Tagarnina, made from edible thistles.
Strictly speaking Jimena de la Frontera is a city. It was nominated as such in 1879. Unlike English towns that become a city when they gain a cathedral, the appellation ‘city’ in Spain is an award. Jimena is a small city with great aspirations
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