My Spain: Granada

‘I dreamed of coming to Granada as a kid’

'I dreamed of coming to Granada as a kid'
Mirza wanted to go to Granada ever since he studied Spain's Moorish history as a schoolboy in India. Photo:
In this week's My Spain, we talk to restaurant owner Mirza Asghar about horse riding, studying Moorish Spain in his native Punjab and why he's never tried jamón serrano.

So Mirza, judging by your thick Andalusian accent you've been living in Granada for quite some time now.

I first came to Granada in 1991, so that’s 22 years now, wow!

I didn’t speak a word of Spanish when I first arrived, but I have my Granadino friends to thank for their accent rubbing off on me!

What’s your story? How did you end up in Granada in the first place?

I’m originally from the Punjab region in India. It’s a very religiously diverse part of the country but Islam is the main creed.

Back at school, I studied Moorish Spain in history class.

I remember being fascinated by the Alhambra in Granada and thinking how beautiful Corboda (Spain’s Muslim capital at the time) must be.

So when the chance to visit Andalusia came along, I knew I couldn't miss it.

That simple? You just packed your bags and left India for Spain?

No, I’d already been living in Greece for two years but my original plan was to move to the US.

A friend and I had agreed to buy a taxi together in New York. We were going to share it and work different shifts.

But before I crossed the Atlantic, I decided to make my childhood dreams come true and visit Andalusia.

Was it everything you were expecting?

More. I loved it. I was in awe of the ‘fiesta’ and the warmth of the people. Granada was, and is, full of life.

So I decided to stay.

I started working as a welder soon after, but it didn't take long for me realize it wasn't for me.

I started picking up Spanish, saving money and thinking of what type of work would allow me to put my people skills to good use.

That’s when I decided to get into the hospitality business.

So what was your next move?

I bought a small bar on the beach in Almuñécar near Málaga. Business was good but I got fed up of commuting back and forth between there and Granada.

So I set up my first Indian restaurant in Granada called Muglia.

Again, things went very well so I opened another two with the same name.

The Spanish are not known for liking spicy food. How have you gone about keeping them happy?

We offer a ‘lighter’ variety of Indian food. Ninety-nine percent of our customers tell us in advance “It’s not too spicy, is it? I can’t take it if it's so hot!”

So we still dish up a great curry but we aren't heavy on spice unless the customer asks us to be.

How about your favourite Spanish dishes?

I love your standard tortilla española (Spanish omelette), it’s delicious! We get great fried fish down here too, especially sardines. You can’t beat a good paella either.

How about jamón serrano (Iberian ham)?

I haven’t tried it and never will, unfortunately. One of the downsides of being a Muslim!

Has your religion or race ever been a problem for you?

Never. Everybody here in Granada has treated me with like one of their own. All my friends are from Spain so I've always felt part of the group.

What do you do in your spare time with them?

I love horse riding. That’s something the Punjab and Andalusia have in common: they’re passionate about horses. I started as a young boy and I've been able to carry on with my hobby over here. It's a great way to get away from work and from my kids when they're driving me mad.

I’m also into golf. We have quite a few golf courses spread out around the region, especially in the coastal areas.

Granada is famous for its lively nightlife. Where do you hang out with friends?

There are loads of great places around Plaza Nueva and Calle Navas in the city centre. I personally like a classy bar called Aliatar.

What's your favourite sight in the city?

The Alhambra, of course. I still go there a lot after all these years. The best viewpoint is the Mirador de San Nicolás. When Bill Clinton came here a few years ago, he said it had the best sunset he’d ever seen.

Any recommendations for nature lovers?

Granada and its surroundings are very green. I like hiking in the Llano de la Perdiz, an area of parkland above the Alhambra.

And then of course there's Sierra Nevada, an amazing mountain range for the ski lovers.

Anything to add about life in Granada?

I'm very happy here. Granada is an amazing city with so much to do. Whenever I go back to India, I get bored after a few days.

I guess after all these years, all the great times and the all the friends that have treated me like family, I feel more Granadino than anything else.


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