Out and About in Benajarafe this month …
The small coastal town of Benajarafe had always been the name of a place along the N340 coastal road on the way to Rincón de la Victoria or Malaga. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have gone through Benajarafe on the bus to and from Vélez or Torre del Mar, knowing that in either direction there was still some way to go…until I took the time to go to there, speak to some of the locals and chat to a couple of bar owners. The place I have overlooked on so many bus journeys is full of delicious little secrets…
Years before, passengers would have travelled to and through Benajarafe on the train, known affectionately as ‘la Cochinita,’ which went from Malaga to Zafaraya and the old station building is still standing. It is now used as the lifeguard point and houses public toilets and a nurse’s station. It’s also a good place to go for general information about what’s going on, especially in summer.
To see old photos of the train, visit La Estación hostal and cafeteria on the other side of the road from the station building, where owner Antonio will tell you that the large photo hanging to the left of the bar shows the train’s last journey in April 1968. He proudly informed us that it was given to him by the wife of the last station master. My favourite photo is one to the right of the bar with a young boy who is clearly not happy to be in the photo. I didn’t ask if that was Antonio too! The Benajarafe-born bar owner also remembers travelling on the train to Malaga as a young boy to have his photograph taken to celebrate his first communion.
Benajarafe belongs to Vélez-Málaga and has done so since Muslim times when it was a farmstead pertaining to the larger authority. In fact the name Benajarafe comes from Arabic and although there is some uncertainty as to the correct original name, theories include ‘Ben’ coming from ‘Ibni,’ meaning son in Arabic, or ‘Bina’ meaning construction. There are two parts to the town; Benajarafe Costa and Benajarafe Alto. Most of the approximately 3300 residents live in the coastal part, while Benajarafe Alto is largely made up of extensive villas and farmhouses. It is also home to the hermitage; Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Each October inhabitants participate in a Romería, or pilgrimage, up to the hermitage to celebrate the Virgin.
Another unmissable landmark is the Martello, or watch tower, rising above the N340, from where it is clearly visible in both directions. The ‘Torre Gorda o Moya’ as it is known, is one of many that line the Axarquía coast and was constructed in the 18th Century to defend the area against invasion and pirates.
Benajarafe’s population rises sharply in summer when many Spanish second home owners spend July and August there, enjoying its wide, unspoilt beaches, which are awarded the ‘Q’ for Quality prize every year, as well as the blue flag. The town is known among Malagueños for its famously good quality restaurants; in fact locals will tell you that Spanish film star, Victoria Abril, spends her summers there and the current mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, as well as the entire Malaga FC football team regularly eat in the town’s chiringuitos which are renowned for their excellent fish. The town has become increasingly popular with foreign residents and second-home owners over the years, with a number of northern Europeans owning property there.
As well as the Romería in October, Benajarafe celebrates its Feria, or fair, in July, to coincide with the Virgin del Carmen, who is the patron saint of fishing and fishermen. Like in Caleta, a boat brings a statue of the Virgin along the coast and locals process with the statue from the Nuestra Señora del Rosario church to the sea. This year the Feria will take place from 14th until 16th July.
The night of San Juan is a big event in Benajarafe, when on 23rd June local people go to the beach and make small bonfires and swim in the sea at midnight in order to and bring good luck and beauty for the forthcoming year. Expect to see teenagers burning their school books as San Juan coincides with the end of the school year!
A regular bus service runs between Malaga and Torre del Mar along the N340 coast road, stopping in Benajarafe. Check www.alsa.es for timetable and prices. There is plenty of free street parking in Benajarafe, but expect to find it full in July and August!
There is a town hall sub-office, post office and library behind the church in the Casa Civico; a pretty white building around a plaza and internal courtyard. Also a number of small supermarkets, many restaurants and cafés, a bank, pharmacies, bakeries and other services line the coast road. The nearest large supermarket is Mercadona in neighbouring Chilches (direction Malaga).
Written by Jennie Rhodes ©
Photographs taken by Rob Bell Photography ©