Málaga Province - Benaoján

La Cueva del Gato. © Michelle Chaplow
La Cueva del Gato. © Michelle Chaplow

As the name suggests (the prefix Ben- found across the region derives from the Arabic 'ibn', 'son of'), this is another village of Moorish origins. Located very near to Montejaque, the settlement can be found in two halves. The original village was built on a mountainside with the lower community in the Guadiaro river valley that grew up around the railway station. The area is popular for rural tourism, and offers excellent walks, mountain views and potholing. Indeed, the lower part of the municipality runs into Grazalema Natural Park, with the valley dominated by the striking limestone peaks of Ventana at 1298 metres and Palo at 1400 metres above sea level.



The village is typically Moorish with its narrow streets converging on the Plaza and church. The largest building is the Parish Church of Our Lady of Rosario, which was started in the 15th century soon after the conquest. Much remodelling was done 300 years later due to the population explosion and as late as 1941 after the severe damage during the Civil War, when repairs were made to the medieval nave and an additional porch area built. The tower has an octagonal appearance after its square base, suggesting Moorish origins. Having found the church and small Plaza, it is difficult to decide which way to go. The village is narrow, at times just three streets wide.

el Gato Cave

The calle Fuente offers an interesting route to the source of the town's water supply. En route, you will pass a very large gateway, at the junction with calle Convento. As nothing now remains of a religious house, this entrance must have been associated with the convent. The houses at the edge of the village are built on a large platform of ancient construction and natural rock. Historical records hint at a castle built on a site called Tajo del Castillejo, but the village long ago engulfed this. It has been suggested that the castle may have stood between the plaza and behind the town hall. Keeping the line of site theory in mind, it is in contact with another fortification across the Guadiaro valley (see Torre de los Moros).

Before leaving the village, look up towards the dominating limestone mountain. A large overhang will catch your attention, dotted with white crosses. Passing out of the village down to the railway line, you can not miss the pig processing plant and its large fleet of lorries.

Benaojan won a new lease on life 100 years ago, when its chorizo, sausage, became rightly famous throughout the pueblos. The pigs are reared free range in the oak forests that cover the hills. The village now has a large processing plant and the local pigs are slaughtered in the New Year matanza (literally, 'slaughter'), to produce prime chorizo sausage in wine. Other pork and ham by-products are also famed in the carnicerias of the pueblos.

Among the fiestas, the most important is that celebrating the arrival of the railway and the boom it sparked. The Verbena del Tren is an open-air event at the railway station at the end of July. At least 80 kilos of Benaojan sausage are laid out for partygoers and the sangria flows. Other fiestas are celebrated on the 25 April to San Marcos and on 7 October for the Virgin of Rosario.

El Molino del Santo Hotel has a restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. Closed October to March. An interesting walk from Benaoján to Jimena de Libar is described in "The Walk of Mr. Henderson´s Railway" and the railway line itself is described  in Mr Hendersons Railway line. The Cueva del Gato (Cat Cave) is a few km fromthe village.

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