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The phrase "living under a rock" usually means being oblivious to what is happening in the world. But in Setenil de las Bodegas, the idiom takes on a literal meaning. Many of the Spanish town's 3,000 residents live in homes built inside the rock formations of a narrow gorge of the Río Trejo river.
The unusual structures are believed to have been inspired by the ancient Arabic tradition of underground cave dwellings to cope with extreme heat. They can be credited to the Moors, who founded the town in the 12th century. Rather than building entire homes, they enlarged natural caves in the gorge and added a few extra walls.
The dwellings were inexpensive and kept inhabitants cool during the hot summer months. They were also earthquake-resistant and unlikely to catch fire. The rock coverings extend over the street, providing natural shade for passersby.
The town's name, Setenil de las Bodegas, reveals its rich history. "Setenil" is derived from the Latin phrase "Septem nihil." It means "seven times nothing." This refers to the Catholic Spanish rulers' seven attempts to reconquer the territory from the Moors. They succeeded the seventh time.
"Bodegas" is now commonly used to describe small Hispanic grocery stores in urban areas. However, it initially meant a "storehouse for wine." It was added to the town's name by the Christian settlers who introduced vineyards to the region in the 15th century. Most of the vineyards were destroyed by an insect invasion in the 1800s. But the town is still known for its delicious olives and almonds!
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