Found in La Ciudad (the old town) of Ronda, the Casa del Rey Moro (House of the Moorish King) is built on the remains of a Moorish palace on the side of El Tajo Gorge. However, and despite its name, it was never the home of any Moorish kings, as it was only built in 1709, and Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier’s serene hanging gardens surrounding the house were only created in 1912. Indeed the only Moorish element to the Casa del Ray Moro is its chief attraction, the ingenious Water Mine.
Constructed in the 14th century by the Moorish King Abomelic, the ‘mine’ was designed to enable water to be carried up into Ronda in secret, which was a lifesaver in that time of relentless sieging. The pathway consists of a steep series of interconnecting undercover stairways (with more than 300 steps) leading ever-downwards from the top of the gorge to the Guadalevín River 390 ft (120 m) below. Slaves were required to run up and down the stairway fetching and carrying water in secret. When the passageway was discovered by the troops of Isabella and Ferdinand in 1485 during the Reconquest, the city’s water supply was cut off and Ronda soon surrendered.
Eventually the Water Mine fell into disrepair and was not restored until 1911. It’s worth the long trek down to the river for the views of the Puente Nuevo from the little wooden platform at the bottom the stairway, but the return journey can be strenuous.
The Casa del Rey Moro is currently being renovated (not before time) and turned into a hotel but the Water Mine and hanging gardens are still open daily; there’s a small admission charge. Don’t go down the Water Mine if you are claustrophobic and be prepared for a long, sweaty haul back up to the top of the gorge. There’s no disabled access. Ronda is small enough to explore on foot and parking is plentiful around the new town of El Mercadillo north of the El Tajo Gorge and outside the old town walls.