23 Mar, 2022 @ 12:00
1 min read

Stained brown: Spain’s ‘white villages’ call for help to clear up after Sahara sandstorms  

Trevelez Main
The town of Trevelez staiend brown after the Calima. Photo from Gobierno Municipal Trevélez Facebook page

THE recent ‘calima’ sandstorm that swept across Spain dumping Saharan dust has left thousands of buildings stained with ugly discolouration and brown streaks. 

The effect has been particularly noticeable in the famous ‘pueblos blancos’ or white villages of the Alpujarras, south of Granada, which are now in need of an urgent clean-up-

Although many inhabitants are jet washing their walls to blast away Saharan tones, this method is less effective on old paintwork or textured surfaces, where the sand clings or causes paint to fissure and flake.

Although some British expats have called the calima damage “pretty in pink”, some villages with the ‘Most Beautiful of Spain’ accreditation could now be described as the “most spattered”, and the restoration will strain municipal budgets, as well as daunting householders who cannot afford to repaint their properties.

According to SegurCaixa Hogar, atmospheric damage is not covered by buildings insurance, and they’ve received many calls about the ‘calima’, which cannot be processed – just as earthquakes are exempt as “acts of God”.

While some town halls have sent municipal workers to clean stained edifices with pressure wash machines, the villages of Capileira and Trevelez, in the high Alpujarra, are requesting government assistance.

Usually white-washed the town of Trevelez is now sepia toned. Photo: Gobierno Municipal Trevélez

The Trevelez town hall has sought help by approaching government officials on social networks, and is meeting the Diputacion de Granada on Thursday, with the problem being escalated to the Junta de Andalucia. The village of Capileira will be joining the claim.

Adrian Gallegos, mayor of Trevelez, said: “It requires painting – it’s not going away. We’ve tried with the pressure washer. It turns brown. In the towns of the Alpujarra, it is very ugly. It’s as if the town has aged a hundred years.”

Jose Fernando Castro, mayor of Capileira, is preoccupied with the widespread “sepia tone”. The mayor of neighbouring village, Pampaneira, wants the tourist destination to be “clean and beautiful” again.

With the sand damage causing widespread use of hosepipes and pressure washers, it has the knock-on effect of draining water at a time when Andalucia’s reservoirs are at 31% of capacity.


Jo Chipchase

Jo Chipchase freelanced for internet and lifestyle publications in the UK, and for Living Spain magazine, and was co-founder of Press Dispensary. She lives in the Alpujarra mountains of Andalucia with her teenage sons, dogs and a horse. Contact [email protected]

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