Catalonia, Valencia, and the Costa Blanca Feature

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The Oasis of Elche

If Alicante is torrid in summer, Elche (24 km [15 miles] southwest) is even hotter but surrounded by the largest palm forest in Europe, granting some escape from the worst of the heat. The Moors originally irrigated the land and started planting palm trees here, for dates, and today there are still more than 200,000 growing within the city. Many of the plantations have been turned into public parks, and efforts are being made to bring back traditional crafts associated with these trees. The blanched palm leaves are used in Elche's two most important cultural events—the Palm Sunday procession and the Mystery Play of Elche. The latter, dating from the Middle Ages and performed every year August 15–16, represents the last days of Mary's life, her death, assumption, and coronation; it has been declared a UNESCO "Masterpiece of World Oral and Intangible Heritage."

Updated: 09-2013

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