Elche, Alicante, Spain -
Humanity Elche was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 for the Palmeral of Elche, and in 2002 declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of by UNESCO for its Mistery Festival.
Currently, in the urban area of Elche there are a total of 97 different orchards containing about 70,000 date palms, mostly on the east bank of the Vinalopo. This number does not include other large plantations located around the city. All together, the number may be close to 200,000 palms. The Palm Grove covers over 3.5 km2, including 1.5 km2 within the city of Elche.
The religious reenactment of the life of the Virgin Mary (Mystery of Elche/ Misteri d’Elche) played over two nights, in the Basilica of Saint Mary, is a sacral-lyrical medieval drama dating back to the 15th century. It occurs in mid-August every year during the local holiday dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, also as part of this celebration is Nit de l’Alba in which a magnificent show of fireworks takes place.
The Basilica of Saint Mary, constructed over an old mosque matching the design of Saint Nicolas in Alicante, is an excellent example of Valencian Baroque from the 18th Century.
10km from the modern city of Elche is La Alcudia, its immediate predecessor, which was founded by the Greeks (responsible for the name Iberia) around 600 BC and named Helike. Occupation by Carthaginians and then Romans followed, who called the city Ilici and granted it the status of colonia. It was under Roman rule from that the name Hispania was first used for the Iberian Peninsula.
As the Roman Empire fell the Goths moved in for the 5th to 7th century, apart from a brief spell of Byzantine rule 552 to 624. Many Visigoth names are still in use in modern Spanish and Portuguese but their legal code (Visigoth Code) completed in 654 AD is their most notable legacy. This code formed the basis for legal court procedure in most of Christian Iberia until the Late Middle Ages. This code abolished the legal segregation of Romani and Gothi, and once this occurred they were collectively known as Hispani. It was under the Goths that an episcopal see was established in Elche.
Clearly, Elche was an important centre of civilization throughout the early empires but unfortunately lost some of that importance during the Moorish occupation, when it was moved to its present location. During the Reconquista in the 13th century, James II of Aragon took the city from the Moors.
It was not until the 18th century that the city went through a continuous growth period, becoming more important with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century when industrialisation took over a traditional footwear industry.
It is now the third most important city of the Valencian Community, and 20th largest in Spain, with a prosperous shoe manufacturing business, with over 1000 factories including brands like Pura Lopez and Panama Jack. Sweets and clothing are not too far behind shoes but there are other economic activities in Elche: trade and commerce account for 20%; dates, olives, cereals and pomegranates are grown but agriculture is losing its importance; tourism.
Tourism in and around Elche
Elche has a very extensive cultural hub including:
Fireworks 13th August, Nit del Alba https://youtu.be/q_KbGLZYs9U