Situated on a small stretch of sunny southern Spain’s infamous coastline, Fuengirola is a small beach town accustomed to the sight of sunburnt tourists, the sound of the ocean’s waves crashing into the sand, and the distinct, coconut-like smell of sunscreen.
Every Spring, however, the typical sights, sounds and smells of this town on the Costa del Sol (the sun’s coast) are overshadowed by something a little more unique that appeals to all the senses: Fuengirola’s International Fair. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the town’s open invitation for visitors to go around the world in five days.
During those days, the Fuengirola Fairgrounds is transformed into a UN of sorts with booths and exposition rooms representing 28 different countries. There is the smoky smell of wood-fire grilled meats in Uruguay and the savory kangaroo burgers in Australia. A few doors down, those mouthwatering smells begin to compete with the Caribbean. Spicy jerk chicken in Jamaica and freshly crushed mint for the mojitos in Cuba are the smells and tastes that dominate here. A short walk brings you further East for a change of pace and new flavors. The unmistakable taste and smell of curry can be found in India while the sizzle of the woks stirring up some noodles in Japan can be heard in the distance. To round out this international meal, France is only a hop, skip and a jump away for their selection of sweet pastries and desserts. Before you slowly slip into a food-induced coma, nothing will provide the pick-me-up you need to power through the rest of the day and keep partying like a strong coffee in Colombia.
Although the large variety of food and drinks is a big draw for the fairgoers, the experience would be incomplete without enjoying and even participating in the traditional music and dance shows offered by most of the countries represented at the fair. Between the folk dancing in Mexico, the samba in Brazil, the bachata and merengue in the Dominican Republic, the Bollywood style dancing in India and the tribute band playing the best of The Beatles in Great Britain, there is something for everyone’s musical tastes.
For those looking to get to know Spain a little better, Fuengirola’s International Fair also features six stands and exposition rooms that represent a few of Spain’s autonomous communities. These communities are the Spanish equivalent of a state in the U.S.A., and although they are all part of the same country, each community has its own distinctive traditions and culture.
In Andalusia, flamenco music is a must, while the Canary Islands give a taste of the tropics with its sweet strawberry daiquiris and almost Caribbean carnival style music. A trip to Asturias teaches that bagpipes are not exclusive to Irish and Scottish culture but can also be found in Spain. The customs of this northern region of Spain also dictates that the only correct way to pour a cup of cider is by holding the cup at knee height and the bottle slightly above the shoulders. It may require a bit of good aim to achieve the perfect pour, but the people of Asturias insist that the oxidation effect of the cider abruptly hitting the side of the cup is what makes their natural, alcoholic apple cider so tasty.
The Fuengirola International Fair does not skip out on any of the trimmings that make a festival complete. Although visiting the different countries would provide more than enough entertainment for the day, carnival games, a ferris wheel and other small rides can also be enjoyed at the fair.
Whether you want to munch on the spanakopita in Greece or spin around to the beat of salsa music in Cuba, there is something for everyone at Fuengirola’s International Fair. Leaving this fair without a case of wanderlust pushing you to visit one of the represented countries and experience their culture firsthand from its original source is nearly impossible.