About La Casa Del Califa
- A little bit about us, our ethos and some history
Parts of the Califa have been occupied since the 10th.Century and the principal building has been occupied since 1527.
The business was founded by local ‘Vejeriega’ Regli Álvarez a tourism graduate and James Stuart a traveller and surfer who came to Vejer in 1988. Between them they have created a unique and interesting space where maximum respect has been laid to the original structures combined with a blend of quality antiques from Andalucía and furniture and artefacts from the Middle East and North Africa.
The Califa is managed by a small team who have worked together for over 20 years.
The Califa employs predominantly locals, the majority are women, we use solar power for our hot water and our ‘green’ credentials have been in place for well over a decade. In our well known restaurant the ‘Jardin del Califa’ 50% of our vegetables are organic as is all our beef, chicken, sugar and flour. We have an egalitarian approach to life and we think smiling is always the best option.
History of La Casa del Califa
The site of La Casa del Califa has been strategic in history for many reasons; it overlooks the principal medieval access to the town; the properties face the Plaza de España, Vejer’s largest flat open space ideal for markets & cultural events; the house is very close to Vejer’s principal gateway (Arco de la Villa) and the original road into Vejer (its origins may be Roman or even Phoenician) arrives at the back door of the property.
The earliest known history of this location goes back to when the ‘Moors’ were the dominant culture in Vejer between 711 and 1264 and continued to play an important part in Vejer’s history until the late 1400’s. The ‘Aljibe’ at the back of the restaurant is a 10th-11th.C water cistern and the room directly above it (the Sala del Nogal) is contemporary to this era too. The current principal house was erected by the local diocese in the late 15th C. & was opened in 1527 as a grain store (Cilla), while the the upper levels (the top floor is an addition from the 1960’s) were residential and administrative quarters. Goods carried up the valley or from the barges that ferried the river Barbate would all pass through this building to be weighed, measured & taxed before going to market or being placed in storage. The building was used for this purpose up until the mid-1770’s when increasing humidity forced the Diocese to build a second ‘Cilla’ on Vejer’s Calla Sagasta. The main façade overlooking the Plaza dates from the 17th C. but the building possibly suffered damage during the earthquake of 1775 and many ornamental features have been lost. In the 1950’s, a large window in the façade at street level was replaced by the door that is the current entrance into the Magistrates office who are tenants of the Casa del Califa. The Nationalist forces in the 1930’s used the house as stables for their horses and billeting for their soldiers.
The other properties that make up the hotel were undoubtedly residential & stabling quarters all varying from different ages. The service area (not open to the public) has rooms that are less than 1,80m. high indicating use by servants of the Casa del Juzgado. The Patio de los Jazmines was a stable (the stairs leading to it were a ramp until a few years ago & the large double doors indicate that use). All the rooms from 1 to 7 are located around the courtyard of a 17th.C building in such bad repair it was demolished to make way for the rooms. The courtyard retains the exact same orientation & size as the original one. Three water cisterns were discovered here with possibly the oldest being 15th. Century.
The union of the ten houses that make up the Califa complex (four in the Plaza and six in Calle Cilla Vieja) are a good example of changing structures & the adaptability of Vejers’ houses where ‘seamless’ unions are easily made between different dwellings. In the whole complex seven cisterns (wells) have been found (two of them still in use), there are seven entries on three different streets, 12 different stairways, 78 windows, 51 doors, four courtyards & a cave.