Five symbols squeeze together, like children trying to fit into one photograph.
NO8DO, NO8DO, NO8DO.
It’s written on unfurling flags and bullfighting programmes, embossed on drain covers and printed on parking fines.
This year’s Feria entrance, a candy pink behemoth iced with light bulbs, revealed the same five merry marks, crushed together so hard that number 8 popped out at the top
NO8DO, the motto of Seville. What’s it all about?
The key to the puzzle lies in the central number eight, said to resemble a skein of yarn (and yes, I had to look up “skein” – it’s a loose coil of yarn or wool, the sort my grandmother used to buy for her knitting.)
The Spanish word for this is madeja, so the sentence becomes no madeja do, which makes as much sense as standing in front of a charging bull, until you realise that it sounds like no me ha dejado. She has not abandoned me.
In the city that inspired Carmen, the feisty temptress who drove policemen to murderous jealousy, it’s easy to imagine NO8DO as the result of a passionate love affair. Yet, it’s more complicated than that: a family betrayal underpins the story.
Back in the 13th century, King Alfonso X The Wise struggled to fend off an attack by his own son, Sancho. In a bitter battle for the throne, Seville stayed loyal and Alfonso rewarded Europe’s hottest city with a slogan to celebrate its fidelity.
Seven hundred years later, Seville still remembers. Every day, everywhere.
NO8DO. She has not abandoned me.
Last week, I wrote about NO8DO, the mysterious motto of Seville. Later that day, I received a photo from Lauren Peikoff, a young woman from the United States who spent a semester among Seville’s orange blossom. She loved her time there and vowed to return. This is her tattoo…
Now that is dedication!
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com