Muslim Spain Brief History

Muslim Spain Brief History

By the time ‘Abd al-Rahman reached Spain, the Arabs from North Africa were already entrenched on the Iberian Peninsula and had begun to write one of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history.

After their forays into France were blunted by Charles Martel, the Muslims in Spain had begun to focus their whole attention on what they called al-Andalus, southern Spain (Andalusia), and to build there a civilization far superior to anything Spain had ever known. Reigning with wisdom and justice, they treated Christians and Jews with tolerance, with the result that many embraced Islam. They also improved trade and agriculture, patronized the arts, made valuable contributions to science, and established Cordoba as the most sophisticated city in Europe.

By the tenth century, Cordoba could boast of a population of some 500,000, compared to about 38,000 in Paris. According to the chronicles of the day, the city had 700 mosques, some 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries – one reportedly housing 500,000 manuscripts and employing a staff of researchers, illuminators, and bookbinders. Cordoba also had some 900 public baths, Europe’s first street lights and, five miles outside the city, the caliphal residence, Madinat al-Zahra. A complex of marble, stucco, ivory, and onyx, Madinat al-Zahra took forty years to build, cost close to one-third of Cordoba’s revenue, and was, until destroyed in the eleventh century, one of the wonders of the age. Its restoration, begun in the early years of this century, is still underway.

Photo: A forest of eight hundred and fifty pillars connected by Moorish arches lines the great mosque of Cordoba.

By the eleventh century, however, a small pocket of Christian resistance had begun to grow, and under Alfonso VI Christian forces retook Toledo. It was the beginning of the period the Christians called the Reconquest, and it underlined a serious problem that marred this refined, graceful, and charming era: the inability of the numerous rulers of Islamic Spain to maintain their unity. This so weakened them that when the various Christian kingdoms began to pose a serious threat, the Muslim rulers in Spain had to ask the Almoravids, a North African Berber dynasty, to come to their aid. The Almoravids came and crushed the Christian uprising, but eventually seized control themselves. In 1147, the Almoravids were in turn defeated by another coalition of Berber tribes, the Almohads.

Although such internal conflict was by no means uncommon- the Christian kingdoms also warred incessantly among themselves- it did divert Muslim strength at a time when the Christians were beginning to negotiate strong alliances, form powerful armies, and launch the campaigns that would later bring an end to Arab rule.

The Arabs did not surrender easily; al-Andalus was their land too. But, bit by bit, they had to retreat, first from northern Spain, then from central Spain. By the thirteenth century their once extensive domains were reduced to a few scattered kingdoms deep in the mountains of Andalusia – where, for some two hundred years longer, they would not only survive but flourish.

It is both odd and poignant that it was then, in the last two centuries of their rule, that the Arabs created that extravagantly lovely kingdom for which they are most famous: Granada. It seems as if, in their slow retreat to the south, they suddenly realized that they were, as Washington Irving wrote, a people without a country, and set about building a memorial: the Alhambra, the citadel above Granada that one writer has called “the glory and the wonder of the civilized world.”

The Alhambra was begun in 1238 by Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar who, to buy safety for his people when King Ferdinand of Aragon laid siege to Granada, once rode to Ferdinand’s tent and humbly offered to become the king’s vassal in return for peace.

Photo: Pool in the Patio de los Arrayanes reflects the grandeur of the incomparable Alhambra.

It was a necessary move, but also difficult – particularly when Ferdinand called on him to implement the agreement by providing troops to help the Christians against Muslims in the siege of Seville in 1248. True to his pledge, Ibn al-Ahmar complied and Seville fell to the Christians. But returning to Granada, where cheering crowds hailed him as a victor, he disclosed his turmoil in that short, sad reply that he inscribed over and over on the walls of the Alhambra: “There is no victor but God.”

Over the years, what started as a fortress slowly evolved under Ibn al-Ahmar’s successors into a remarkable series of delicately lovely buildings, quiet courtyards, limpid pools, and hidden gardens. Later, after Ibn al-Ahmar’s death, Granada itself was rebuilt and became, as one Arab visitor wrote, “as a silver vase filled with emeralds.”

Meanwhile, outside Granada, the Christian kings waited. In relentless succession they had retaken Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville. Only Granada survived. Then, in 1482, in a trivial quarrel, the Muslim kingdom split into two hostile factions and, simultaneously, two strong Christian sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, married and merged their kingdoms. As a result, Granada fell ten years later. On January 2, 1492 – the year they sent Columbus to America – Ferdinand and Isabella hoisted the banner of Christian Spain above the Alhambra and Boabdil, the last Muslim king, rode weeping into exile with the bitter envoi from his aged mother, “Weep like a woman for the city you would not defend like a man!”













Photo: A Moorish-built tower soars above Guadalquivir River in Seville.

In describing the fate of Islam in Spain, Irving suggested that the Muslims were then swiftly and thoroughly wiped out. Never, he wrote, was the annihilation of a people more complete. In fact, by emigration to North Africa and elsewhere, many Muslims carried remnants of the Spanish era with them and were thus able to make important contributions to the material and cultural life of their adopted lands.

Much of the emigration, however, came later. At first, most Muslims simply stayed in Spain; cut off from their original roots by time and distance they quite simply had no other place to go. Until the Inquisition, furthermore, conditions in Spain were not intolerable. The Christians permitted Muslims to work, serve in the army, own land, and even practice their religion – all concessions to the importance of Muslims in Spain’s still prosperous economy. But then, in the period of the Inquisition, all the rights of the Muslims were withdrawn, their lives became difficult, and more began to emigrate. Finally, in the early seventeenth century, most of the survivors were forcibly expelled.

Source: Islamicity


Discover Granada’s Enchanting Streets: A Guide to Strolling the Historic Center

Discover Granada’s Enchanting Streets: A Guide to Strolling the Historic Center

Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Granada’s historic center as we unveil the most picturesque streets for your leisurely exploration. From the romantic Carrera del Darro, offering views of the majestic Alhambra, to the bustling Calle Elvira with its Moorish charm, our guide will lead you through the heart of Granada’s cultural heritage. Whether you seek history, architecture, or local ambiance, these streets offer an unforgettable experience.

Welcome to the enchanting city of Granada, where history, culture, and architecture intertwine in the heart of the historic center. There’s no better way to uncover the essence of this Andalusian gem than by taking a leisurely stroll through its most beautiful streets. In this guide, we’ll unveil the hidden treasures and iconic avenues that make Granada’s historic center a must-visit destination. From the riverside romance of Carrera del Darro to the bustling vitality of Calle Elvira, join us on a virtual tour of Granada’s most enchanting streets.

Here are some of the most beautiful streets to explore in the historic center of Granada:

  1. Carrera del Darro: This picturesque street runs along the Darro River and is famous for its charming cobblestone paths, historic bridges, and views of the Alhambra Palace. It’s one of the most scenic streets in Granada.
  2. Paseo de los Tristes: Also located along the Darro River, this promenade is lined with cafes and offers stunning views of the Alhambra. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the ambiance.
  3. Calle Calderería Nueva: Often referred to as the “Tea House Street,” this narrow, winding street in the Albaicín neighborhood is known for its Moorish-style tea houses, shops, and colorful lanterns.
  4. Calle Elvira: This historic street is famous for its lively atmosphere, tapas bars, and Moorish-style architecture. It’s a hub of activity, especially in the evenings.
  5. Calle Alcaicería: Located near the Cathedral, this street is a reconstructed version of the city’s old silk market. It’s a delightful place to shop for souvenirs and immerse yourself in Granada’s history.
  6. Carrera de la Virgen: This wide avenue leads to the Basilica of San Juan de Dios and is known for its grand architecture, historic buildings, and bustling streets.
  7. Plaza Nueva: While technically a square, the surrounding streets are filled with shops, cafes, and historic buildings. It’s a central meeting point in Granada.
  8. Calle Reyes Católicos: This street connects Plaza Nueva to the Gran Vía and is lined with shops, boutiques, and historic landmarks. It’s a great place for shopping and people-watching.
  9. Plaza Bib-Rambla: This lively square is surrounded by historic buildings and is known for its open-air cafes, flower stalls, and street performances.
  10. Calle Zacatín: Located in the Albaicín, this charming street is lined with artisan shops selling handmade crafts, ceramics, and textiles.

These streets in Granada’s historic center offer a delightful mix of Moorish and Spanish architecture, as well as a vibrant atmosphere that allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage while enjoying a leisurely stroll.

Seville’s Most Charming Streets fo a Picturesque Stroll in the Historic Center

Seville’s Most Charming Streets fo a Picturesque Stroll in the Historic Center

Welcome to Seville, a city where history, culture, and beauty converge in its historic center. As you explore this enchanting Andalusian gem, taking a leisurely stroll through its picturesque streets is an experience not to be missed. In this guide, we’ll lead you through the most charming streets in Seville’s historic heart, offering a perfect blend of history, architecture, and local ambiance. From world-famous thoroughfares to hidden gems waiting to be discovered, let’s embark on a memorable journey through Seville’s captivating streets.

Explore Seville’s historic heart with our guide to the most enchanting streets in the city’s center. From the famous Calle Sierpes, lined with shops and tapas bars, to the cobbled beauty of Calle Mateos Gago near the iconic Santa Cruz neighborhood, discover the perfect routes for leisurely walks. Immerse yourself in the neoclassical allure of Tetuán Street, the artistic ambiance of Regina Street, and the riverside views of Betis Street in Triana. Whether you’re seeking shopping, history, or tranquil beauty, Seville’s historic streets have it all.

Certainly, here are some beautiful streets in the historic center of Seville that are perfect for a leisurely stroll on foot:

Water Lane (Callejón del Agua): This narrow and picturesque alley is a hidden gem near San Francisco Square. It’s a delightful spot to discover

Alcázares Street (Calle Alcázares): Close to the Royal Alcázar, this street offers appealing views of Andalusian architecture. It’s surrounded by historic buildings and is perfect for a relaxed stroll.

    Mateos Gago Street (Calle Mateos Gago): Located in the heart of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, this cobbled street is famous for its historic charm. It’s surrounded by historic buildings, restaurants, and bars.

    Placentines Street (Calle Placentines): Another street near the cathedral, this cobbled alley is known for its medieval architecture and historic ambiance.

    Sierpes Street (Calle Sierpes): One of the most famous and picturesque streets in Seville, it’s lined with shops, boutiques, cafes, and tapas bars. Perfect for shopping for souvenirs and soaking in the local atmosphere.

    Francos Street (Calle Francos): Close to Seville Cathedral, this street is famous for its restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s an ideal place to explore after visiting the cathedral.

    Tetuán Street (Calle Tetuán): This street is known for its neoclassical architecture and lively atmosphere. You can find shops, boutiques, and cafes along the street.

    Regina Street (Calle Regina): Located in the Alfalfa neighborhood, this street is known for its bohemian and artistic atmosphere. It’s a great place to explore art galleries and designer shops.

    Betis Street (Calle Betis): This street in the Triana neighborhood runs parallel to the Guadalquivir River and offers beautiful river views and views of the Torre del Oro. It’s especially charming at sunset.


    Ángel María Camacho Street (Calle Ángel María Camacho): This picturesque street is located in the San Lorenzo neighborhood and is adorned with potted orange trees. It’s a pleasant place for a tranquil walk.

      These streets in Seville’s historic center offer an authentic experience and immerse you in the beauty and unique atmosphere of this city.

      Must-Visit Cordoba Landmarks for Muslim Travelers: Explore the fascinating Mezquita and More

      Must-Visit Cordoba Landmarks for Muslim Travelers: Explore the fascinating Mezquita and More

      Cordoba, Spain, is a city that holds a special place in the hearts of Muslim travelers due to its rich history as a center of Islamic civilization during the medieval era. Explore the iconic Mezquita-Catedral, a fusion of Islamic and Christian architecture. Discover the Alcázar’s Islamic-inspired elements and the archaeological wonder of Medina Azahara. Stroll through the charming Jewish Quarter and visit Cordoba Synagogue. Immerse yourself in a multicultural journey through Cordoba’s historical gems.

      Here are some of the must-visit landmarks and cultural sites in Cordoba that offer a glimpse into its Islamic heritage:

      1. Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba: Undoubtedly the most iconic symbol of Cordoba, the Mezquita is a breathtaking mosque-cathedral. Originally constructed as a mosque during the Islamic rule of Al-Andalus, it features a mesmerizing forest of red-and-white striped arches. The subsequent addition of a cathedral within the mosque creates a unique blend of Islamic and Christian architecture. It’s a site of historical and architectural significance.
      2. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos: While not an Islamic monument, this fortress-palace served as the headquarters of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, after the Reconquista. It has beautiful gardens and features elements of Islamic design, making it an interesting stop for those interested in Cordoba’s history.
      3. Medina Azahara: Located just outside Cordoba, this archaeological site was once a magnificent palace-city built during the 10th century. Although it is now in ruins, its layout and remaining structures provide insights into the grandeur of Islamic Cordoba.
      4. Calahorra Tower (Torre de la Calahorra): This historic tower once served as a gateway to the city and now houses the Museum of Al-Andalus Life. The museum showcases the culture and daily life of Al-Andalus during its Islamic period.
      5. Judería (Jewish Quarter): Explore the narrow, winding streets of Cordoba’s historic Jewish Quarter. While it’s known for its Jewish heritage, the neighborhood also has Moorish influences, and you can visit the Casa de Sefarad, which explores the coexistence of Jewish and Islamic cultures.
      6. Cordoba Synagogue (Sinagoga de Córdoba): Although a synagogue rather than a mosque, this 14th-century building reflects the architectural and cultural diversity of Cordoba’s history. It’s one of the few well-preserved medieval synagogues in Spain.
      7. Plaza de las Tendillas: This bustling square is a hub of activity in Cordoba. While it doesn’t have a specific Islamic connection, it’s a great place to experience the city’s vibrant atmosphere and savor local cuisine.

      Cordoba’s Islamic heritage is a testament to the city’s multicultural history, where Islamic, Jewish, and Christian cultures converged and coexisted for centuries. These landmarks provide a captivating journey into the past and showcase the enduring influence of Al-Andalus in modern-day Cordoba.

      Discover Seville’s Islamic Heritage: Must-Visit Landmarks for Muslim Travelers

      Discover Seville’s Islamic Heritage: Must-Visit Landmarks for Muslim Travelers

      Seville, Spain, is a city with a rich Islamic history, as it was once a significant center of Al-Andalus, the Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula. While much of the Islamic architecture has been altered or repurposed over the centuries, there are still several landmarks and sites of historical and cultural significance for Muslim travelers to explore:

      1. Alcázar of Seville (Real Alcázar de Sevilla): The Alcázar is a stunning palace complex that showcases a blend of Islamic, Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The Patio de las Doncellas and the intricate plasterwork in various rooms are particularly noteworthy.
      2. Giralda Tower (La Giralda): Originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville, the Giralda is now the bell tower of Seville Cathedral. You can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city.
      3. Archaeological Ensemble of Itálica (Conjunto Arqueológico de Itálica): Located just outside Seville, Itálica was a Roman city with significant Moorish influence. Explore the Roman ruins and see the remains of a Roman amphitheater.
      4. Santa Paula Mosque (Mezquita de Santa Paula): This mosque serves the Muslim community of Seville and is open to visitors. It offers a peaceful place for prayer and reflection.
      5. Plaza de España: While not directly associated with Islamic history, this iconic square features a mixture of architectural styles, including some Moorish influences in its azulejo (ceramic tile) designs.
      6. Barrio Santa Cruz: This historic Jewish and Moorish quarter features winding streets, charming courtyards, and remnants of Seville’s Islamic past.
      7. Triana Neighborhood: Cross the Guadalquivir River to visit Triana, where you’ll find the Castillo de San Jorge, which has Islamic origins and was later transformed into a Christian fortress.
      8. Casa de Pilatos: This palace combines Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance, and Roman elements. While not a mosque, it showcases the architectural fusion characteristic of Andalusia during Islamic rule.
      9. Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus: This cultural center offers live performances of traditional Andalusian music and dance, providing insights into the region’s Islamic heritage.

      While Seville has transformed over the centuries, these landmarks and areas allow Muslim travelers to connect with the city’s Islamic history and experience its unique architectural and cultural legacy. Please note that some of these sites may have restricted access or specific visiting hours, so it’s advisable to check in advance.

      Top things to see and  do in Ronda

      Top things to see and do in Ronda

      New Bridge

      One of southern Spain’s most famous attractions, Ronda’s epic Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, spans the 328-feet-deep El Tajo gorge, linking El Mercadillo (The Little Market), the newer part of town, with the old Moorish quarter. Completed in 1793, it took some forty years and the lives of 50 construction workers to build.

      Day Trip to Ronda from Seville Spain

      For just 2.50 euros you can visit the museum in a little stone-walled cavern in the middle of the bridge, which was used as a prison throughout the 19th century and during Spain’s Civil War (1936-1939). It is also said, that during the Civil War both Republican and Nationalist prisoners whose luck had run out were thrown from the bridge to their deaths. For a searing fictionalization of a massacre which it is said was loosely-based on events in Ronda, see Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

      18th-century bullring

      Opened in 1785, Ronda’s stately bullring is now used just once a year for the exclusive annual bullfight of the town’s September Feria. It was on the pale sands of this historic arena that a new kind of bullfighting was forged by Francisco Romero in the 18th century. Romero introduced the now iconic red cape known as “the muleta”and faced the bull on foot, whereas before matadors had performed on horseback.

      Ronda´s historic bullring; pixabay

      Outside the arena are statues of Antonio Ordonez, another important Ronda bullfighter and of a life-size fighting bull, which better enables you to understand how hard it must be to keep still when one of these half-ton animals is running at you.  There are several daily tours of the bullring and you can learn more about the controversial spectacle that takes place within it, at the excellent museum.

      Plaza de Toros de Ronda, 15 Calle Virgen de la Paz, Ronda, Spain, 0034 952 87 41 32

      Ernest Hemingway Pathway

      Ronda’s bullfighting culture-inspired not one but two works by the Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway. Ronda-born Cayetano Ordonez (1904-1961) was the model for the swaggering bullfighter Pedro Romero in Hemingway´s Fiesta – a novel which also made the bull-running fiesta of Pamplona world-famous (some would say much for the worse). Cayetano’s son, Antonio Ordonez (1932-1998), became a great torero as well and his intense rivalry with matador Luis Miguel Dominguín during the 1959-60 season was documented by Hemingway in A Dangerous Summer.

      The writer is remembered in Ronda by thePaseo de Ernest Hemingway, a pathway that runs alongside the top of El Tajo river in the ‘new’ part of town and which offers some of the best views of the surrounding landscape.


      Hemingway was inspired by Ronda´s great bullfighters; Encarni Novillo

      The Moorish Palace

      La Casa del Rey Moro was in fact built in the 18th century, long after the town fell to the Christians in 1485. It sits atop El Tajo gorge on the old Moorish side of town and, although the palace is closed to the public, you can still walk down the steep stone staircase of the Water Mine – which actually does date from the city’s time under Muslim rule – all the way to the bottom of El Tajo.

      Matt Blackwell, flickr

      Ronda´s “Water Mine” Matt Blackwell, flickr

      During Ronda’s Moorish occupation, it was to this perilous staircase that Christian slaves are said to have been chained in order to pass containers of water up to the town from the river Guadalevin. The neck-craning views of Puente Nuevo from the bottom of the gorge are well worth the 300-step trek back to the top.

      Casa del Rey Moro, 9 Calle Cuesta de Santo Domingo, Ronda, Spain, 0034 952 18 71 19

      Walking in El Tajo

      On either side of the New Bridge, there are scenic walking routes to the bottom of El Tajo canyon. On the side of the old town, a little country path takes you down the hillside and under the great bridge itself, via some slightly hairy sections that resemble a much lower but less well-maintained version of Malaga’s terrifying Caminito del Rey.

      On the side of the newer part of town, a better-maintained pathway takes you across one of the quaint older bridges that New Bridge was meant to improve upon, and back up the other side of the gorge past the Casa del Rey Moro. Both of these undemanding walks provide an abundance of spots from which to contemplate the untamed beauty of Ronda’s location.

      One of the pathways leading down into Ronda´s "El Tajo" gorge; Encar Novillo

      One of the pathways leading down into Ronda´s “El Tajo” gorge; Encarni Novillo

      Old and New Town

      El Tajo canyon not only rendered necessary Ronda’s most iconic attraction, but it also divides the town into two separate halves, each with its own style and atmosphere. La Ciudad – or The Town – is the original Moorish part and weaves around one central Street, Calle Armiñan, south of Puente Nuevo.

      The best time to explore the old quarter -Ronda was under Muslim dominion from 712 to 1485- is in the evening or at night when the coach-loads of tourists are in their restaurants or hotels on the other side of the canyon.

      On the northern cliffs of El Tajo is the more commercial part of town, known as El Mercadillo  or The Little Market – it was developed after the Arabs were expelled towards the end of the fifteenth century. The heart of modern-day Ronda has retained all of the beauty and charm of Andalusia’s gorgeous ‘white villages’, even if its Plaza España is now home to a Macdonalds.

      A pretty backstreet in the old Moorish quarter of Ronda; Harvey Barrison, flickr

      A pretty backstreet in the old Moorish quarter of Ronda; Harvey Barrison, flickr

      The Arabic Baths

      Despite the fact they were in continual use for some 600 years, Ronda’s 10th and 11th-century Arabic baths are among the best-preserved in Spain (along with those in Granada).

      Ronda´s Arabic baths are mong the best-preserved in Spain; Bobo Boom, flickr

      Ronda´s Arabic baths are among the best-preserved in Spain; Bobo Boom, flickr

      Though their working parts are no longer in existence, it is not hard to imagine the busy social life that unfolded within these cool, domed rooms, the ceilings of which are attractively studded with star-shaped vents for light and ventilation. They were situated outside the old city walls, near to one of Ronda’s original bridges, the Puente Arabe.

      Baños Arabes, 11 Calle Molino de Alarcón, Ronda, Spain, 0034 952 18 71 19


      The pathway that runs from Ronda’s bullring and along the cliff-edge to Paseo Ernest Hemingway and Puente Nuevo contains a number of viewing points that are hilariously called ‘Balcons Coños’ in Spanish. These balconies jut out over the cliffside and provide straight-down views that will make even the least vertigo-suffering of visitors shudder.

      These vertiginous platforms feel much sturdier than they look when viewed from a distance, especially if there are a number of (cursing) visitors crammed onto them.

      Hernán Piñera, flickr

      One of Ronda´s hair-raising balconies Hernán Piñera, flickr

      Bird watching

      If you can bring yourself to inch onto one of the precipitous balconies overhanging El Tajo canyon, they provide a perfect spot from which to try and catch sight of some of the area’s beautiful airborne wildlife.

      "El Tajo" gorge is home to many beautiful species of birds; Encarni Novillo

      “El Tajo” gorge is home to many beautiful species of birds; Encarni Novillo

      The gorge that splits Ronda in two is an ideal hunting and nesting ground for its many species of bird, among which are eagles, kestrels, falcons and the menacing Griffon Vulture, which has a giant 9-meter wingspan. Ronda’s clifftop location allows you to feel part of these magnificent birds’ natural habitat in a way you rarely can at less stomach-churning heights.

      Original post: Mark Naylen, The Culture Trip