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Thursday, 15 June 2017

The History

The history of Andalucía was defined by its specific location: squeezed in between ocean and sea as well as a mountain range that made traveling to or from the rest of the peninsula very difficult.

At the narrowest point the distance with Africa is only 12 Kms or 8 miles, over sea, which for centuries on end was an easier 'road' than over land, and thus so it comes that 'the Moors' were able to conquer this region - as well as defend it for so long.



The word 'Moors' stems from the Latin 'mauros', which meant black. Still today, the provenance of the word can be noticed in the names of countries as Morocco or Mauritania. 

We often assume that the 'Moors' were Arabic. Only a minority of some 10% were: the majority were 'Berbers', or the original inhabitants of northern Africa. The correct name today is Amazigh. 

It was a Berber, captain Tariq ibn-Ziyad, who led the initial incursion into the Iberian peninsula. The name Gibraltar is derived from 'Jabal Tariq', or mountain of Tariq. This occurred in the year 711 and from that point the Muslim rule spread - for Andalucía all the way through the year 1492.

During this Moorish era of 'Al Andalus' - an expression that is thought to be derived from Vandalusia, or country of the German tribe the Vandals - the region flourished unlike any other region in Europe at that time.

The Berbers and Arabs brought mathematics ('Algebra' is an Arabic word), naval knowledge ('Admiral'), translated the works of Socrates and Plato into Latin so Europe also started to know these philosophers - a boom of knowledge and culture that turned Cordoba and especially its university into the intellectual and cultural epicentre of the era - and cities as Seville and Granada become hot spots for the rich and powerful.

The myth of Al-Andalus as being a shining light of tolerance and peace might be exaggerated very much, it is true however that Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in relative harmony. Very little is known about facts that could contradict this image. 

And then Isabella I of Castille married Ferdinand II of Aragon... bringing two very large regions together, two armies, two economies, and finally here was a power that could take on the 'foreign intruders' in the south: the Muslim rulers. 

'The Catholic Kings', as the couple is named, started the 'Reconquista': reconquering the whole of the peninsula. And so in 1492 the Muslim era ended - with the fall of the last kingdom in Granada. 

Muslim and Jewish subjects were forced to 'adapt' or go into exile. The first did so towards North Africa, the second moved abroad, mainly to liberal Amsterdam, where they became known as Sephardic Jews, or Jews of Arabic and Hispanic descent. 

It wasn't until their grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, that the political unification of Spain was completed. 

Naturally, this is not the whole history of Andalucia. 
This region saw the Romans pass by, the Visigoths, the previously named Vandals, not to mention the tribes and tribulations of the 20th century. 
It's this part of history though that makes Andalucia so... Andalucian. 
So distinct. 

This era in which Europe and North Africa blended into one, is the reason for the magnificent monuments, the architecture, the water systems, the food, the music, and the main trigger of cultural tourism.

Discover: the town guide of Andalucia

Posted by: Graham on Thursday, 15 June 2017


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