The Muslim Past of Andalusia

The Muslim Past of Andalusia

The Muslim and Christian worlds were not always far apart. In 711, a Muslim army moved from the territory of current Morocco through the Straits of Gibraltar and conquered almost the entire territory of Spain and Portugal in just a few years. Contrary to the beliefs of many people, the new conquerors were not brutal assassins sweeping and burning everything in their path.

Conquest Without Violence

When the Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula, there were many wars in Europe, no state had a strong ruler while tribes and rich feudal were fighting for lands, power, or wealth. Europe was weak and vulnerable, stifled by wars. The same situation was in Spain also. When Muslims came to Spain, many people did not even try to fight because they did not see the point, others saw the advantage of the new conquerors, and the third simply did not feel the difference to whom belong and pay taxes. Muslims, often referred to as Moors in the Iberian Peninsula, guaranteed order, and freedom to their new subordinates in exchange for the adoption of Islam. And Jews or Christians who wanted to keep their religion just had to pay extra taxes. The conquered Christian lands in the Iberian Peninsula were broadly named Al Andalusia (lands inhabited by vandals), and a little later the independent caliphate of Cordoba was established.

For nomadic Muslims from arid areas, fertile European lands with many springs and rivers looked like paradise. The Moors began to develop agriculture, brought oranges and lemons from Morocco, pomegranates and fig trees from the Middle East, irrigation canals were installed from Mesopotamia, and windmills began to sprout on the mountains as in Afghanistan. Muslims began to develop trade, and paper production technology that facilitated the process of knowledge transfer and accumulation.

The Most Important Cities

The capital of the Caliphate, Cordoba, became the intellectual center of the whole Europe, and the Arabic language became international. Many Europeans came to this city to learn and get an education. The locals, even not being Muslims, dressed and spoke like Arabs as that was the trend of fashion, it meant belonging to a higher social and intellectual level. At the end of the 10th century, Cordoba was one of the largest cities in Europe with a population of about half a million, nearly 700 mosques and more than 300 public baths, and the surviving unique maze of old town streets is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Córdoba Mosque.

Seville, which flourished after the collapse of the Caliphate of Córdoba, became the next most important centers of Muslim culture. Probably here appeared and later spread not only around the Iberian Peninsula, but also around the territory of present-day Morocco, the so-called mudejar architectural style born of early Gothic and traditional Islamic art, often referred to in North Africa as the Andalusian style.

After Christians arrived in Seville in the mid-13th century, the former palace of the Moorish rulers was almost destroyed. However, King Pedro I of XIV Castile, in perfect agreement with the Emir of Granada, Muchamed V, asked the latter to send his best architects and builders to build for the king the same magnificent and luxurious palace of the Alhambra in Granada.