These 4 Spanish Cities Will Beguile You With Their Islamic Sites
Whether you want to make a beeline for an outstanding mosque, grand palace or awesome tower, these are the top cities to visit….
A great alternative to the usual kind of Eid or summer holiday is one that will get your family appreciating the beauty of Islamic art and architecture. While beach resorts may automatically come to mind while thinking of Spain, it’s also a fascinating destination for exploring Islamic culture. Having been a Muslim settlement for a big part of recent human history, the country is home to a number of jaw-dropping sites that track back to the golden age of Al-Andalus (Andalucía).
Spain Tourism has rounded up some of the most significant historical attractions and sought after Muslim sites that are sure to enthrall Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Read on if you’re interested on going on a historical adventure through once glorious Muslim cities with spectacular architecture, enthralling design and special charm.
Home to Ibn Rushd (Averroes), one of the most influential Islamic scholars, Cordoba is a great place for visitors to catch a glimpse of the glorious Islamic civilization that set its roots in Spain. The city, the former capital of Al Andalus, is home to the Great Mosque, one of the most impressive monuments of the western Islamic world. The fascinating mosque is an excellent example of Omeya architecture, harmoniously fusing different styles and influences to its spectacular design.
Visitors to the city can also find other intriguing Islamic sites such as Medinat Al-Zahra, the once flourishing palace-city of Abd-al-Rahman III, the most prosperous caliph in the West, in the 10th century. Located eight kilometers west of Cordoba, the palace that was originally surrounded with gardens and open fields is now open to public visits and contains a modern museum below the site. Visitors who want to learn about the history of the site will find records of its construction, inhabitants and eventual downfall, all illustrated with beautiful displays, in the museum.
Calahorra Tower, which currently houses the Museo Vivo de Al-Andaluz, is another must-visit while in Cordoba.
Spotlight on Aljafería Palace
If you’re passing through Zaragoza, make time to visit Aljafería Palace. Originally a defensive tower called Torre del Trovador, in the 11th century it saw the addition of a residential palace built by Al-Muqtadir for the Hudid rulers of Saraqusta. The palace holds vital significance, since it is the only remaining example of Hispanic Islamic architecture from the Taifa period, making it possible to marvel at all the splendour and grandeur the Taifa kingdom was known for. Visitors to the palace will find the Golden Hall, the private mosque and the patio of Santa Iabel particularly interesting to visit.
Málaga, the land that gave birth to Picasso, was also once a brimming trade centre under Islamic rule. The eight prosperous centuries while Muslims were in control saw impressive economic growth, and the evidence can be seen through several monuments that stood the test of time.
Alcazaba, which literally translates to 'fortress' in Arabic, is one of the city's most significant Islamic sites. Visited by numerous tourists all year round, this peculiar fortress combines its pragmatic design with the beauty of Arabic palaces to shape a beautiful example of the Muslims' unique architectural heritage.
Visitors to Málaga can also see traces of Islamic history in sites all around the city, including the Arab Baths of Ronda, which were built in the 13th century, and The Centro Cultural Andalusí.
Sprawled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, Granada was the Muslims' last stronghold in Spain, where they left behind a prominent mark of Islamic culture and heritage.
The city’s main attraction is undoubtedly Alhambra Palace. Visitors flock from all around the world all year round to marvel at the palace and its surroundings. Once known as a fortress called Alcazaba, the place was rebuilt by Muslims as a military base due to its strategic location, but was later turned into a royal residence.
Granada is also home to other Islamic sites such as the Granada Mosque, Albayzin Muslim Quarters and La Madraza.
The saying goes that when you leave Seville, the wonderful capital of Andalucía, it does not leave you. Known as Europe's gateway to India, from which Columbus first set sail to the shores of the new world, this mesmerising city boasts remnants of over 500 years of Islamic history. So it isn’t surprising that Seville, once known as "Ishbiliya," has numerous fascinating heritage sites.
Historically known as al-Qasr al -Muriq, the Alcázar of Seville was a Muslim fort that saw many additions built by Christian kings in later years. It is one of the most significant sites of Islamic architecture in Spain and one of the country’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This particular site has been chosen throughout the ages of different civilizations, cultures and dynasties to be the centre of power. As different rulers settled in the palace, it kept expanding gradually throughout the years, and is now a standing monument of Spanish history. This resting place of kings, it hides a collection of fortresses, gardens and palaces behind its fortified walls.
The Giralda, a 90-metre-high historical beacon of magnificence that was once a minaret of the city's mosque and is now the official symbol of Seville, and Terro Del Oro (Tower of Gold), a tower overlooking River Guadalquivir which once had a dome covered with golden tiles, are two other sites worth visiting in Seville.