Famous for their thirst for scientific knowledge, rich cultural identity and stunning architecture, the Moors’ influence on Europe and European thinking is not in doubt. But to truly understand the impact that this civilisation had on Southern Europe, take an escorted tour of Andalucía and Morocco.
Why an ‘escorted tour’, you may ask? Well, the reason is that we’ve become so used to seeing the whitewashed buildings, domed windows and mosaics of southern Spain as quintessentially ‘Spanish’ that it’s good to have a guide on hand to show you where these influences actually come from.
Moorish History in Spain
It was in the eight century that the Moors first settled on the Spanish mainland, when the Umayyad invaded Iberia. The occupation lasted a staggering 700 years until they were expelled by the Spanish in the fifteenth century following the Granada War. With such an intensely intertwined past it is hardly surprising that southern areas like Andalucía share many architectural similarities with its neighbours across the Mediterranean in Morocco.
The Alhambra Palace
One of the most striking places to see Moorish architecture on mainland Spain is in the Andalucían city of Granada, on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The vast Alhambra Palace (literally ‘red castle’) is probably the best known Moorish structure in Spain. A massive fortress which protected Moorish royalty within its walls, contains palaces and gardens, all of which can be explored by visitors.
The Giralda Tower
While the Alhambra Palace might be the most impressive Moorish structure in the region, it is certainly not the only one. On an escorted tour you’ll discover how much Moorish architecture which has survived on the mainland has been incorporated into later structures. But don’t worry, your guide will know where to find it. Like the Girlada tower which now forms part of the Cathedral in the Andalucían capital, Seville. The twelfth-century bell tower features both Moorish and later Spanish Renaissance designs and is a fascinating insight into how the two cultures have merged over the years.
For some more pure Moorish architecture, ask your guide to take you to the Alcazar Castle with its stunning gardens, it may not be quite on the scale of the Alhambra Palace but it is, nonetheless, spectacular in its grandeur.
Across the Water to Morocco
Of course, once you’ve seen the influences of the Moorish civilisation on Spain, it’s good to be able to head over to North Africa to see the similarities between the two continents for yourself. Stop off at the ancient cities of Marrakech or Tangier and you’ll be amazed at the similarities with its Spanish neighbour.
The influence went both ways, of course, and a visit to the blue city of Chefchaouen offers a great balance to the story. In Chefchaouen it was the Moriscos and Jews trying to escape the Spanish Inquisition in Europe who brought with them the predilection for painting all their building’s blue. The style caught on with the local population and today Chefchaouen is almost entirely blue.
An escorted tour of this region is far more than a cultural holiday, it is a way of understanding the history of Europe, a way to take our past off the pages of history books and see it instead in glorious technicolor, right before your eyes.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing luxury holidays to many destinations around the globe. Recently his well received escorted tour to Morocco has been included in the holiday portfolio. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and stay up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts, history and culture.