The Moors (Muslims) and Christians co-existed for 800 years in Spain. Al-Andalus is the Arabic name for the area that was ruled by the Moors from 711 to 1492 and it is said this is where Andalucia got its name. Their rule covered most of Spain, most of Portugal and the southern part of France.
Names that start with Ali, for example, are of Moorish origin and many spices and food we enjoy today (aubergines, almonds, apricots, peaches, pomegranates, coriander, saffron, sugar-cane, figs, grapes, rice) were brought to Europe by the Moors.
Modern sciences, including vocabulary, have their roots in the Moorish era. A mix of religions came from other countries to study in the libraries and universities of Al-Andalus. There were more than 18 universities of note in Moorish Spain, while there were only 2 of any value in the rest of Christian Europe.
This love and talent for science led to many prosperous manufacturing industries. Toledo made the best swords in Europe, Murcia turned out the finest brass and iron instruments and it was the Moors who introduced gunpowder into Europe.
The festival of the Moors and Christians takes place all over Spain at different times of the year and in some (like Benamaurel) go on for days. They often include a particular element of local history but most start with the reconquest, ( when the Christians reconquered the Iberian peninsula). The closing scene usually involves the conversion of Moors to Christianity or their expulsion to Africa.
Besides watching the street festival many people get involved as part of the ‘play’. Muslim or Christian symbols, coats of arms and banners are hung from balconies, people wear traditional costumes and dramatize the various scenes in the street.
It’s extra special to see so many young people included in these events, and even the very young children look forward to dressing in costume.
Many people can trace their ancestors back to the Moors as over the centuries the Moors and Christians made many mixed marriages. In fact the first invaders didn’t bring any women with them and a vast number second generation Moors were actually half Hispanic.
The parades show many characters in fantastic dress. Fireworks, the sound of thundering guns and swords clashing are all part of the fun and this amazing period in the history of Spain can be seen and experienced when you travel in Spain and the Iberian peninsula.