Forgotten Moorish Sites in Murcia Hold Treasures Yet to Be Discovered
The city and Taifa (emirate
or petty kingdom) of Murcia were founded during the period of
Moorish occupation in Spain. When the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula in
711 AD they were able to hold their rule for 500 years. However, when the
Christians conquered the area again, the Taifa of Murcia and many of its
treasures gradually became lost over time and space. Nonetheless, the modern
city of Murcia was built on top of old dwellings, and some fragmented remains
of Moorish buildings can be seen at various points of the city today.
The Tin Mal Mosque is a mosque located in the High Atlas mountains of North Africa. It was built in 1156 to commemorate the founder of the Almohad dynasty, Mohamed Ibn Tumart. The prototype for the Tin Mal mosque was the Great Mosque of Taza (near Fès), also built by Abd al-Mu'min. The Koutoubia in Marrakech was in its turn modelled on it.
The Tin Mal mosque was, until the early 1990’s, in quite a poor condition. However with funding from local Moroccan charities it has now been partially renovated.
The Almohad Dynasty (meaning “the monotheists”) was a Moroccan Berber-Muslim dynasty founded in the 12th century that established a Berber state in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120. They ruled over large parts of Northwest Africa and, until 1212, also southern Iberia.
This flag is the first known flag of “Morocco”. It is red with a 64-square chessboard placed in the middle of the flag. Red might refer to the Fatimids, white to the Umayyads and black to the Abbasids, who had established a protectorate over Kairuan and Fes.
The Almohads continued to rule in Africa until the loss of territory through the revolt of tribes and districts enabled the rise of their most effective enemies, the Marinids. The last representative of the line was reduced to the possession of Marrakesh, where he was murdered by a slave in 1269.
Is Matthew Paris’s story of an English diplomatic delegation, sent by
King John to the caliph of Morocco in the summer of 1212, nothing more
than fiction, or does it report actual historical events? Did King John
really offer to subjugate his kingdom to the Muslim caliph and did he
consider converting to Islam? Was one of John’s diplomats genuinely a
converted Jew with whom the Muslim ruler conversed about theological
And how may a new reading of this medieval chronicle in its
appropriate historical context contribute to our understanding of the
professionalization of diplomatic practice, the emergence of European
bureaucratic kingship, Christian–Muslim political interaction,
interreligious polemic, and conversion?
In this book, these questions
are explored as part of the first full-scale study of Matthew Paris’s
report. The volume proposes an entirely new interpretation of the text
and portrays a multifaceted and inherently complex picture of the
interactions between Christians, Muslims, and Jews around 1200 that
draws on law, politics, statecraft, history, culture, and religion. This
study also prompts a re-evaluation of the delegation story as a ‘test
case’ for John’s measures during his reign. Matthew’s text is examined
in its historical context of Christian–Muslim encounters on the frontier
in order to advance our understanding of a crucial era of political and
Illustration of Sancho VII “The Strong”, King of Navarre from 1194 to 1234.
He participated in the Christian Reconquista in Spain against the Moors, his leadership was decisive in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. A decisive victory of an allied force of Christian Iberian Kingdom against the ,mostly African, troops of the Almohad Caliphate. This victory marked the decline of the Muslim rule in Spain. His nickname “The Strong” was given to him because of his imposing height and strength. According to forensic studies of his skeleton he was 2.23 mts (7 foot 4 inches) tall.
Have you heard of the Marinids? No? They ruled Morocco from the 13th to 15th Century’s … still no? Okay, you probably should have, because their administrative and military center was Fes Jdid, and Fes was the LARGEST CITY IN THE WORLD at the time.
So who the heck were these guys, and what makes them so special?
Picture North Africa, particularly the area around Tunisia, Tripolitania and Constantinois. There was a tribe bumbling around this desert known as the Zenata Berber, but because their parties were always tame as hell, a splinter group known as the Marinids formed and they poddled off westward and into the north-eastern Morocco area.
Now Morocco was already owned by a local gang known as the Almohads, so when the Marinids arrived they were all “yo, yo, whatchudoin’here?” The Marinids responds “it’s cool, bro, chill. We’re just gonna sleep under this palm tree here, we’re not crashing for long. Listen, if you need to tumble, count us in, ‘cos we’ve got sick MMA moves and we’re useful in a scrap, right? Call us.”
They did something right, because the Almohads not only let them stay, but they did take them on various little sorties, one of which was deep into Spain against King Alfonso VIII of Castile at the Battle of Alarcos, where the Muslim forces drop kicked the Christians into a bloody submission.
And because the Marinids really strutted their stuff there, when they got back home they had kind of an inflated ego and figured that they were owed a little more than a palm tree to sleep under. So they started taxing the local farmers and acting all like a proper little government, which really – to put it mildly – pissed off the Almohads. I mean, they were meant to be doing the taxing around here, what the heck were the new guys doing?
Things got strained and the Marinids got themselves thrown out on their ear; a little like that couch guest who not only overstays his welcome, but he uses the last of the coffee and doesn’t offer to replace it. Yeah, he’s gotta go.
But in their 30-year exile in the mountains, the Almohads started to get shanked by the forces of Spain and bit by bit territory was being lost. Feeling bad for their former mates, the Marinids rode down from the mountains in a glorious demonstration of friendship and support.
Pfft! Of course they didn’t, they rode down from the mountains and started rabbit punching the Almohads in the kidneys, stealing every bit of land they could! They took Taza, Rabat, Salé, Meknes and Fes, made Fes their capital (‘cos: swanky place, yo!), hired a bunch of Christian mercenaries, and took Marrakech. From starting off as a small group of dissatisfied nomads, they were suddenly in charge of a small kingdom. Time to party.
But there was a problem, because around this time the Kingdom of Castile is being a right royal pain in the arse. After recovering from their defeat at Alarcos, the Spanish Christians were all over the place, tipping over plant-pots, tagging walls, turning over trashcans. It was a right mess.
Their ruler - Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali – decided to do something about it. A large kick-ass army was pulled together: 40,000 cavalry, a whole slew of Andalusian archers, and a personal bodyguard of 7,000 men. And you know that you’re doing something right in the world if your personal escort is of the 7k range.
Of course, if you have close to 50,000 men at your disposal you may as well do something with them, and during the years around 1340 various little kingdoms and cities were throat-punched into submission, which gave the Marinids a huge territory, spanning from southern Morocco to Tripoli.
Time to deal with the damn Spanish Christians and the Kingdom of Castille.
al-Hasan gathered up his fleet, threw his massive army on it, and sailed over the short distance to Gibraltar. The Christians – somewhat alarmed, because they hadn’t invited anyone for a sleep-over – were face-smashed and their entire fleet was reduced to matchsticks. Out of almost 40 Christian ships, only 5 managed to escape to Cartagena.
Muslim troops started to flood across the Straits and into the Peninsula and they started besieging anything that couldn’t move out of the way. But the sultan screwed up: the cost of maintain his fleet was pretty high, so thinking that Castille would take a long time to rebuild, he laid up his ships, returned borrowed ones, and left himself with just 12.
What he didn’t know is that Alfonso XI was running a Kickstarter campaign to raise a new fleet, and his biggest backers - King of Aragón and of his father-in-law, Alfonso IV the King of Portugal – threw in 27 ships. Which promptly turned up in the Straits and cut off all supply lines from Morocco.
Meanwhile old Al and his buddy King Po’ gathered together 20,000 of their best Marinid stomping men and they started marching on the Sultan’s position.
“Well … bugger.” Said Hasan.
He had to act quickly, but an all-out assault against the besieged Tarifa failed and lost a whole slew of guys on both sides, forcing Hasan to break the siege and seek the safety of two hills nearby. They had barely got there when the Christians arrived, promptly placing themselves between the Muslims and the beach. Between the two was a valley crisscrossed by streams and a river, which – in hindsight – probably wasn’t the smoothest of places on which to wage a battle.
That night Alfonso sent 1,000 horse and 4,000 foot to Tarifa hoping to catch the sultan’s men there from behind and give them a rude surprise. But the troops encountered very light resistance and entered the town without a problem. Now the Muslim commander in charge of ensuring that didn’t happen reported to Hasan that “not a single Christian has entered Tarifa.” So either he was covering his ass and didn’t want to get into trouble, or he was completely oblivious to 5,000 men marching through his position. In either instance, the following day this erroneous report would have serious consequences.
October 30th … ‘twas a fine morning and the sort of weather that invigorates the soul and has you reaching for your halberd looking for a body to skewer.
The Christian war council decided to split up into two main forces and hit each of the Muslim hills simultaneously. And then they met the river and had to do some serious assed fighting, failing to cross in the center, but capturing a bridge on one flank. The fighting was tough, but the Christian forces were able to cross and start heading up the hill towards Abu Hasan’s camp.
Hasan was all “pffft, we’ve got this shit,” and had good reason to defend the hill extra hard, because he just happened to have his many wives there. As you do. When in battle. Take the family, nice day out and all. Maybe a picnic. Picnics and battles just go together so well.
And it’s at this point that the reinforced garrison from Tarifa appeared and smashed up the backside of the Sultan’s position. I’m guessing at this point that Hasan probably looked towards his commander from the night before and said “you lying little fucker,” but it’s somewhat by-the-by, because the entire camp was utterly smashed beyond recognition.
The Sultan was forced to withdraw off the hill, but in so doing saw that some distance away, isolated from the main army. The two locked eyes, started mad-dogging each other, and Hasan ordered an all-out attack on the king. Alfonso was all “Bitch, I will freaking pwn you!” and started to ride into melee while sticking out his arms and wiggling his body. No one knew what he was doing, but the trend would catch on about 700 years later.
Archbishop of Toledo, Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz, grabbed Alfonso’s reins and muttered “Sire, you’re a king, what the fuck are you doing?” and promptly led him away from the fight. Somewhere distant Hasan’s cries of “Yeeeaaaahhh bitch, mommy is protecting you!” haunted Alfonso’s ears.
The fight raged on until Christian forces sacking the rich Sultan camp looked up and thought “oo’eer, we probably should get back down there!” and it was with their arrival that the Muslims finally broke.
And the pursuit was RUTHLESS.
I’m talking almost 4 miles of you running for your life and tens of thousands of men pursuing you. FOUR MILES. No mercy was shown by the Christians and they butchered their way from the battlefield to the Guadamecí river. The Sultan’s wives were killed, kinfolk were captured (including his sister and son), and various Muslim celebs. It was carnage.
Hasan got away and that night sailed for Ceuta in a galley.
This was a disastrous defeat for the Marinids, forcing them to withdraw from Andalusia. And just as they had pounced on the Almohads years before, so too did an eastern faction of Arabian tribes rise up in southern Tunisia, thus losing them their eastern territories.
Stained glass window depicting Sancho VII of Navarre at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, that took place on July 16, 1212. Sancho was one of the leaders of the Christian coalition against the almohads, along with Alfonso VIII of Castile and Pedro II of Aragon (there were also Portuguese volunteers, but their king was not present at the battle). The battle was a decisive turning point in Spanish history.
“Jews lived happily together with Muslims and in harmony before Israel was established.” How many times have you heard this said?
During the rise of Islam, the first encounters between Muslims and Jews resulted in persecution when the Jewish tribes of Medina were expelled or killed .In Moorish Spain,there was the 1066 Granada massacre, when more than 1,500 Jewish families, numbering 4,000 persons, fell in one day, and in Fez in 1033, when 6,000 Jews were killed. There were further massacres in Fez in 1276 and 1465.
Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830 and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300,000 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.
The Damascus affair occurred in 1840, when an Italian monk and his servant disappeared in Damascus. Immediately following, a charge of ritual murder was brought against a large number of Jews in the city. All were found guilty. The consuls of England, France and Germany as well as Ottoman authorities, Christians, Muslims all played a great role in this affair.
Following the Damascus affair, Pogroms spread through the Middle East and North Africa. Pogroms occurred in: Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jerusalem (1847), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901-02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901-07), Port Said (1903, 1908), Damanhur (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891), Istanbul (1870, 1874), Buyukdere (1864), Kuzguncuk (1866), Eyub (1868), Edirne (1872), Izmir (1872, 1874). There was a massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1828. There was another massacre in Barfurush in 1867.
In 1839, in the eastern Persian city of Meshed, a mob burst into the Jewish Quarter, burned the synagogue, and destroyed the Torah scrolls. Known as the Allahdad incident. It was only by forcible conversion that a massacre was averted.
In 1941, following Rashid Ali’s pro-Axis coup, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in which approximately 180 Jews were killed and about 240 were wounded, 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed.
While the Allies and the Axis were fighting for the oil-rich region, the Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husayni staged a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq and organized the Farhud pogrom which marked the turning point for about 150,000 Iraqi Jews who, following this event and the hostilities generated by the war with Israel in 1948, were targeted for violence, persecution, boycotts, confiscations, and near complete expulsion in 1951.