Itinerary 02 - 12 October 2012
The final itinerary of this tour will be anounced in due course
|Richard Hunt taught social history at Southampton University, where he was responsible for art and history in the Adult Education Department. He is founder of the Travellers' Club and has led many tours, mainly to the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia. He has conducted tours of Morocco since 1997, and Andalucia & Morocco since|
In 1492 Granada, the last capital of Islamic Spain, fell to their Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castille. The long réconquista, begun when the Moslem armies were halted near Poitiers in 732, was complete and Al-Andalous – Moslem Spain – was no more.
For more than 700 years Andalucia, the heartland of Al-Andalous was described as the Earthly Paradise across the medieval Islamic world. Stories of its wealth and luxury, its wool, silk, oil and wine, its learning and culture, embellished by palaces and mosques were reported back through North Africa and the Middle East. The Moslem rule extended at times from the Straights of Gibralter north to the Pyrenees. But it was in Andalucia, the most southern province, where the rich Islamic civilization penetrated most and lasted longest. Here were the great capitals of Al-Andalous - Seville, Córdoba and Granada – with their courts and centres of learning – which at times rivalled even Baghdad as the centre of the Islamic world.
As the reconquest slowly advanced, the Catholics burned the books of the infidel, and turned their mosques into churches, but their palaces and forts, merchants’ houses, fountains and courtyards often survive. Christian and Islamic Spain were not so divided as we are taught: intermarriages occurred and the need for craftsmen meant that many Moslems who would have been expelled were spared. And the links can still be seen in the narrow lanes and alleys of towns, the music and dance, and even the cuisine of the region. We explore just a few of the major centres of Moslem culture in Andalucia.
Starting in Seville, we travel via Carmona across the across the great plain of the Rio Guadalquivir to Córdoba, then by road to Granada and finally from Ronda to take the flight home from Malaga. For those continuing to Morocco we take the picturesque railway through the mountains with glimpses of the sea to Algeciras and the ferry to Tangier.
SEVILLE is the capital of Andalucia Region and of Seville Province, a port dominating the Guadalquivir River. It is a very ancient city, bearing evidence of succeeding civilizations - the Roman emperors Hadrian and Trajan were born in Italica nearby; Vandals and Visigoths ruled the city; the Moslems made Seville a major centre of their great civilisation until 1248, when the Christians under Ferdinand III captured the city
and adapted rather than destroyed many of the monuments. Traces of early Moorish civilisation are evident in the small, winding streets, the low, white houses with balconies, the courtyards, and the fountains, as well as in the remains of a wall that once surrounded the city. The Alcázar, a royal palace built for Pedro the Cruel by Moorish craftsmen from the Alhambra in 1181 still stands. A vast Gothic cathedral, started in
1402 and finished in 1519, stands on the site of a 12th-century mosque. The cathedral houses world-renowned paintings by such famous Spanish artists as El Greco, Murillo and Zurbaran. The Giralda, the cathedral's bell tower, standing more than 300 ft high, originally served as the minaret for the mosque – an adaptation that was to be followed in so many places. The discovery of the New World and the opening of America to Spanish commerce after 1492 proved very profitable for the city as trading developed rapidly between the two continents. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Seville had become a leading centre of Spanish culture – a position it holds to this day as a well-known site of World Fairs, international congresses and European summits.
Our programme will include the many of the architectural delights: the Cathedral, the Alcázar, a walk through the picturesque Santa Cruz quarter - the old Jewish district. We plan to visit the Casa de Pilatos, owned by the Duke of Medinacelli in 1483. This, too, was built by Moslem craftsmen after the Christian reconquest in a style called Mudejar - the grandparent, many times removed of Spanish Art Nouveau. The
Hospital de la Caridad has all that remains of the shipyards built by the Moslems, while the Torre del Oro, which once defended the dockyard, is now the Maritime Museum. We hope, too, to experience the cooking of Andalucia in the restaurants and tapas Bars, and the real flamenco of the region.
3 nights in the hotel Dona Maria. This is a small charming and very comfortable hotel, with small roof-top
pool, a few steps from the Cathedral
CORDOBA. By train to Cordoba. The city was annexed by Rome in 152 BC, but sacked by the Visigoths in the 5th century. In 711 it fell to the Moslems, who made it their base for the conquest of Spain and advance into France. It became the capital of Al-Andalous in the mid 8th century, under ‘Abd ar-Rahman, who built the great Friday Mosque – La Mesquita – big enough to house the population of the city at the noon prayer. As the city grew, so did the mosque under successive rulers. The growing importance of Córdoba was seen in 929, when a successor – Emir ‘Abd ar-Rahman III – proclaimed himself Caliph (political successor of the Prophet). He, too, enlarged the mosque, built his new country palaces at Madinat az Jahra, and encouraged the trades and craftsmen of the city. A huge industry of book copying and binding flourished as great libraries were established in what became the most splendid court of Europe. By the
10th century Córdoba was the richest city in the West, but in the 11th its decline had begun due to political intrigue, which caused the Caliphate to disintegrate into factionriven minor lordships. The city fell to Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236 and its prosperity and many of its monuments disappeared.
There remains, however, La Mesquita - one of the jewels of all Islamic architecture. True, its conversion to a Cathedral in the 16th century did much to destroy its beauty, and while the Christian insertion is in the centre of the complex, much of the great court of pillars survives, arranged in simple columns with arch built upon arch. Although only about half of the columns are in situ, (there were perhaps 850) the impression is overwhelming. The rows of orange trees in the garden echo the columns, adding to the
tranquility of the whole.
Cordoba also has the remains of other aspects of its greatness: city walls and towers, bridges and waterways, bath houses and the remains of small palaces may all be seen, while the Madinat az Jahra (6kms away, see above) is being restored.
2 nights in the small modest hotel Gonzalez, in central Cordoba, close to the Mezquita.
GRANADA A picturesque journey takes us from Córdoba to Granada. On the way we pass through Baena, a small but prosperous walled city until it was taken by Ferdinand II in 1240. Parts of the fortress remain and the Convento de la Madre Dios was built by Moslem artisans after the capture of the city. Arriving at Granada, we shall be exploring the last of the Sultanates, which lasted from 1231-1492. At the fall of Córdoba, Moslems and Jews of all ranks sought refuge in Granada. The city was, of course, much older and largely inhabited by Jews. But the dynasty which ruled over Granada in this last period were the Nasrids, who paid tribute to the Christians, leased them land and established armed truces with Aragón and Castile. Finally, fanatical religious leaders came from Morocco, who antagonized the Christians and precipitated the fall of the city once Spain was united. Many Muslims and Jews fled to Africa, settling in ‘Andalucian’ colonies in Fes and other cities; some were slain, and others changed their names and
adapted to the new régime –applying their skills to the needs of the Christian masters.
Granada has a wonderful setting, built on three hills, which look out to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. Here Moslem decorative art reached its zenith, and although no carpets or books survive, the decoration of Muslim buildings – especially the Alhambra – is unsurpassed. The Alhambra is a series of buildings, close to the centre of the city, and defended by walls and towers. It contains palaces, barracks, offices, gardens. Perhaps the most famous of the structures of the Alhambra is the Alcázar, built in the 12th
century but there are many other palaces with courtyards and towers, doorways and ceilings to admire. By contrast, The Generalife was the summer palace of the Sultans – away from the bustle of the city, with orchards and pastures. Much changed by later occupants, the original purpose can still be discerned. This is a place to appreciate green and cool water gardens, which were an essential part of the design.
Granada has much more to offer us: the Chapel Royal – burial place for the Spanish monarchs – was begun in 1506 and finished by the Emperor Charles V in 1521. The Cathedral was built from 16th to 18th centuries, and the city has many churches and convents. The Moorish baths date from the 11th century, and the Albaicín is a very fascinating quarter of the city in which to wander. It was the site of the first Muslim
fortress, and the last retreat of the Muslims when the Christians entered Granada. Here are narrow, whitewashed alleys with walls concealing houses and gardens, and from St Nicholas’ Terrace, the finest views of The Alhambra and Generalife. Time in Granada to explore alone, and perhaps more tapas and flamenco!
3 nights in Granada at the Hotel America. This is a very small hotel which normally does not accept groups, within the gardens of the Alhambra, with its own patio.
RONDA By train to Ronda - our last major stop on this all-too-brief journey through Andalucia. This fascinating town was a miniature Islamic court, which fell to the conquerors in 1485. It was gunpowder that led to its downfall: until first used, Ronda was impregnable due to its great gorge that divides the town. The medieval ramparts and bridges are well-known. There are many picturesque streets in the Ciudad – the old town: minarets converted to belfries, churches, the best-preserved Muslim baths in Spain, and a number of houses with Islamic origins.
2 nights in the delightful small Hotel San Gabriel in the picturesque town centre.
Our final journey is on the small train that picks a picturesque route through the mountains and down to the sea. To Malaga airport for those returning home; to Algeciras and the ferry to Tangier for those continuing to Morocco.
To contact us about this Tour telephone 01425 480600 or via email here.