Mariam Kadodia

Written by

February 19, 2020


For our next challenge, we’re heading off to warm and sunny Andalusia to raise money to provide clean, safe water for communities across the globe. Our Andalusia Cycle Challenge is going to offer a fun-packed, yet challenging, week on two wheels across this beautiful region, insha’Allah.

So, what’s so special about Andalusia, I hear you ask?

Well, did you know that the region of Andalusia in the Costa del Sol (the Sunny Coast), hosts a lot more than sunshine, sandy beaches and saffron-infused paella (as great as that all is!)?

Yes, it was in fact once the centre of the Islamic world. Known as “Al Andalus”, for eight hundred years it was ruled by the Moors – native Amazigh (Berbers) and Arabs of North Africa.

This was a great period of history, art, literature and science where libraries were filled with thousands of books and people of all faiths came from all over Europe to attend the renowned university in Cordoba.

On a more practical side too, toothpaste and deodorant (key essentials in our daily lives!) entered Europe through Andalusia thanks to travellers from the other side of the Muslim world, Baghdad.

With such rich history and cultural diversity across the region, it’s a must-visit for Muslims, lovers of Moorish architecture and globe trotters alike!

So, in no particular order, here are our top seven gems of Moorish architecture in Andalusia. We definitely recommend visiting each and every one.

Take a look!

1. Alhambra Palace (Granada)

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Meaning “The Red One”, this UNESCO world heritage site was originally built as a small fortress on Roman remains in 889AD. The site was then renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by Nasrid Emir Mohammed ben Al Ahmar as a palace with surrounding walls, before later being converted into a royal place by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada in 1333.

In addition the stunning main palace, you’ll also find beautiful gardens and an accompanying summer palace known as the Palacio de Generalife (“The Architects Garden”). It’s definitely worth a visit!

2. The Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

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Once a small Visigoth church, this infamous mosque was later built on the site in 784 under the orders of Abd Al Rahman. It was then expanded by following Muslim rulers, before being converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral known as the “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption” following the Reconquista (return of Christian rule) in 1236.

With 865 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry, the mosque is similar in style to the Great Mosque of Damascus, which dates back to 634 and was completed in 715.

3. La Giralda (Seville)

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A registered UNESCO site, the giralda is now the bell tower of Seville Cathedral. With a total height of 343 feet, the tower was originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville in the 12th century during the Almohad dynasty. It was inspired by Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Following the Reconquista, the mosque was later converted into a cathedral in 1248. The site is now the largest cathedral in the world.

4. Madina Azahara (Cordoba)

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The ruins of Madina Azahara (“The Shining City”) once formed a fortified palace-city. Located four miles west of Cordoba in the foothills of the Sierra Morena mountains, it was first built between 936 and 940 by Abd Al Rahman III – the first Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba.

The capital of Al-Andalus at the time, the city included mosques, government and administrative offices, ceremonial reception halls, workshops, barracks, a mint, gardens, residences and baths. Extended by his son Al Hakam II, the city was then excavated in 1910 and is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name “Caliphate City of Medina Azahara”.

5. The Alcazaba of Málaga

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Built between 1057 and 1063 under the Hammudid dynasty, the Alcazaba was a defensive fortress and palace built on a hill in the centre of Málaga city – the capital of Andalusia. The site was partially built by reusing materials from the nearby Roman theatre. In fact, just below the Alcazaba now lie the remains of the Roman theatre (1 BC), which you can also visit!

Boasting beautiful gardens, fountains and patios, you can get an amazing view of the entire city from the top of the castle, whilst also taking an energising walk at the same time!

6. The Alcazar of Seville

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Meaning “fortified palace”, this royal palace was once a residential fortress built by Abd Al Raman III. Located near the main cathedral of Seville, it dates back to 712 and was later extended during the Alhomad dynasty, before being seized during the Reconquista in the 13th century.

A registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, here you’ll find beautiful courtyards, gardens and examples of Islamic art including arabesques, geometric patterns and calligraphy. What’s more, you may be surprised to find out that some of the rooms and parts of the garden were also featured in Game of Thrones!

7. The Arab Baths of Ronda

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Dating back to the 11/12th centuries, these baths were located next to the mosque at the time, offering a place to physically and spiritually cleanse oneself. An important feature of life during the period of Al Andalus, these baths are similar in design to Roman baths. However, whereas Roman-style baths involve bathing in hot water, these are instead traditional North African-style steam baths.

Using water from the adjoining Las Culebras stream, the baths had a sophisticated water system using a traditional Moorish waterwheel. What’s more, as well as serving as a place of cleansing and purification, the onsite pool offered a drinking fountain and wooden benches where people could talk and socialise during their visit!

 

SubhanAllah, such beautiful palaces, gardens and artwork! We definitely recommend taking a visit!

If you want to test yourself physically, explore the beauty of a wonderful location and save lives all at the same time – why not sign up to one of our challenges? Go on, be a lifesaver!

Sign up today!

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