Soul Of The Southern Renaissance: Andalusia

Andalusia Is one of the most popular tourist destinations In the world. It enjoys beautiful weather, splendid architecture and a rich history.

One cannot deny that the economic downturn has been felt very acutely here, especially after the ‘brick bubble’ burst, exposing out-of-control building schemes as well as the banks. But the region still relies on tourism as its main source of income. And there is an older kind of brick that still sparks the visitor’s interest. Every year, millions of people come to stroll through the sultan’s palaces, to admire the grand mosques and to breathe the air of old Al Andalus. But what lies behind such beautiful and seemingly exotic structures such as the Alhambra Palace, the Cordoba Mosque and the Giralda Tower?
When I was a kid, going to primary school in Barcelona during the 70’s and 80’s, the imprint and inertia of forty years of Francisco Franco’s was still palpable in our education. And when it came to studying Muslim Spain, eight centuries of our history were reduced to little more than a paragraph in our textbooks. The story went like this: eight thousand Arabs arrived in Tarifa in 711, taking over Spain within three years and ruling sizable territories of the peninsula, and then the Catholic Kings, Fernando and Isabel, led the Crusades and reconquered the lands, causing the fall of Granada and forcing Sultan Boabdil to hand over the keys to the city in 1492. This rather theatrical account of events is known by some historians as the myth of the Moorish cavalry. But it overlooks an important point, namely, how long did it take the Roman war machine to take over Iberia? Two hundred years! It makes you wonder how a few thousand Berbers from North Africa were able to conquer the peninsula in a mere three years!
Ignacio Olagüe was perhaps the first Spanish historian who began to uncover a different picture in his book The Islamic Revolution in the West. He wrote it during Franco’s time, and despite his being a strong Catholic and a proponent of the regime, he revealed surprising facts about the expansion of Islam in Hispania. His main thesis is that most people here were in fact Unitarian Christians (in other words, Christians who reject the concept of the Trinity). So, for these Iberians, who believed in the oneness of God, it was an easier and more rational leap to embrace Islam, with its simple understanding of Divine Unity, than to accept the more foreign and complicated belief system of the Catholic Church. Olagüe’s book was first published in France and re-named The Arabs Never Invaded Spain. It was not until 1974 that the book came out in Spain under its original title.
Other accounts of the ‘Al Andalus miracle’ may be found in more political explanations like taxation. While the people here were widely oppressed by the heavy taxes levied by Christian kings and feudal lords, the Muslim rulers established a single tax, the zakat, abolishing most other levies. But Emilio Gonzalez Ferrín, following the in footsteps of Olagüe, also describes a culturally unified North Africa and Iberian Peninsula. According to his research and vision, both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar shared a common reality, there were regular migrations between them, and their peoples embraced Islam by conviction as a natural progression from their beliefs and world views. He also argues that Al Andalus is an essential component in the configuration of Islam as a civilization. And it is interesting to note that the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence did not even exist at the time, since in 711 the first of their founding scholars, Imam Malik, was not even born.
Andalusia is intrinsic to the very establishment of Muslim civilization, just as it is also an undisputed part of Europe’s development. The period of the Caliphate, for example, is regarded as a golden age in European history. Cordoba, with a population of about half a million, eventually surpassed Constantinople as the largest and most prosperous city on the continent. It was one of the leading cultural centers and had by far the most advanced agricultural sector.
The work of its most important philosophers and scientists, like Abu al-Qassim and Ibn Rushd, had a major impact on the intellectual life of medieval Europe. Many scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, came from abroad to study in the famous libraries and universities of Al Andalus after the fall of Toledo in 1085. One of them was Michael Scot (1175 - 1235), who took the works of Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) to Italy.
As Prince Charles explained in his 1993 speech at Oxford, “The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognized. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was stored for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilization, and made a vital contribution of its own in many fields of human endeavor.”
Visiting Andalusia today is an exuberant experience of the senses, but it can also pose provocative questions for the discerning traveler: The architectural style of the Alhambra, for example, is a distinctly western phenomenon. The Cordoba Mosque may have originally been built by Christians. The Giralda was designed by Ahmad Ibn Basso, a Muslim architect of northern European descent. And this year, the first mosque in Granada after five hundred years, built by native Spanish Muslims in the Albaycin, a beautiful building facing the Alhambra, reaches its 10th anniversary. So there is no rise and fall of the curtain in Muslim Spain, but rather the complex, continuous and organic process called history.

ANDALUSIA IS A PINNACLE
PROF. DR. BEKİR KARLIĞA

The brilliant Islamic civilization of Andalusia represents one of the pinnacles of universal knowledge, thought and art. At the same time, it was one of the main components in the liberation of the West from the dark age of medieval Scholasticism. As the renowned historian John William Draper put it, “[in London and Paris] whoever stepped over his threshold on a rainy day stepped up to his ankles in mud”, whereas in Cordoba “… After sunset a man might walk through its solidly paved streets in a straight line for ten miles by the light of public lamps.” Young people keen to acquaint themselves with the sources of universal culture were flocking to Andalusia from the various cities of Europe.
Enriched by the commentaries of Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Arabic versions of the works of Plato and Aristotle were being translated into Latin, Hebrew and the local languages in Andalusia and Sicily, and in a short time became the texts used by professors in the universities of Paris and London. Under the influence of the great Islamic scholars Averroes and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), European intellectuals joined forces as Averroists and Avicennists despite pressure from the Church and the Establishment and lit the fuse that sparked the Renaissance.

LOCUS OF TOLERANCE AND DEVELOPMENT
PROF. DR. İLBER ORTAYLI

Andalusia was born when the Muslims, led by the great commander Tariq ibn Ziyad, crossed into Spain, in other words, Europe, in the wake of Uqba ibn Nafi’s African conquests. A local Berber, Tariq ibn Ziyad was at the same time a great soldier and strategist. And the most crucial of his strategies was, after crossing to Spain by ship, to burn those ships, which meant there was no turning back. Even today this region, Gibralter, takes its name from Jabal-i Tariq, meaning Mountain of Tariq in Arabic. This rock is Great Britain’s last colony on the continent. There are some points worth noting in the conquest of Andalusia. One of them is that the Visigoths were here. The Visigoth King Rodric was defeated by Tariq, and the Iberian Peninsula was conquered in its entirety with the exception of Galicia in the north and Catalonia in the northeast. The Muslims founded new cities here as well as developing the existing ones. Prominent among those they developed are Toledo, Valencia and Sevilla. Agriculture and architecture flourished here under the Muslims. Along with the Muslim Arabs and Berbers, Spain in this period also acquired a large Jewish population. One of the most important phases in the history of Jewish culture was experienced in Andalusia, a development that was made possible by an approach that protected and preserved the new atmosphere of tolerance and cosmopolitanism introduced by the Muslims.

AND THERE IS NO VICTOR BUT GOD
The Alhambra Palace is one of the most refined examples of the poetic synergy of water and stone ever produced by human hands. And the motto, “La galibe illallah/There is no victor but God”, of the Nasrid Dynasty, creator of the Alhambra, is imprinted thousands of times on its walls. Lines from more than fifty poems and several different verses of the Quran adorn the walls and columns of the palace. But the manifestations of this civilization that developed in Spain are not limited merely to its architecture. Producing valuable works in almost all the contemporary branches of learning including astronomy, physics, medicine, geography and mathematics, it prepared the way for the European Renaissance.

Thin-crust pizza with seafood and a thick layer of cheese offers a tasty alternative and an enjoyable meal.

Malaga Automotive Museum impresses with its extensive collection of classic cars, all with a story to tell.

A selection of herbal teas and yummy cookies is available at the tea houses of Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla.

Turkish Airlines is Istanbul-Malaga-Istanbul flights, which are currently five days a week, to seven days a week on June 24.

What to Eat?
Spain offers a rich menu of abundant, fresh and cheap seafood. As well as traditional tapas, paellas with seafood and red meat a la Latin America, it’s no problem finding the finest examples of world cuisine either.

Cordoba Mosque is one Andalusian Umayyad masterpiece that has managed to survive, in part at least, to our day. The interior, entered through a spacious courtyard bursting with bitter orange trees, is magical! Weaving between the hundreds of columns and graceful curving arches towards the mihrab, you will revere the memory of the great masters of the past when you behold its inscriptions and illumination.

The minaret of the Cordoba Mosque is one of the city’s icons. Visible from many points around the city, this monumental minaret bears silent witness to history. Cordoba’s narrow, flower-filled lanes open onto the square where this mammoth mosque and its minaret stand.

But it is the Alhambra Palace without a doubt that is the most prominent representative of the Andalusian culture heritage in Granada. With its delicate columns and arches, its 12-lion fountain and the engineering genius displayed in its use of water in the living areas, the Alhambra is an absolute masterpiece! Traces of the past in venues large and small exist side by side with modern culture in the city, and that is precisely the soul of Andalusia!

The Strait and Rock of Gibralter (Jabal Tariq in Arabic) mark the spot where the European and African continents are in closest proximity to each other. This point, from which the Muslim forces of Tariq ibn Ziyad first set foot on the Iberian Peninsula, is known today by the name of that renowned commander.

Starting from the coast where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet, Andalusia is a region of several cities and hundreds of settlements large and small. It is linked to Morocco by ship and fast ferry from Tarifa and Algeciras. Traveling inland northwards from the coast through olive orchards and emerald green mountains, one comes to the historic medieval towns. Ronda is one of the best-known of these mountain settlements. Like a veritable eagle’s eyrie with its matchless landscape and monumental bridge, this town is one of Andalusia’s must-see places.

Sevilla is Andalusia’s largest city. And the Alcazar Palace is one of the most striking and vibrant examples of Andalusian architecture in this town perched on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. As you tour the halls of this palace, an extraordinary fusion of the Islamic and Gothic styles, you will feel as if you are strolling through the corridors of history. Alcazar is a monument that combines flawless examples of geometry and proportion in an outstanding, sophisticated style. And the colossal bell tower, La Giralda, is the minaret of Sevilla Great Mosque today.

The streets of Sevilla are lively and bustling. The venues here are a riot of color with cafes, bookstores, and souvenir and authentic sweets shops. Andalusia’s traditional music and architecture make themselves felt in modern life as well. And with its summer festivals, Sevilla is inundated with tourists from all over the world, especially from Europe.