13 Interesting Moorish Influences in Spain
Moorish influence in Spain is undeniable. A major part of Spain’s immense cultural richness came from the Moorish conquerors. The Muslims and Arabs who conquered parts of Spain in the 8th century lived there for 800 years!
Who were the Moors? The term refers to Muslims living in Europe. Back then, the term “moor” was also used to describe a dark-skinned person.
Spain was a collection of independent kingdoms in 711, and the first group to arrive in the Iberian Peninsula were the Muslims. A long period of warfare between Muslims and Christians ended in Muslim rule from 722 to 1491. After La Reconquista (the re-conquest), the Emirate of Granada fell, but the Moorish influence in Spain lived on.
Moorish influence in Spain is evident in the cuisine, spices, architecture, and much more. Read this article to learn more about this Moorish legacy that lives on in modern Spain.
13 Interesting Moorish Influences in Spain
Now let’s dive into the fascinating Moorish influences in Spain that live on. And here are 10 Differences Between Castilian and Latin American Spanish you should know before your trip to Spain.
See also: Spanish culture, traditions, and beliefs
An abundance of elements come from Arabic in many languages, including Spanish. Most languages in Spain have been influenced by Arabic.
The Muslims had a great influence in the south where the Moorish lived. Catalan and Basque have fewer Arabic lexical elements, but they still contain about 4,000 words that come from the Arabic language.
Most Arabic words in the Spanish language are nouns; few are verbs or adjectives. Words that begin with “al” in Spanish are derived from Arabic.
Hand-picked for you: Spanish words that came from Arabic
2. Cultural Innovations
Muslims brought innumerable cultural innovations such as alchemy, algebra, and chemistry. The concept of zero, chess, and the use of numerals came from the Moorish influence in Spain. Aristotelian philosophy had been lost until the Muslims reintroduced it in Spain.
Since the Moors ruled Spain for about 800 years, they had time to bring scientific techniques to Europe such as the astrolabe, a device to measure the position of the planets and stars. There was scientific progress in chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, physics, and more. Thanks to the Moorish influence in Spain, these cultural innovations have continued to bloom in Spain.
Music was greatly affected by the Muslim’s presence in Spain. New melodies and instruments emerged in the territory, making Spanish music a splendid fusion between Arab and European culture.
The famous Spanish guitar and flamenco music comes from the Moorish history in Spain. The structural elements are similar to the music in northern Africa. The Moors brought it with them to Spain, and it became the basis for the enchanting music in Spain.
The delicious and fragrant yellow rice in paella owes its golden tinge to a unique Moorish spice called saffron. This yellow rice that was cultivated by the Moors has become a staple of Spanish cuisine.
Paella is a prominent dish in modern Spanish cuisine that represents the great influence the Moorish still have today in the European country. Paella consists of yellow rice, seafood, vegetables, and unique spices.
The Moors also brought other foods to Spain such as apricots, pomegranates, peaches, and date palms.
5. The Catholic Mosque
The Catholic Mosque is one of the finest examples of Moorish influence on Spanish architecture. It was split in half in the 700s and wasn’t completed until the 17th century.
This mosque has a section for Muslims and another for Catholics. It contains statues of Catholic saints and Jesus Christ, as well as Islamic horseshoe arches and verses from the Koran. This mosque represents two major religions in the complex history of Spain.
The Moorish also brought education to Spain. In Christian Europe, 99% of the population was illiterate in the 700s, including kings.
Europe only had two universities, while the Moors had 17 excellent universities! It’s no surprise that the Moorish influence in Spain played a huge part in the advancement of education.
Thanks to the Moorish influence, universities exist in Cordova, Almeria, June, Granada, Toledo, and Seville.
7. La Alhambra
La Alhambra sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Granada. This was the last city of the Moorish kingdom. In 1492, when Granada fell after the war, the city was left with this marvelous palace.
Alhambra means “the red one” in Arabic and it was named after the warm-toned stones that match the beautiful sunsets in Granada. It has keyhole arches and unique tiles that open into magnificent gardens and reflecting pools.
La Alhambra was rediscovered and romanticized by American and British travelers in the 19th century, and it’s a must see when you visit Granada.
8. The Renaissance
A great interest in education spread throughout Europe thanks to the Moorish influence in Spain. These scholarly pursuits had a major impact on the European Renaissance that began in the 1300s.
This was a crucial movement that inspired many of the greatest thinkers in Europe. When Cervantes wrote Don Quijote de la Mancha, he told the story from the point of view of a Moorish author.
The religion in Spain was an issue between the Moors and the Spaniards. Spain was a Catholic country, and the Moors were Muslim. This division affected the culture, including its cuisine and traditions.
Christian practice was more peaceful, whereas Muslims were strict about their beliefs and wanted to turn Spain into a Muslim country. Spain remained mostly Christian, but the Moorish influence remained. According to Statistica, at the end of 2020, there were approximately 2.2 million Muslims in Spain.
10. Cooking Methods and Spices
Moorish cuisine includes aromatic herbs and cooking methods that are still used in modern Spain. They not only brought unique dishes, but also implemented methods of food preservation that changed the way Spaniards ate. Dishes in Spain like salt-crusted baked fish originate from the Moorish influence in Spain.
Andalusian gastronomy has essential Islamic influences. They fry the food in oil to make it more flavorful but also to preserve the food for longer. They also use vinegar and olives in brine to preserve and cook food, all thanks to the Moors.
The Moorish cuisine also included unique desserts that are still popular in Andalusia. The Moors introduced almonds in pastry making, and now it’s an essential part of Spanish gastronomy including the famous tarta de almendras in Spain.
Other desserts influenced by the Moors are now also Christian inspired, such as torrijas de Semana Santa (Spanish french toast) and tocinos de cielo (egg and syrup flan).
Many romantic legends and stories are in the collective memory of the Moorish past of Spain. One of the legends tells the story of Vejer de la Frontera y Chefchaouen. This legend says that when Spain was under Moorish rule, a famous emir fell in love with a lady from Vejer de la Frontera, but when the Moors were kicked out of Spain after the war, these lovers moved to Morocco and built a settlement.
This is now Chefchaouen and their spirit lives in both Spain and Moors, bridging between the two cultures. Many people still tell the story of this legend in Spain and feel proud of their Moorish heritage.
The Moors improved and expanded on the Roman irrigation systems and helped develop the agricultural sector in Spain. They introduced new crops including lemon, orange, apricot, peach, pomegranates, and figs. They also brought cotton, silk, sugar cane, and rice.
Learn to Speak Spanish
Many dishes in Spain include Moorish spices, crops, and innovations. From agriculture to educational advancement, the Moors had a positive impact on Spanish culture. On your next trip to Spain, pay attention to its Moorish influences.
When you travel to Spain, you might wonder which Spanish dialect to learn. Well, it all depends on which part of Spain interests you the most. And it’s also important to note that the Spanish dialects are different from Latin American dialects and accents. Many travelers love to take a dialect class or two while traveling and immerse themselves in the culture.
One of the many reasons to learn Spanish is to become a translator or interpreter and travel for a living! Spain, the United States, and many countries in Latin America are looking for interpreters and translators on a regular basis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are among the fastest growing occupations, and the opportunities in these fields are expected to increase by 46% by 2022. By learning Spanish, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your career and even teach your children Spanish or set a family goal to become fluent in Spanish together before you travel.
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