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The Real Moors (Part 1)

The Real Moors

(Part 1)

Each year in many parts of Spain there are re-enactments of Moors vs Christians.

Some of the re-enactments have the Moors trying to land and being repulsed by shore defenders waving muskets, and there are caballeros displaying their horse skills on pure blood (Pura Sangre) Arab horses, winning favours from the moorish ladies. The pageantry is very colourful, if somewhat inaccurate.

The celebrations centre around the expulsion of the Moors and one can be forgiven for thinking that their reign in Spain was a brief one, but in fact they ruled Spain for eight centuries, bringing light and culture after the Visigoths who ruled Spain after defeating the Romans.

The dying embers of their glory after they were expelled in 1492, lead to the exploration of the likes of Cortes and Pizzaro and of the discovery of The Americas, before the rule of the Inquisition and the darkness that Spain was plunged back into.

Those in the local re-enactments dressed as “Moors”, are very Arabic looking with cultured beards and fierce eyes but the Moors were muslims of African descent.

A European scholar at the time made the following observation:

“The reins of their (Moors) horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were swift as leopards and the riders fiercer than a wolf in a sheepfold at night . . . The noble Goths, the German rulers of Spain, were broken in an hour, quicker than tongue can tell.”

The Arab world had mainly ignored the conquests of Alexander the Great and he died before he could make good his promise to bring them to heel. They kept to themselves until the beginning of the 7th Century when Mohammed the Arabian Prophet began to preach the religion of Islam.

Mohammed united the desert tribes behind him and before he died he was master of Arabia, and the united tribes who had embraced the Moslem or Mohammedan faith were already spreading over the neighbouring lands and subduing the astonished nations.

Under his successors the Khalifs, his armies overran Persia and Egypt and North Africa as far as the Pillars of Hercules until only the fortress of Ceuta stood between them and Spain.

At that time Roderick the King Of Spain had dishonoured Florinda, the daughter of Julian the governor of Ceuta when she was under his protection at court in Toledo.

Florinda managed to get a letter to her father, who until that time had been keeping the Moors from entering Ceuta. He hastened to Toledo and keeping his anger disguised, he took her away back to Ceuta.

On his return he declared a secret peace with Mūsa, the son of Noseyr, the Arab governor of North Africa, and offered him four ships to cross to Spain. Musa sent five hundred men, under Tarīf, in 710, as a raiding party to plunder Algeciras. Tarīf returned again in July, and landed at the place which still bears his name.

In 711 Mūsa despatched one of his generals, the Moor Tārik, with 7,000 troops, most of whom were also Moors to make another raid upon Andalusia. He landed at the lion's rock, which has ever since borne his name, Gebal-Tarik, Gibraltar.

He met the whole force of Roderick’s army advancing to meet him, and the two armies met on the banks of a little river, called by the Saracens the Wady Bekka, near the Guadalete, which runs into the Straits by Cape Trafalgar.

When the Moors saw how outnumbered they were, they had to be rallied by Tārik:

"Men, before you is the enemy, and the sea is at your backs. By Allah, there is no escape for you save in valour and resolution."

The battle lasted a week with some of Roderick’s Nobles betraying him and retiring from the battle before it started. When the dust settled The Moors had their first foothold in Spain.

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