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Why Spain is Home to So Many Beautiful Islamic Sites

Why Spain is Home to So Many Beautiful Islamic Sites

Spain is typically associated with Christianity, especially since the majority of the population consider themselves Catholic. Prior to its establishment as a Christian country, Spain was actually under Muslim rule for several centuries — from 711 to 1492.

Many examples of Islamic architecture can be visited across Europe.

Islamic Architecture in Spain

In fact, the name Andalusia, which is now an autonomous region in the southern coast of Spain, actually comes from the Muslim name of this territory: al-Andalus.

escapada a granada

Rich Islamic history

Al-Andalus covered most of Iberia, which we now know as Portugal and Spain. It was ruled under the Umayyad Caliphate, the first great Arab kingdom known for consolidating Islamic civilisation. Then it consisted of largely nomadic tribes spread across various areas.

It also established Arabic as its official language.

While Islamic civilisation flourished during this era, the Umayyad caliphs were more lenient about other religious minorities who were under their rule. Jews and Christians, for example, only needed to pay a certain tax in order to be granted protection under the caliphate.

Alcazaba Fortress Almeria Spain

Art and architecture

It is under such diversity that Islamic art and architecture flourished. In fact, the Museum with No Frontiers shows that this diversity is what defined Umayyad art itself. Artists incorporated Byzantine and Sassanian elements into their own artistic style.

Islamic architecture is clear to see through several key features.

  • The first is the minaret, a tall tower built to announce the call to prayer five times a day.
  • Domes are also important: the Dome of the Rock, now found in Jerusalem, was the first building to have such a feature.
  • Use of geometry and infinite patterns

Old Mosque Minaret Ronda Spain Blog

Moorish architecture

Meanwhile, Moorish architecture is the subset of Islamic architecture that was most articulated in Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. The opulence in this building style what makes it stand out from other architectural styles. Horseshoe and multi-foil arches set in stones of alternating colours. Walls often featured ornamental details in deep, rich hues. Cobalt blues, deep reds and golden colours. When visiting Morocco you can see clear examples of these architectural gems.

The movements of the Islamic people, during this period, have made these distinct architectural details evident in different regions. Not only in neighbouring countries such as Portugal or North Africa, but even in countries as far away as Malaysia.

Puerta Elvira granada spain

Islamic Architecture in Malaysia

In fact, you can find Islamic architecture making its mark in key cities across the vast continent. Malaysia is home to Neo-Moorish architecture, also known as the Mughal style. ExpatBets provides insights for travellers looking to explore different parts of Asia. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and a melting pot of cultures.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building sits at the centre of Kuala Lumpur. This stunning example of architecture covers a large expanse of land.  Mosques all over the country feature the signature domes, minarets, and ornamented arches very similar to those found in Spain.

Mezquita Mosque Cordoba

Remnants in Spain

Despite it being centuries since Spain was under Muslim rule, you can still get a feel of this empire’s vast influence through the architecture it left behind Alhambra in Granada, for instance, is a must-see, as visitors can walk through the entire palace. Granada’s Moorish quarters of Albaicín is another interesting place to visit. Especially if you want to get a view of how such architecture featured in everyday spaces. Here the Aljibes, moorish water collection tanks built centuries ago, still stand strong on street corners and squares around this neighbourhood.

There’s more to see beyond Granada. For instance, Cordoba was one of the cultural hotspots of al-Andalus, with three further ideas by TripZilla its clear how the city still retains the grandeur of centuries past.Bouganvillea in Seville Alcazar July 2018

The Andalusian city of Seville is also very much worth a trip. The Alcazar, in particular, is a site of Muslim and Christian exchange. Christian kings added to this Muslim monument by inscribing praises to their God in Arabic.

What are your favourite Islamic sites in Spain?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Mosque Minaret in Ronda Malaga Spain


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  1. Brian Neale says:

    Alhambra. Mezquita. la Giralda; albaicin; etc.

  2. Carlos says:

    Hi. Actually, much of the now know as “Islamic Architecture”, was generated from the primitive Visigoth Spanish Architecture. Elements such as the horseshoe arch, were created in Spain around the 7th Century and exported many, many centuries later to North Africa. The influences were on both directions, but came mostly from Al-Andalus to the rest of the Islamic world.

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