The Shared History of Morocco and Spain
What I find so compelling about an exploration of Morocco and Al Andalus is not just the sheer number of exceptional sites that can be seen at once but, above all, the chance to consider the scale of the cultural exchange between the two countries over so prolonged a period of time, uniting two continents which might otherwise be easily seen as so different. The magnificent Alhambra stands as a symbol of the Reconquista, capturing the moment when the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the last the Nasrid sultan, Mohammed XII, thereby bringing an end to the once dazzling period of Muslim rule in Spain. This moment in 1492, which was commemorated by the Spanish Monarchs’ adoption of the pomegranate as a symbol, was also marked by the expulsion of Jews from all Spanish lands and the ratification of a series of restrictive laws against Muslims which led to their expulsion not long after. The line separating Christians and Non-Christians, Europeans and Africans was, thereby, enshrined, enabling the Reyes Catolicos to unite their disparate subjects through the tried and tested practice of scapegoating. As many of the non-Christian Spanish, the Moriscos and Mudejar, ended up in Morocco, this division was played out in geographical terms.
Despite this fissure between the two countries, for millennia there was a dazzling exchange of cultures between Morocco and Spain, starting with the Roman period and culminating in the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties in which Berbers rulers in Marrakesh intervened in Spain, staving off the collapse of Muslim rule in Spain and in which they commissioned such staggering monuments as the Kutubiyya Minaret in Marrakesh and La Giralda in Seville which linked Spain and Morocco through a common language of architecture. Looking at the number of people leaving Morocco for Spain and vice versa, bringing with them shared customs and art, I am reminded about the futility of boundaries and the wonder at the power of traditions.
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