Centuries ago, when Moors ruled the Iberian Peninsula, they ushered in an age of discovery and enlightenment that would not be repeated in Europe until the Renaissance.
Nearly eight hundred years of Moorish rule significantly influenced the culture of Spain. To appreciate the impact of Moorish rule, consider the language of Spain, where the city of Almeria (derived from the Arabic al-Mariyah), and Alhambra (derived from the Arabic al-Qal'at Al-Hamra for 'the Red Fortress'), alquería (Spanish for farmhouse, from the Arabic al-qaria for 'the village'), and aceña (Spanish for watermill, another Moorish invention, from the Arabic as-saniyah), indicate Arabic roots. Arabic was the language spoken in Moorish courts. The Moors encouraged musical forms such as flamenco and the development of musical instruments like the guitar. They also enriched daily experiences through the introduction of the toothbrush, the cultivation of oranges and lemons, almonds, coffee, bananas, eggplants, and the development of cottons and silks. Through translations of Ptolemy, Archimedes and Pythagoras, and the introduction of a new numbering system, Arabic and Moorish society improved and altered our modern understanding of medicine, mathematics and astronomy.
The hospitals (maristan) of Moorish Spain were open to people of all faiths, regardless of economic status. Within Moorish tradition, there was the concept of free care for anyone who was sick. Along with providing care for the infirm and well, poor and wealthy alike, the hospital also served as an asylum. Beginning in June 1367, the hospital of Granada built in the Albaicin, dwarfed by the Alhambra along the right bank of the Darro river, became a renowned example of compassionate care for its residents. The Nasrid ruler Sultan Muhammad V ordered the hospital's construction beginning in September 1365. Glazed mosaic tiles, marble and stucco lined the interior. Plaster encased the brick facade of the two-storied structure. There were two staircases on the longer sides of the building giving access to the second floor. Recessed galleries and square rooms surrounded a courtyard featuring a long pool with two fountains on either side, decorated by lions similar to those figures in Alhambra's Court of Lions. Those from Granada's Moorish hospital are now housed in the Alhambra Museum, the palace of Charles V.
The Giralda tower in Seville became Spain's first observatory. Completed during the reign of the Moroccan ruler of Spain, Almohad caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, construction began on the tower under the architect Ahmad ibn Busa. Stones within the Giralda date back to Spain's Visigothic and Roman periods. There was no staircase built within the tower; instead 34 gradually ascending ramps provided access as the tower soared to 320 feet. Four bronze spheres plated with gold rested atop the Giralda until a 14th century earthquake destroyed them. After the conquest of Seville in 1248, the observatory became a belfry. The Giralda remains the bell tower of the cathedral of Seville, where the bones of Christopher Columbus have rested since the 19th century.
Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the medieval period. She is the author of historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers. Lisa has also written three novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy and Sultana: Two Sisters, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family.