EMINENT CITIES OF AL-ANDALUS & IBERIA TODAY
The model of cities with stable environments, where men of different sciences were commissioned to study and develop the different sciences, had already brought a cultural revolution in the East. Cities such as Damascus and Baghdad collected and further developed several elements taken from the Byzantine, Persian, Hindus and Chinese civilizations, integrating them within the Islamic holistic approach to knowledge. Further, the wise Hispaniola-Muslims, strongly influenced by this Eastern Revolution, also studied the ancient Greek philosophical work. New ways to sail at sea were opened by the development of the compass, new methods of irrigation for the fields where introduced and the paper was manufactured towards books of science.
The Medina, a city in Arabic, had defensive walls and towers, with optical communication systems and offered its inhabitants protection in times of war. The main streets of the medina where born at the doors of the city walls and were turned into stoned roads. The rest of the city where a labyrinth of little alleyways. These cities, both small and large, created stable environments where scholars in the different sciences would gather to share and further develop their studies. Large cities had sewerage systems for dirty water, public fountains with drinkable water and numerous baths. There where also or guest houses for the caravans which brought diverse merchandises to the town, coming from the farmlands, other cities or diverse foreign countries.
The beautiful land of Toledo stands the test of time and sits over the Tagus River. Toledo itself was the historical capital of Iberia prior and after the Muslim period until the XVIth Century. The city has a specific importance during both the Muslim and Christian rule. It is said that Toledo was the place where modern Science was founded. After being taken from the Muslims in 1085 it served as a place of exchange of knowledge between the two sides (11-13th C). Muslim literates were allowed to remain in Toledo long after its takeover. They were commissioned by Christian noblemen and royalty to translate and further develop the Sciences found in Al-Andalus and the rest of the Muslim world including Persia and the Middle East.
Cordoba was Spain’s first city ruled by Muslims since the early 8th Century, during the Junid period, early settlements of Muslims into Visigothic Iberia. Today we witness a unique, fused culture, from the Roman through to the Islamic period of Al-Andalus. The city was chosen by AbdulRahman al-Dakhil, the last descendant of the Ummayad dynasty in Damascus, founder of the Ummayad Emirate of al-Andalus. Al-Andalus was kept together as an Emirate from 750 EC, ruled from Cordoba by the Ummayad dynasty until it’s peak in 929 EC. It was at this point when AbdulRahman III, claimed himself Emir al Mu’minin making himself Caliph of Al-Andalus. Cordoba’s famous Ummayad Mosque contains many secrets that complete its history.
A symbol of the peak of Ummayad al-Andalus is also the Palatial City of Medinat al Zahra, which some claim to be of the first parliaments in Europe, where a government structure formed by 128 ‘walis’ or regional delegates would come together with the Visir and counsel the Caliph on the event of Ashura. Organized and commissioned taxes were collected from places as far as the silk, gold and other medieval commercial routes reached: eastwards to China and India and southwards to Senegal and deeper into Africa! Although the Court city only lasted just under 100 years, it symbolizes the climax of Muslim Spain, the Ummayad Caliphate and its downfall. After this period the Caliphate fell into smaller units or provinces becoming fortified Kingdoms in themselves.
Cordoba is a breathtaking city which contains many Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Roman architecture and cultural landmarks. The exotic city reflects shrewdly the diverse artistic and religious era of Spain and stands as an integral Spanish tourist destination. First-time tourists mainly look forward to visiting this sun-drenched jewel of Spain.
The history of Sevilla remounts prior to Al-Andalus, to the Roman period, today it stands as one of the key historical points on the Andalusian landscape. This is where the Almoravids settled in the early 11th Century, taking over Córdoba and the entire west of Andalusia. The ongoing battles against the Christians in the northern front had led the Almoravids in Sevilla to call in the more radical Almohads from Northern Africa for support. This, in turn, served to further intensify the already existing divisions in Islamic Spain. A turning point in Andalusian history was the battle of Navas de Tolosa, which took place in 1212 C.E. The Catholic-Christian alliance took over Cordoba in 1236 C.E. and Sevilla in 1248 C.E.
During this last period of Muslim rule, Sevilla became an important capital to the Christian monarchs, who would later become friendly with the Muslim sultans of Granada, receiving not only taxes but all sorts of gifts, artworks and handicrafts. A testimony of this is the incredible Alcázar Palace of Sevilla, “commissioned by Christian kings, built by Muslim craftsmen and financed by Jewish bankers,” another symbol of the tolerance and balance between these three cultures.
There was a time when the entire Christian Peninsula was said to live off the taxes collected from the Kingdom of Granada, this was the price the prosperous Muslim Kingdom paid to remain in peace. Although not all times were equally stable. Just over two centuries later, Isabel the Catholic of Castille and Fernando II of Aragon, would unite in a marriage that would prove itself deadly to “heretics” (Muslims and Jews). Having established the ‘Holy Inquisition’ in 1480, this would be the beginning of a violent farewell to Islam in Spain.
You will note as you approach Granada the town of Santa Fé. This town was founded by Isabel and Fernando after the Christian army had camped at the site for 10 years, in their siege of the city of Granada. After this long and stalled checkmate around the city of Granada, the Kingdom was signed over to the Catholic Kings, in the Alhambra itself, by the last Muslim King of Granada: Muhammad Abu Abdullah in 1492, only after guaranteeing Muslim rights in his Kingdom.
Witnessing what the Spirit of Al-Andalus once was, the Alhambra is home to a daily stream of 4-8 thousand visitors who glimpse in wonder at what was the motto of a time: ”Wa lã Galiba illa-Allah”, ”There is no victor but God”. The display of beautiful Arabic invocations and reminders inscribed in palaces and gardens is echoed throughout the entire city as the Alhambra crowns the city, lying harmonious to the natural surroundings on the ledge of ‘La Sabika’.
Madrid was founded in the 9th Century by the Ummayad Dynasty of Al-Andalus. Initially, it served as a stronghold in the north of the Emirate, which was governed from Cordoba 400 km away in the south. It was not until much after the Spanish Kingdom of Castille captured Madrid from its Muslim founders, around 1560 C.E., that Madrid was made the capital of Spain, a position it retains day today.
The iconic gateways or baabs of the medieval Islamic medina no longer remain, but in their place, Puerta de Alcalá, Puerta del Sol, Puerta de Toledo, to name but a few, are the more modern Neoclassical representations. These were symbols of triumph throughout the more modern European disputes, against the French and during the Civil War of Spain 1933-1936.
Each of Madrid’s districts has its own flavour, infused with a different aspect of Spanish character, representing the diversity of Iberia itself.
Whenever we pass through the capital of Spain, we usually arrange a day to spare in the big city. If you are planning a whistle-stop tour of several cities or even countries, it’s strongly recommended to give yourself a day’s break in Madrid to stretch your legs and sample some of the city’s delights.
Barcelona has a rich historical background to offer to its visitors. The medieval buildings and beautiful alleyways are infused with a sense of peace and a magical tranquillity. Here are a few of our top places to appreciate the beauty of this city:
The Gothic District is a historical area much favoured by walkers. You will want to keep your camera handy as there are plenty of views worth capturing. Narrow cobbled streets, small shops and ancient buildings tell a tale of old times. The place has a magical feel to it, inspiring even the most world-weary visitor. Next up is the Barcelona Cathedral, a sensational monument whose intricate architectural beauty propels you back to another, bygone world. The fountain of Montjuic captivates with its combination of whispering water, illumination and music. No trip to Barcelona can be complete without a visit. Parque Guell is one of Barcelona’s great attractions, both for its visual elegance and for its artistic importance. Designed by Antoni Gaudí in the 18XX, it still invites a crowd for its innovative aesthetic approach.
For those with a passion for football, the ‘Camp Nou’ provides an unforgettable experience. Apparently the biggest stadium in the world, Camp Nou also contains a museum and a player’s pit. For any football fan, the gigantic sports arena is out of this world.
*The optimum value of our group tours is achieved towards 20-25 participants, hence our offer is designed for anybody to join a larger group on a specific date from our agenda. Once we have confirmed a minimum of 15 participants for any session in the Regular Group Tours Calendar, we will confirm it and open automatic confirmations up until a total 35-40pax per group.
TRAVEL ROUTE DAYTIME SERVICE PACKS!?**BEST VALUE SHARED TRAVEL ROUTES & EXPERIENCES
*MULTIDAY TRAVEL SERVICES INCLUDING ALL THE HIGHLIGHT TOURS AND SERVICES FROM ARRIVAL TO DEPARTURE, WITH LOCAL GUIDE & TRANSPORTATION,
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INCOMING GROUP TOURS
We design our group tours to a comfortable standard. One of our tour managers will assist your group from arrival to departure, coordinating with our bus driver for transportation to tour sites and from city to city. City highlights and main Islamic heritage site tours are carried out by official UNESCO Heritage guides in Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada and other cities when required. Our tour managers are well known to vividly narrate the general story, contrasting the information provided by the Official Local Guides at each city center.
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FAMILY ECONOMY TOUR
Through experience, we have found that most small parties would preffer a service which doesn't become too expensive, while the alternative of a non-guided service is also posible, we preffer to have a middle way. Our guides will act as courtesy driver when necessary throughout our travel routes for groups under 6 person, we will only charge you for the actual vehicle running cost per day in this case, no extras for driving!
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JOIN A GROUP TOUR
Finally our effort for the past 10 years has been to establish ongoing regular group tours, where travellers of a different origin can interact during the tour while sharing the cost of our daytime servive units; vehicles, guides, etc. Our promotion group tours are offered twice a month in good standards standards, the only conditionant is they are to be confirmed at 15 participants and over. If the trip is cancelled then we would suggest alternatives or produce a full refund a month ahead.
A 10-year service with the most humble start, where our exclusive service has allowed us to develop an offer year after year until today, learning to adapt to today's traveller needs while creating a flexible travel offer with your choice and excellence in service, as our main priority.
We have also learned to be flexible about your bookings within our tour offer. With this in mind, we no longer include our hotel offers directly along with our tour offer by default, but these are suggested to match your travel route with our best hotel selection for each tour and at the best available rates when you complete any tour booking from our online booking system.
You can book our hotel packages on their own also, providing freedom for you to plan and added value through our best bonus discount in all of our 'City Guided Tours and Activities'. This approach will ensure that you don't miss out on any of the main highlights at any location, yet you get to plan your independent or semi-independent trip freely, at your own pace and style by combining our different offer sections to your own date selection.
You will find all these options below with full online booking possibilities. For custom travel routes or service packages, please use our 'Need Help to Plan?' menu or button links to our custom service travel plan form.
Our aim is to deliver excellence in travel, keeping your choice and best experience in mind.
Our exclusive 'Travel Route Service Packs' are essentially multi-day tour packages offered in a new manner to provide a range of distinct new standards and choice, in daytime tour & logistics services.