Autonomous community and province of southeast Spain, with a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea; area 11,317 sq km/4,370 sq mi; population (2001 est) 1,190,400. The River Segura and its tributaries (the Sangonera and the Quipar) flow through the region, which is very mountainous in the south and east. It is one of the hottest and driest regions of Europe, resembling North Africa in its vegetation and climate. The irrigated area, the huerta of Murcia, is one of the most intensively farmed areas in Spain and is especially important for citrus fruits. Products include esparto grass (for weaving into simple items such as sandals), iron, olives, and fruit. There are large deposits of salt and minerals, especially lead and zinc. The main port is Cartagena and the capital is Murcia. It became an independent region in 1982.
Settled by the Carthaginians, who the port of Cartago Nova (modern Cartagena) in the 3rd century BC, the region was taken by the Moors in the 8th century AD. Murcia emerged as an independent kingdom after the fall of the caliphate of Córdoba in the 11th century. In 1243 it became a vassal state of Castile, and was finally annexed by the latter in 1266.