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The Route to the Islamic World

The Arabs’ presence in the Extremaduran region lasted five centuries, a bit more than 500 years, which started with the river Guadalete battle in 711 and finished in 1248, when the last Moslem possession in Extremadura, Montemolín was conquered by troops from the Christian kingdoms. During this long period Extremadura was a few kilometres from the influential political, religious and artistic life of the Cordovan Emirate and Caliphate. At the beginning of the 11th century even Badajoz became an important “Taifa” kingdom, after the decline of the “Omeyas” from Andalusia.

“Almohades” and Almoravids brought their undoubted change together with religious and artistic influences to this region bordering on the rivers Tajo and Guadiana, leaving a rich artistic legacy in many towns of this regions, just like their predecessors, the “Omeyas”.

For some centuries the Moslem power began to make itself felt in many towns, which we can visit and know important historic-artistic examples from this time, outstanding are the ancient military fortifications or military settlements, some of them preserved without many changes and most times transformed and made suitable by their new inhabitants.

This historic-artistic inheritance increased thanks to numerous finds very well exhibited in some of the Extremaduran Museums.

Using the ancient Roman road which linked Astorga with Itálica, and which passed through Extremadura, which the Arabs called “Vía de la Plata”, the present N-630, we will embark upon our itinerary from the South of Extremadura, where we can still see the remains of two “alcazabas” (fortresses) from the Moorish time: one of them in Montemolín, last Moorish redoubt in Extremadura, made of bricks and adobe walling.

A short distance from Montemolín, in Reina, we find the other one, a stately and mysterious Islamic construction from the 12th century, from the top of which we have a view of the Southern Countryside and the foothills of Sierra Morena together with the remains of the Roman town of Regina, with its attractive Roman theatre.

Zafra, the Moslem "sajra", was an important Moorish centre of population from the 11th century even some years after its conquest by the troops of Fernando III in 1241. Its alleyways keep the ancient layout from that time and in its squares we can still see the commercial expansion which must have had this town during the Moslem political and cultural predominance.

From Zafra we will head towards the Extremaduran town which was linked longer to the Islamic culture and art in Extremadura and maybe in Spain, Hornachos , where there was one of the last Moorish centre of population in Extremadura until the XVII. In 1609, they were definitely thrown out during the reign of Felipe III.

The remains of this castle situated in the heart of the sierra, are the only vestiges of interest from the Moslem time, together with the important Mudejar examples existing in this town, which was the border between the Moslem kingdoms of Toledo and Badajoz and later the border between the jurisdictions of the military orders of “Santiago”, established in “Tierra de Barros”, and of “Alcántara”, placed in La Serena.

From Hornachos, in clear days, we can see the remains of another Moorish fortress, the castle of Alange , the “Hixn-al-Hanash”, from where Ibn Marwan set off to found Badajoz, situated on the banks of the Alange Reservoir which takes the water from the river Matachel, nearby its confluence with the river Guadiana. From this ideal place we can have a view of the area which is around the capital city of the Autonomous Region, Mérida.

Fortunately, in the ancient Roman capital city, a lot of Islamic architectonic examples of great interest (Moorish Fortress), protected by impressive ramparts which were rebuilt on other primitive ramparts of Roman origin. We can find a beautiful “aljibe” or cistern in the middle of this roomy Moorish military building, built in 835 by order of Abderraman II.

Before continuing our route along the East of Extremadura, the most important political-military centre from the Moorish period in Extremadura, Badajoz, next to the Portugal border and on the banks of the river Guadiana.

In this city, which was the capital of the magnificent defensive ramparts of the “Alcazaba” or Moorish Fortress. The tower of the “Apéndiz”, popularly known as “Espantaperros”, is the most dazzling of all its towers.

We leave Badajoz to head towards Cáceres, where the “Almohades” constructed a stately defensive building, they built an impressive fence on the primitive Roman ramparts in order to halt León troops’ attacks.

This defensive construction, contemporaneous with the one in Badajoz, was built between the 11th and 13th centuries, it has lost most parts of its layout, even though we can still distinguish interesting stretches, as well as some beautiful “albarranas” towers.

Other towers were transformed later, being emblematic for Cáceres the tower of “Bujaco” or the one known as “la Hierba” , both of the in the “Plaza Mayor”.

We can mention the “aljibe” or cistern as a monument of this time, located in the Palace of “las Veletas”, the present Provincial Museum, which is in the heart of the old part of this city, which was worthy of being declared Heritage for Mankind. The aforementioned “aljibe”, which is very-well preserved, completes the always instructive visit to one of the best museums in Extremadura.

Towards the north of the region, where the Islamic dominion disappeared earlier than in the south, we can visit one of the most beautiful examples of an “Almohade” rampart in Spain; we talk about the one which is very well restored in Galisteo, in the outskirts of Plasencia.

The enclosure is wholly closed by its ramparts , built in the “Almohade” time using stones from the river, which makes them specially attractive. Some of its gateways, which give access to the town, declared Historical Monument of Cultural Interest, where we find some examples of the most beautiful Extremaduran-Mudejar style.

From Galisteo we will head towards Trujillo passing through the Nature Park of Monfragüe, where we can see the remains of its Moorish castle, on the top of one of the rocky places so plentiful in this paradise of the Extremaduran nature.

For several centuries Trujillo was an important centre of population in the Moslem Extremadura. Its castle dates from one of the ages of more splendour in the Caliphate of Cordova. It was set up on the known “Cabezo (high hill) del Zorro”, from where we can see the town and the whole neighbouring area .

This castle from the turn of the 9th century owns beautiful “albarrana” towers and two “aljibes” or cisterns, situated in its roomy inner ward, together with an “albácar” (a projecting large fortified tower) , which was built in the 12th century, some years before the conquest of the town by Christian troops in 1232.

From Trujillo, we can travel through the riverside area near the river Guadiana, in order to see a series of Moorish fortifications which dot the area which lies between Medellín and Almorchón. In all these towns the predominating historic-artistic element is their castle or “alcazaba”, outstanding the aforementioned castle in Medellín, the “alcazaba” in Magacela and the remains of the very high Castles in Benquerencia and Almorchón , which tell us about a constant and century-old border situation between this area and the Christian area in León.

TOWNS

Montemolín
Reina
Zafra
Alange
Mérida
Badajoz
Cáceres
Trujillo
Galisteo
Medellín
Benquerencia
Almorchón
Magacela

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