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The Unique Islamic Heritage of Seville You Need to Feel

Alcazar Palace, Seville, Andalusia

The current Islamic Heritage remains in Spain witness of the impact left by the Islamic Era in Andalusia (711-1492 AD). It left its indelible traces in the overall Hispanic culture. That is to say that, it impregnated most thoroughly the Iberian Peninsula´s landscape, but also its culture and the style of life of its people.

Many Names for One Magnificent City

Today´s Seville (Spanish: Sevilla, Arabic: إشبيلية, Išbīliya or Ishbillyah) is the capital of the southernmost autonomous community of Peninsular Spain. Seville currently counts a population of about 1.3 million. This makes it the fourth largest metropolitan area in Spain. The inhabitants of Seville are called sevillanos, feminine form: sevillanas.

The oldest known name for Seville is Hispaal, also Spal that refers to the god Baal. This dates back to the Phoenician colonization of south-western Iberia. The Romans “latinized” it into Hispal and later Hispalis. The Visigoths turned it into Spalis. With the conquest of the city by the Muslims, its name took the Arabic form of Ishbillyah, which is quite close to the Spanish pronunciation of the word “Sevilla”.

The Islamic Heritage of Seville (إشبيلية)

Seville is undoubtedly captivating by its glorious history, but foremost, by its glamorous and classy culture and art traditions. It is often referred to as the “Pearl of Andalusia”. It was the first Islamic capital in Spain (713-716) and the main city of the Umayyad Caliphate (8th-13th centuries). Some tend even to think that Seville was probably the most important city in the Islamic Andalusia.

Islamic Heritage: the Minaret of the Great Mosque of Seville 

Islamic Heritage: Great Mosque la Giralda, Seville, Andalusia
Great Mosque la Giralda, Seville, Andalusia

What stands today for the iconic landmark of Seville, La Giralda, served as the minaret of Seville´s Great Mosque. As ancient minaret, La Giralda attests of the prestige of the Islamic Moorish architectural works of the 12th century. Moreover, it occupied the title of the tallest building of Seville for 800 years. The Great Mosque was unfortunately, demolished. And its remains served to build at its site what we know today as the Cathedral of Seville. Officially, Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral.

From Minaret to La Giralda

The Minaret stands still today proudly on its 104-meter-height and attests the architectural genius of that time. However, its name changed from a minaret to La Giralda Tower or, simply, La Giralda. The name Giralda comes from the Spanish verb “girar” which means to turn. It refers to El Giraldillo statue, the weather vane on the top of La Giralda. From the top of la Giralda, you will enjoy an astonishing panoramic view over the city.

One of the particularities of La Giralda is that one can climb the 104-meter-high tower on horseback. This is simply because the tower does not have staircases. But rather an ascendant corridor that enables a horse to climb upwards to the summit. Besides the minaret, only the ablutions courtyard of the ancient mosque was preserved. It is nowadays known as the Patio de los Naranjos, consisting of the fountain and the orange trees around.       

Renowned Architects and 20 Years to Build the Minaret

The construction of the Great Mosque finished in 1176. However, the minaret´s construction took 20 more years to take end in 1198. Many prominent architects and designers of that epoch took part in the minaret´s construction. Though, the main architect was Ahmad Ibn Baso. The Minaret became one of the famous examples of the Mudéjar decorative and geometrical architecture and design. La Giralda figures since 1987 on the UNESCO´s list of the World Heritage Site, along with the Alcázar and the General Archive of the Indies

Islamic Heritage: Alcázars or the Royal Palaces of Seville

Alcázar, Seville
Alcázar, Seville

The Real Alcázar de Sevilla refers to al-Qasr al-Muriq (Arabic: القصر المُورِق‎, The Verdant Palace). The name Alcázar derives from Arabic: (القصر, al-qasr), which means castle or palace. Abd al-Raḥmān III, the founder of the Caliphate of Córdoba and its first Caliph commissioned the construction of Acázar.

The palace complex highlights the Mudéjar architectural style, with numerous geometrical decorative forms. The whole reflects a mixture of both Islamic and Christian art and culture influences. The upper stories of the palace still nowadays serve as residence for the royal family when they visit Seville. Alcázar is probably the oldest royal place in Europe to be officially still in use.  

Torre del Oro, (بُرْج الذَّهَب Burj adh-dhahab), Tower of Gold

Tower of Gold, Seville
Tower of Gold, Seville

The Tower of Gold, (Spanish: Torre del Oro, Arabic:بُرْج الذَّهَب , burj ad̲h̲-d̲h̲ahab) is a dodecagonal military watchtower. It is 36-meter-high tower, located next to the Guadalquivir River, between Alcázar and the rest of the city. The Almohad Caliphate built it to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir River. The main construction took place in the beginning of the 13th century. Later, during the Middle Ages, it served as a prison. Its name comes from its golden reflection on the river, due to its building materials. The Museo Naval de Sevilla is located on the top floor of the tower.

Flamenco performance

Your visit to Seville will not be complete before you enjoy a Flamenco show. The Flamenco is deeply rooted in various Andalusian popular art styles. Many speculations circulate about Its real origin. However, it is obvious that the Flamenco art developed through the cross-cultural interchange. This was particularly obvious during the Islamic reign over Andalusia. the Flamenco developed via the coexistence and proximity of Spain’s indigenous, Byzantine, Moorish, and Romani musical traditions. In Seville, there are many places to enjoy an authentic Flamenco show. You will certainly be spoiled for choice. In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity    

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