Saturday, August 22, 2015

Moorish Monuments in Malaga

A visit to the best Moorish Monuments in Malaga


I have two big passions in life: travelling and history.
Since I've always been fascinated by the Moorish culture, last summer I went to Malaga, an amazing Spanish city located in the Andalusia region. This is the reason I wanted to see and write about the Moorish Monuments in Malaga. I searched on Skyscanner a cheap flight and then I started looking for a hotel in the centre of Malaga close to the sites I wanted to visit. Once settled these matters, I was happy like a child: in Andalusia you can find most of the monuments that the Moors left us.
Maybe you don't know that, even if the word Moor is now used to refer to all Muslims, this word comes from the Latin “Mauri” which is the name for the Berber tribes living in Algeria and Morocco.
In 711 the Islamic Moors crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula, except for north-western area. They gave their territory the name Al-Andalus, which at its peak included most of modern Spain, Septimania and Portugal.
The Moors ruled parts of Andalucia for 800 years and their influences can be found today in the Spanish culture, language and architecture. In addition, the Arabs transmitted their great knowledge to the locals and introduced in these territories a sophisticated irrigation system with a complex network of wells and channels which brought water into the very heart of buildings.
Among the surviving examples in Malaga I visited the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro in Malaga.
Alcazaba of Málaga
Built by the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century, the Alcazaba is one of the best preserved palatial fortification in Spain. The word alcazaba comes from the Arabic al-qasbah, قصبة and means citadel.

Moorish Alcazaba monument in Malaga

Next to the entrance of the Alcazaba you can find the remains of a 2nd century Roman amphitheatre. Part of the materials used for the amphitheatre were reused in constructing the Alcazaba.
The main entrance to the Alcazaba is a gateway called "Puerta de la Boveda" (Vault Gate). The entrance gate doubles back on itself, in order to make progress difficult for attacking forces. The pathway goes through magnificent gardens with fountains and labyrinth passages: believe me, this place is magical!
The inner citadel can only be accessed through the “Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada” (Gate of the Granada Quarters) which was constructed in order to defend the western part of the palace. Inside the second wall you can admire the Palace and other dwelling of the 11th, 13th and 14th centuries.
Here you can admire also an Archaeological Museum which hosts many Moorish and Phoenician finds.
Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday
Summer: 9.30am to 8pm
Winter: 8.30am to 7.30 pm (last admission 19.00)
Mondays 9.00am to 6.00 pm
Closed 1 Jan, 28 Feb & 25 Dec.
Admission Fees:
Normal: 2.20 euros
Reduced (Malaga residents, children aged 6-16, students): 0.60 euro.

The Castle of Gibralfaro
I also took the opportunity to visit the beautiful Castillo de Gibralfaro (Castle of Gibralfaro) whose construction dates back to the 10th century.
There are 2 options for reaching this interesting site: by bus or on foot. I chose the second one: I took the scenic Paseo Don Juan de Temboury, to the south of the Alcazaba. It was a long walk, that it might be difficult on a hot day but it surely worth it.
Alternatively, you can take bus 35 from Avenida de Cervantes to reach the castle.

Moorish Gibralfaro Malaga


The name Gibralfaro derives from the the Phoenician word gebel-faro that means "rock of the lighthouse". In fact, the Castle was built in 929AD on a former Phoenician lighthouse.
Built by the Caliph of Cordoba Abd-al-Rahman III, the Sultan of Granada, Yusef I, who reigned between 1333 and 1354, enlarged the building adding the double wall down to Alcazaba. The fortress was used for military uses until 1925.
Even if the Castle of Gibralfaro has deteriorated over the years, in this historic monument are still visible the walls, which have been restored so that you can walk round them. Located on a high hill, from this fortress you can enjoy a magnificent view of the sea and city of Malaga.
Apart from the rampart, there's the Torre Blanca, a large tower and the airon Well carved out if the rock. The well is 40 metres deep.
Near the entrance of the Castle is located the Centro de Interpretación de Gibralfaro, a military museum where you can see uniforms, arms and objects used in the past as well as some information about how the fortress was used over the years. It’s a little museum but very interesting, don’t miss it!

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday
Summer: 9 am to 8pm
Winter: 9am to 6pm
Closed 1 Jan, 28 Feb & 25 Dec.
Admission fees:
Normal: 2.20 euros
Reduced: 0.60 euro.

P.S If you are interested in visiting these two masterpieces of Moorish art in Malaga, I recommend buying the joint ticket for both the Gibralfaro and Alcazaba to save money.
See the area



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greece First Flag I Where Independence Began - Skiathos Island

  I have just visited the island where the first flag of Greece was created. It is here where the true independence of Greece began in 1807 and wherefrom the revolution against the Turkish Empire spread over the country. This is Skiathos Island(see the map).
  Three days after the referendum in Greece in 2015, we were ready to visit a place so full of history, tradition, revolt and freedom that only one who is ready to really understand Greece, would feel our anxiety. We have visited Greece almost every year since 2008. Skiathos, this beautiful island where Greece found its origin as an independent nation-state in the 19th century, was our first destination. We knew nothing about the flag and about the importance of the island. Now, we were waiting for a small bus to take us to Evanghelistria Monastery. There, the monks created the first flag of Greece. There, the bells called for freedom and independence and the entire Greece knew the time had come and the battle was about to begin. We had to feel the area in order to understand the spirit of Greece independence and need for justice. And the highest peak in Skiathos Island, where Evanghelistria Monastery was founded in 1794, was the place. 
To Evanghelistria Monastery in Skiathos, Greece

  There was a 60 years old woman who wanted to join us on our visit to the monastery. She wanted to find the holly water spring. According to legend, that water cures. Only a few are interested in the history of the place. You walk alone on the independence of Greece like the country did 200 years ago. Anyway, the woman was told that there were snakes near the spring and that she was not allowed to go.  
To get to Evanghelistria Monastery, one needs to take a small bus. 15 minutes. And then you understand. The monks and freedom fighters who swore on the Oath of Freedom here in 1807, could see the area, could see the sea and knew when to enemies were about to come. It is the highest peak of Skiathos Island
View from Skiathos highest peak-Evanghelistria Monastery
  The independence of Greece began. Athens was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1452. The Islands were forced to surrender in the late 17th century. Yet, the Greeks have never accepted the Turks. The Islam was a primitive religion in their opinion although the Orthodoxism has been tolerated by sultans. We found here, at Evanghelistria Monastery, a different world. We felt like being in 1800 when a nation who had to fight against invaders, since Sparta decided to do so and Xerxes, the defeated Persian Emperor, started a different kind of battle: it was the battle for freedom this time but it was on its own land. 
Evanghelistria Monastery - Skiathos, Greece

 Guns, a cross, a flag and walls. You can't bet the monks here at the place where the first flag of Greece was created, don't hide pistols, swords or knives somewhere in the neighborhood, ready to get them and start the fight again. Everything in the area is ready for war. A few monks live here. They answer your questions. They guide you even to the toillet, They gave the holy water our friend was looking for. They do not smile. A friendly and kind look is the only thing you'll get. 
Evanghelistria Monastery Skiathos Greece
  The Kollyvades were monks who left Athos after a fight against the community of the Holy Mount and founded the New Orthodoxy in the middle of the 18th century. It was a movement worried about the spiritual renewal of the Greek people. Kollyvades comes from Kollyva which is boiled wheat, used during funeral services. They came to Skiathos Island. And in 1807 the bells called for freedom and independence. They also made the first flag of Greece, here at Evanghelistria in Skiathos.   
Bells called for the independence of Greece, 1807

  Here, at the Evanghelistria Monastery, you can see how the first flag of Greece was made. Some include the blue and white formations on the Achilles' shield, others believe they are only the colours of the sea, waves and sky. The first flag of Greece was wove and raised here. The loom can be seen in the Museum. You have the chance to walk alone and visit this museum. Only a few are interested in Greece independence.
The loom where the first flag of Greece was created
In 1807 the flag was ready and for the first time it was raised. The bells rang. The war began few years later and Greece found European allies and conquered its independence in 1832. In Skiathos Island, one the Aegean pearls, people have never forgotten that their home was 200 years ago the home of the revolution and part of the war for independence. Their flag is the witness.
Flag of Greece - Evanghelistria Monastery, Skiathos

 Thank you for reading our post and for sharing. You may find interesting The River Styx-the ancient Greek river of the dead.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A History Of Mecca, Islam and Muhammad

The history of Mecca is related to Muhammad, the last great prophet of humanity and the founder of Islam. Home of Kaaba, the sacred Black Stone sent from Heaven as Muslims believe, Mecca or Makkah is not quite a travel destination from the Europeans, Americans or let's say non-Muslims' point of view, for it is the heart of a religion many people do not really understand or accept, unfortunately. Capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia, it is located 70 km from Jeddah. Mecca is also Muhammad birth place and it is considered the holliest city of Islam, for here the Quran was first revelated to the prophet.
Mecca map
Where is Mecca Saudi Arabia
 Source : Googlemaps.

In 567 A.D. Muhammad is born. Member of the privileged Quraysh tribe, at the age of 6 he lost his parents. His grandfather and an uncle took care of him and at the age of 25 we find him as  employe of a rich 40 years old widow, Hadige. She was the one who encouraged him in his religious experiences. They had 7 children, 3 sons who died soon after their birth and 4 daughters. He met no other woman before Hadige's death but had 9 wives after. The first revelation occured in 610 A.D. It was the period when the population in this area still had many gods, the Christians were only a few and the practice of isolation for praying was almost unknown. Yet, Muhammad started before this year his so-called tahannut, spiritual retreats in the desert near Mecca. According to legends, before his birth, his mother heard a voice saying that her son's destiny was to be his people ruler and prophet and at the age of 4 two angels opened his chest and took out a drop of black blood from his heart, leaving him alive to fulvil his faith(Quran, sura 94).
The first revelation occured while the prophet sat in cave and Angel Gabriel came and ordered him to read from the book he brought. Although he rejected it, finally he read. And the angel ordered him to spread the word for God created the man from a drop of blood. Muhammed obbeyed. And this is the meaning of Islam - to obbey. He shared his revelation only to his wife, Hadige and a few relatives. 3 years later, in 612 A.D. after another revelation he made his public his knowledge. And there is no violence in it. Muhammad spoke about the almighty of God and His kindness, about the end of the world and faith and about the happiness promised to the virtous ones. Allah is the only God and He is the only owner of the Black Stone in Kaaba, said the prophet. According to Mircea Eliade History of religions, this was not quite a declaration of war but an attempt to get his people out of ignorance.
Mecca Kaaba pilgrimage
Mecca location Muhammed
  Source :

Nobody believed his message. On one hand, a religion with only one God made his tribe fear of losing privileges, on the other hand people asked for wonders. Yet Muhammad still believes he is God's messenger(rassul Allah) who brought the Revelation(Quran) to people. The wonder came. Tradition says that the prophet travelled from Mecca to Jerusalem(Read o brief travel guide for Jerusalem) on a winged horse and then visited Heaven. Despite this legend Muhammad had to leave Mecca in 622 A.D not to be killed. for Iatrib(the old city of Medina), which will become the political and religious center of Islam. Hegira or the immigration was a succes and it was here, in Medina, where the Islam organization began. All Muslims, those in Medina and those in Mecca became one community, umma, so the privileges of different tribes were abolished. In 624 AD, as the Jews refuse to recognize Muhammad as a prophet and more than that shew that he knew nothing about the Bible, he asked Muslims not to pray to Jerusalem anymore, but to Mecca. This is the moment the prophet becomes a politician. He proclaims that the Holy Stone in Kaaba at Mecca was put there by Abraham and one of his sons, Ismael and that the holy place of Islam is under heretic reign. The ideea was that Islam was to replace Christianity just as Christianity had replaced Judaism before, for theese two religions failed in sharing the right message.  
In 627 AD, Muhammad's army achieves a first victory against the caravans to Mecca. The tribes of Mecca put Medina under seige in the same year. They had to face a desert storm and failed after 2 weeks. The prophet, now general of his army noticed that some Jews were suspect and ordered their execution after the seige. In 629 AD, Muhammad and 2.000 warriors entered Mecca and celebrated for the first time the pilgrimage ritual. It was the real beginning of Islam since in 630 AD the prophet and 10.000 occupy Mecca and purify Kaaba. The religion of Islam was not only a new religion but the end of gods. See Moorish Monuments in Spain at Malaga!
In March 632 Muhammad left Medina for Mecca in his last pilgrimage. According to tradition, he was told by an angel that Islam is the new religion and that his mission was done. The prophet returns to Medina and died on June 8, 632 AD in his favourite wife's house, Aisha. Was burried not in a cemetery but inside the house where a monument was built later the Mosque of the Prophet.

Muhammed Grave
Grave of Muhammad Islam Aisha

Travel tips to Mecca coming soon. On January 18, 2015 Saudi Arabia announced that pilgrims will be allowed to visit not only Makkah and Medinah but also another 5 travel destinations. See detalis in Archae-News.
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