Andalus

Moorish Spain

  • Spend time wandering around the beautiful Alcázar of Seville, with its rich Islamic artistic legacy
  • Discover the magnificent Alhambra palace and fortress complex
  • Enjoy a taste of authenticity with a traditional flamenco performance

For over five-hundred years, Moorish Spain - Al-Andalus - was the most culturally advanced corner of Europe, an engine-room of science, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, poetry, architecture and agriculture that outstripped anything comparable within Christendom at the time. German writers of the 10th century described Cordoba as ‘the ornament of the world’, so in awe were they of its sophistication. Gerbert, later Pope Sylvester II, travelled to Spain ‘in search of knowledge’, drawn by the superior Moorish civilisation that he found there.

While London was still a collection of mud huts by the Thames, Moorish cities enjoyed street lighting and sanitation, and their inhabitants ate exotic foods such as artichokes, rice, spinach, oranges and saffron that were unknown north of the Pyrenees. Writing on paper made at the only paper mills in the continent at the time, Moorish poets explored subtle, romantic ideas of love, inspired by ancient Arabian verses, that would later be termed ‘courtly’ in medieval Europe. ‘Western rational thought’ was the brainchild of the Cordovan philosopher Averroes, developing Aristotle’s concepts and presenting them in easily understood commentaries that Christian scholars studied and absorbed. Much of what we consider part of our own cultural identity - anything from superstitions about the number 13 to the higher mathematics that helped men land on the moon - stems from Al-Andalus.

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

Day 1
We fly to Malaga and drive to Ronda. In the evening, we have an introductory lecture followed by dinner.

Overnight: Ronda

Day 2

Day 2
In the morning, we explore Moorish Ronda, taking in the city walls, the Moorish Bath House and the Casa del Rey Moro. In the afternoon, we drive to Cordoba.

Overnight: Córdoba

Day 3

Day 3
In the morning, we enjoy a stroll through the old city, taking in the outside of the Great Mosque, the Convivencia museum, the bridge and the remains of the Moorish water wheel. In the afternoon, we have a tour of the Great Mosque. Building began in 784 under the Caliph, Abd al-Rahman, and continued for two centuries. At the heart of Córdoba, ‘the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.’

Overnight: Córdoba

Day 4

Day 4
In the morning, we walk to the Jewish quarter, stopping off at the Averroes statue. We visit the old synagogue and Jewish House before moving on to the spectacular Alcázar. In the afternoon, we visit Madinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara), ‘the shining city’, and have a tour of the ruins of this vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city to the west of Cordoba. We then travel to Seville.

Overnight: Seville

Day 5

Day 5
In the morning, we visit the Alcázar, a spectacular Moorish style royal palace built by a Christian king at the same time that Alhambra was being constructed in Granada. We hear about the Islamic artistic legacy that survived the Reconquest and was continued by those Moors, the Mudejars, who remained in what became Christian lands. In the afternoon, we visit the Torre del Orro before touring the Cathedral, built on the site of the old Almohad Mosque, and climbing the Giralda Tower, previously the Almohad minaret, which is now a bell tower. In the evening, we enjoy a spectacular Flamenco show.

Overnight: Seville

Day 6

Day 6
We drive to Granada and in the afternoon, we visit the spectacular Alhambra. Built towards the end of the Moorish rule of Spain, poets described it as "a pearl set in emeralds," an allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them. As part of our tour of the Alhambra, we visit the adjoining Generalife Palace, the summer residence and country estate of the Nasrid Kings.

Overnight: Granada

Day 7

Day 7
In the morning, we visit the Cathedral, whose Royal Chapel is the final resting place of Ferdinand and Isabella, who conquered Granada and brought Moorish Spain to an end. We also visit the Corral del Carbon, the oldest Moorish monument in Granada. Built in the fourteenth century by Yusuf I, it served as a coal yard and warehouse. In the afternoon, we visit the Carmen de los Mártires, behind the Alhambra, where Christian captives were held during the battle for Granada. We see the spectacular gardens and the lovely views over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the evening, we enjoy a Moorish dinner.

Overnight: Granada

Day 8

Day 8
We have a stroll around the old Moorish quarter of Albaicín, walking up to the Mirador de San Nicolás, where we look towards the Alhambra — a favourite vista of ex US President, Bill Clinton. We then head for Malaga Airport to catch our return flight.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We fly to Malaga and drive to Ronda. In the evening, we have an introductory lecture followed by dinner as a group.

Day 2

In the morning, we head out for an exciting exploration of Moorish Ronda, taking in the city walls, the Moorish Bath House and the Casa del Rey Moro, which was built in the 18th century. Here, we see an Islamic stairway of over 300 steps carved into the rock that lead down to a river at the bottom of the gorge. This structure allowed Ronda’s water supplies to remain available during attacks. In the afternoon, we drive to Cordoba, where we stay overnight.

Day 3

A leisurely stroll through the old city gets our day off to a glorious start. We take in the outside of the Great Mosque, the Convivencia Museum, the bridge and finally the remains of the Moorish water wheel. Situated next to a Roman bridge, this wheel was once used to carry river water up to the Emir’s palace. In the afternoon, we are treated to a tour of the Great Mosque’s stunning interior and iconic archways. Building began in 784 under the Caliph, Abd al-Rahman, and continued for two centuries. At the heart of Cordoba, ‘the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.’

Day 4

Today, we take a walk around the Jewish quarter, stopping off first at the famous Averroes statue. We then visit the old synagogue and Jewish House before moving on to the spectacular Alcázar. In the afternoon, we visit the impressive ruins of a fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace city known as Madinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara), ‘the shining city’, and have a tour of the site, which is located to the west of Cordoba. We then travel onwards to Seville, where we stay for the night.

Day 5

In the morning, we visit the legendary Alcázar, a spectacular Moorish style royal palace built by a Christian king at the same time that the Alhambra was being constructed in Granada. We hear about the Islamic artistic legacy that survived the Reconquest and was continued by those Moors, the Mudejars, who remained in what became Christian lands. In the afternoon, we visit the Torre del Orro, which is a dodecagonal military watchtower that served as a prison during the Middle Ages. Later, we take a tour of the cathedral, which was built on the site of the old Almohad Mosque, and we climb the Giralda Tower, previously known as the Almohad minaret, which is now a bell tower. In the evening, we experience an authentic taste of the ancient culture here with a flamboyant Flamenco show. Again, we stay overnight in Seville.

Day 6

Our day starts with a journey to Granada and upon arrival, in the afternoon, we pay a visit to the magnificent Alhambra palace and fortress complex. Built towards the end of the Moorish rule of Spain, poets described this structure as “a pearl set in emeralds,” an obvious allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods that surround them. As part of our tour of the iconic Alhambra, we also spend some time at the adjoining Generalife Palace, the summer residence and country estate of the Nasrid Kings. The gardens here are especially beautiful. Our overnight stay tonight is in Granada.

Day 7

We spend our penultimate day exploring more of this region’s wonderful sites. We start by visiting the cathedral, whose Royal Chapel is the final resting place of Ferdinand and Isabella, who conquered Granada and brought Moorish Spain to an end. We also visit the Corral del Carbon, the oldest Moorish monument in Granada. Built in the 14th century by Yusuf I, it served as a coal yard and warehouse. In the afternoon, we stop at the Carmen de los Mártires, behind the Alhambra, where Christian captives were held during the battle for Granada. Here, we see the spectacular gardens and can admire the lovely views over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the evening, we enjoy a traditional Moorish dinner.

Day 8

We take a stroll around the old Moorish quarter of Albaicín, walking up to the Mirador de San Nicolás, where we look towards the Alhambra. We then head for Malaga Airport, from where we catch our return flight home.

What's Included

  1. Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
  2. Meals - 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners
  3. Transport - Return flights and all local travel
  4. Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour

Shining light on the Dark Ages

The Medieval era was filled with breathtaking artistic achievement spurred on by tremendous religious faith. Alongside the beauty, life could be coarse and cruel; cut short by famine, disease or the religious zeal that spurred on wars that still echo today.

This era is one of the most intriguing yet misrepresented periods of history. Did people really think the world was flat? No, that enduring myth was created by a 19th-century American journalist. Were witches put on trial and burnt at the stake? Yes, but you’d have to wait for the refined Renaissance period to bear witness to that. Travel alongside an expert guide lecturer, and separate fact from fiction in this fascinating period.

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2019 Tour Details

$3,745

inc.

London based departure

  • 8 Days
  • 8th May - 15th May 2019
  • with Rafael Anderson
  • Code: QMS19A
  • Available
  • sgl supp: $375

Tour Guide