A Forgotten Past

by

The red clay of the Alhambra palace blends itself into the land like a natural formation. It isn’t grandeur in size but grand in it’s detail. Marble floors cut in geometric shapes, engraved wall calligraphy repeating “Allah is good”, an array of colored tiles aesthetically arranged, and the ceiling like the roof of a cave with little droplets of plaster resembling the stars in the night sky. Islamic culture does not allow representations of animals or people or God, creating a more sacred and universal place devoted to God. I look up. The sun blinds me momentarily, and then adjusting I see it. The inner walls of the palace overlap the Christian Cathedral. The Cathedral towers over the palace in size, a reminder of Spain’s messy history involving the three major monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. First ruled by the Berbers, Southern Spain was rudely awaken when the Visigoths put down root there. Despite vast numbers of Visigoths the Moors conquered the land in 711 c.e. This conquest by Tariq Ibn Ziyad was not taken well in Northern Africa because Spain was a useless piece of barbaric land up until that point, but with the settlement of the Moors in Southern Spain a golden age of Islam emerged and lasted until 1492 c.a. when Isabella and Ferdinand took over. When all of Europe was in the Dark Ages the Moors brought to Spain aqueducts, running water and irrigation that led to working toilets, fountains, and baths. When the Bubonic Plague came to Spain, the Moors painted the trees with pesticide to kill the rats so that the disease would not spread. Christians and Jews from all over came to the Alhambra and Southern Spain to learn from the Muslims and their studies of Philosophy, Physics, Algebra, and Astronomy.  A period of tolerance lasted during Islam’s reign in Spain, where the Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together peacefully. Then Isabella and Ferdinand came and did an ethnic cleansing, clearing out the Jews and Muslims, tearing down Mosques and Synagogues and rebuilding cathedrals and churches on top.

While traveling through Meknes our group stopped at the grainery and tomb of Moulay Ismail (the founder of Meknes). Our guide explained that the architecture was Andalusian, the same as in Southern Spain. In Morocco their language is Darija, which is a mix of Spanish, French and Arabic. Cultures and Histories are entangled. Just look at America… we came from England, we celebrate St. Patricks Day, our history is connected to other histories and cultures. It is easy to forget the past, the entanglement of histories and crossed cultures that gave way to new civilizations and societies. But remembering our roots and connections throughout the world can bring about respect and understanding for others. Let’s not forget anymore.

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