It is possible to understand better the Arab world by discovering some historical places located in Europe. In Sicily, for example, the culture of its western slope was greatly influenced by it. But where you can feel the unique flavor of Muslims the most is probably in southern Spain. Here are two sites located there that are not to be missed, to better understand this unique culture: The Royal Alcázars and the Alhambra.
If one doubts the importance of the Arab influence in Spain, one only has to observe the origin of the name of the Iberian Peninsula, to understand how crucial it is. Indeed, it comes from the Arabic Al-Andalus. This name was attributed to it when these lands were under Arab domination, in the 8th century.
The Arabs will not leave the region before the 15th century, which also explains the strong Arab influence in the Spanish language. To learn more about Spain in general, as well as its common history with Arabia, you can get the Petit Futé travel guide.
The Royal Alcázars
Although the Alhambra is a much larger structure, when you visit the two mentioned in this article, you will be struck by the sense of peace that will penetrate you when you walk the Royal Alcázars ground, especially in its garden. There, you can pass by a noble peacock and you can sit under the burning sun of Sevilla without any worries, having left them outside the moment that you walked through its door.
Its Arabic name is al-Qasr al-Muriq. Strangely enough, it was built for a Christian king: Peter of Castille. However, there was a Muslim fortress called Abbadid Muslim alcazar, which was destroyed during the catholic conquest, in 1248, that stood there before.
It makes use of the water, the same way that the Muslims do in their own palaces. As it runs through the entire house, it keeps the rooms fresh during summer time. It was built in the Mudéjar style, but took its inspiration form the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods as well. When the royal family visits Sevilla, they still sleep there, using the upper stories for their living accommodations.
It is not just one of the most famous Islamic constructions in Spain, but in all the world. This palace, which also combines as a fortress was built near the Sierra Nevada, back in 1238, but it is in the 14th century that the latest additions to the building were done, which provided it the look that it has today. When the Catholics conquered it in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella (the king and queen at the time) made the Alhambra their home. Isabella was in love with this location.
It meant so much to her that she asked to be buried there when she died. You can still visit the place where her tomb was. But her son had her moved to another location, in the Royal Chapel, in Granada, after her death. This is the same queen who wanted so much to be beatified by the Church that she initiated the Inquisition, which killed many innocent people. In the end, she was not able to get any of her wishes to come true.