Shamelessly Amateurish



Bishtawi has written two books on the Moriscos covered extensively in the Arabic section of this website. In what I called “a literary odyssey in search of Andalusian Spain”, the investigative featurist Tor Eigeland poduced for Aramco World magazine a series of remarkable articles covering many topics. A search in the magazine will produce the articles but I am reproducing them here as well.

“As to their vanishing from the face of Earth,”,María Elvira Sagarzazu wrote of the fate of the Moriscos, “they have shared the fate of many nations, cultures and languages. It seems useless to speculate if they deserved a destiny different from that of Zoroastrians, Sumerian, Parthian, Mayan, Charrúas or Abipones, all of which had their own aims and reasons to survive but lacked at some time or other the proper answer to do it. Life is change. So change is needed to adjust to new life conditions, which are, in an ultimate analysis, a way to guarantee survival” Here.

However, nations do not just vanish from the face of the Earth. Some would have been killed in Spain or drowned in the exile seas, some found their waSidi Bu Saidy to the New World and many moved south to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia,  and east to countries controlled by the Otomans. Apart from Spain itself, no other country was influenced by the expelled neo-Andalusians (Moriscos) more than Tunisia. Whether in art, agriculture, fruit, food, traditional handicraft and manufacturing, folklore etc., Tunisia may be regarded as the most important recipient of the Andalusian legacy. The Tunisians over the years have accepted this legacy with pride and continue to build on it. A famous quarter of Tunis (Sidi Bou Said – image left) is mostly built as a replica of Andalusian architecture and style with the white and blue paint wash of buildings.

Names and places in Spain: I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when I found myself able to trace the route taken by the famous 12-13th century Andalusian traveler Ibn Jubair (1144-1217).  Curiously, mount Etna was as active in his times as now, he noted, with streams of lava flowing into the sea. As he returned home to Granada after a three-year extensive trip to the Arab east, he named towns and villages on his way. With the help of a number of maps, I was able, mostly, to mark place names and compared them with Ibn Jubair. Over the past 10 years I compiled a list of names and places of modern Spain and their equivalent in Arabic as used by the Andalusians. It is claimed the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is of Morisco stock with the original Arab name of “Al Saniah”. Rafal in Spanish is Rahal in Arabic; Albuquerque is Al Barququi (prunes for which Andalusia was famous all over the Middle East), Al Bufera is Al Buhaira (lake), Alcala is Al Qalaa (citadel) and several hundred others among the 6000-7000 words used in Spanish today. Over 450 names and places are listed


True or false?: A line of poetry on Al Hamara (Al Hambra) mural says: “Mercifully you ascended the zenith of kingly power to clear away all that was darkened by injustice”. The line is missing a word lilnas “to people” suggesting the reproduction of the mural may not have made by Arabs or may not be contemporaneous with Arab Granada..

True or false, again!

Section-1-to-5-Crop-16-1030x621Roaming Spain properly requires a lifetime. If the historian is accompanied by a beautiful and sexy girl, it should take longer. Together, we criss-crossed Spain south to north and east to west often arriving in cities and towns late at night after long drives with no hotel booking.

Of the thousands of pics we took, the one from the military museum in Madrid was curious. When the film was developed, the pretty girl,who later became my wife, noticed a white shadow covering part of the third line of a reproduced plate of the treaty signed in 1493 by queen Isabela and Abdulla Mohamed, the last king of Arab Granada.

After a long search I found the exact photo in a book published in Arabic in 1976, Andalusian History from the Islamic Conquering to the Fall of Granada, written by Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Hajji.

In the 1976 photo, and maybe earlier, the original text states merely that King Andulla Mohamed consented to leave the city of Andarax. The altered text states “en su capitulacion”, or “capitulation”.

Nations do forge important historical documents but this one is shamelessly amateurish.

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