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Background of the Moors and Christians celebrations.

Last week I said I’d go into the origins of the Moors and Christians festivities that are taking place in Moraira this week.   What they commemorate is the conquest of the Iberian peninsula by the moors, the “reconquista” and the almost 800 years of muslim history between them.

 

It started in 711. Most of the peninsula was part of the Visigoth kingdom.  Although the kingdom was almost 400 years old the Germanic leaders had never really bothered with mixing with the inhabitants, which is why there was barely any influence of the them in Spanish culture and language.  They also didn’t form a united country but rather many separate feuds belonging to different families. Most of the inhabitants were farmers and there was little to no commerce.  The leading Visigoth families had been involved for years in power struggles.   And finally, during the last 25 years, the plague had killed roughly one third of the original population.

Because of this it was fairly easy for the Umayyadan soldiers who landed on Gibraltar to take over the land, and in just 10 years they had reached beyond the Pyrenees.  Both the Jewish as the Christian population was better treated by the Muslims then they had been by the Visigoths making the conquest only easier.

The north of Spain, however wouldn’t be ruled by them for long. In 722 a revolt started in the North-Western corner of Spain and in 790 the entire Northern stroke of Spain, from the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean belongd to either the Kingdom of Asturias or of Pamplona.

But they do manage to control the rest of Spain and in 765 the independent emirate of Cordoba is formed.  The emirs don’t loose any time modernising their new territory.  Philosophy, medicine and the science of the ancient Greeks and Romans had all but disappeared do to Christian prosecution and now it returns to Europe after a huge detour along the Mediterranean coast.  With it came the Muslims own advances in algebra, arithmetic, astronomy and, most of agriculture. Huge irrigation systems emerged and old Roman aqueducts were restored and put to work.   The productivity of the farms multiplied allowing the growth and emergence of new cities.  Roads were rebuild, reactivating the internal market and commercial bonds formed with Constantinople and other important cities.

The Emirate kept growing in power and relevance and in 929 Abd-al-Rahman declares himself Caliph, with Cordoba at the same level of Baghdad.  The city grows to become the most important one of Europe.  With over a million inhabitants, a university, more than 70 libraries, a medicine school and  a ancient Greek and Hebrew translation schools, thousands of public baths and mosques, including the impressive Mosque of Cordoba.  Thinkers of all the continent flow to the city of Averroes and Maimonides.

But nothing lasts forever. In 1031 the Caliphate disintegrates in a large number of “taifas”, independent Muslim kingdoms. But Christian Spain was going through the same problems and consisted of many small countries.  There was no longer a conflict between a Muslim country and Christian one, instead, each little kingdom only looked out for itself. It was very common for a Muslim and a Christian kingdom to temporarily ally against another Christian or Muslim kingdom and people travelled with realitive freedom from one to the other.  the most important hero of the Spanish Reconquista, “El Cid” worked many years for the king of the Taifa of Zaragosa after being expulsed by his own king.
Slowly The Christina kingdoms started to outnumber the Muslim ones and unite to form larger and more powerful kingdoms.  In 1300 only the kingdom of Granada was still Muslim and this two was conquered in 1492, officially ending the “Reconquista”.


Moros y Cristianos in Moraira 2012

 

 Next saturday the celebrations of Moros y Cristianos will start in Moraira.

During this festivity there a number of processions and acts performed by different groups (cabilas) of Moraira.  Cabilas are composed by inhabitants of Moraira and they belong to either the side of the moros or the cristianos.

The first open act will be that saturday at 23:00 with the flag presentation at the main square.  Each cabila will present it’s insignia to the king and queen.

The next days there will be a several acts like a jazz and folk concert (Sunday 19:00) a children’s drawing competition (Monday 19:00) a choir concert in the church (Tuesday 21:00) and a concert of regional instruments ( Wednesday 22:30 in front of the church).

On Friday the 15th the celebrations really start.  At 13:00 the first “pasacalle” through the streets.  A pasacalle is a procession in which both members of cabilas and visitors can participate.   Members of the cabilas are  not wearing any impressive costumes.
At 13:30 there will be firing of muskets.   At 19:00 at the church the fila’s will make the flower offerings.

At 23:00 at the castle of Moraira the moors will land on the beach and will conquer the castle.   This one is really worth seeing, and with the reconquering of the castle and the gala forms the centre of the celebrations.

Saturday 16th 
At 9:00  the “despertá”  qualified members of the fila´s will walk through the streets of Moraira firing Muskets.
At 10:45 there will be another procesion.  At 12:00 a mass in the church and at 12:45 more muskets

At 19:30 at the castle starts the “reconquista cristiana” a event you shouldn’t miss.

At night is the “Noche de cabilas”, in which the town turns into a huge party and there is drink in all the cabilas.

Sunday 17th
The morning begins with muskets a 9:00.  At  11:30 there is a pasacalle for children and at 13:00 for adults.  At 13:30 more muskets.

At 19:00 starts the Gala procession. In this one the the different cabilas march through Moraira accompanied by music and wearing their finest gala costumes.  Each cabila tries to out do the others and are often accompanied by horses, camels, jugglers and will perform dances.   After the Gala there will be fireworks.

 

If you are staying at one of our holiday homes near Moraira, or even near Javea or Altea Hills you should not miss these typical festivities.  The Conquista, reconquista and Gala are the most impressive and fun to see.  If you can see only one it should be the Gala.

A few pointers:

  • This is Spain, this means that most events will start later than that they are planed,15, 30 minutes, maybe even an hour.
  • The muskets make a real racket and smaller children may get scared.  There is absolutely no danger since they are shooting blanks.
  • There are chairs available during the Gala, but unless you are willing to get there several hours before it starts they will be occupied.
  • The Gala lasts many hours, well into the night.
  • If you don’t want to see the entire Gala, the costumes of the moors are by far the most impressive ones.  They march during the second half.
  • Most of the restaurants and bars will serve food and drink to take away.

Next week I will talk a bit about the origins of the festivity.