Almeria, Andalusia – the real Spain

Almeria, Spain

Almeria in Andalusia is the real Spain on the fringe of Europe, its driest and sunniest place, one of the last stretches of unspoilt Mediterranean.  It has Europe’s only desert, a history and present of diverse culture, the setting for over 500 films …… and the tapas come free! Welcome to Costa Almeria. Bienvenido!

Almeria, thanks to its strategic situation on the Mediterranean, has been home to different civilisations throughout its history. Significant traces of their presence can be seen in the archaeological remains scattered all over the province.

The city was founded by Calipha Abd-ar-Rahman III of Cordoba in 955 AD. It was to be a principal harbour in his extensive domain to strengthen his Mediterranean defences.

Its Moorish castle, the Alcazaba de Almería, is the second largest among the Muslim fortresses of Andalusia, after the Alhambra.

                               The ancient walls of Jayrán

 In this period, the port city of Almería reached its historical peak. After the fragmentation of the Caliphate of Córdoba, Almería continued to be ruled by powerful local Muslim Taifa emirs like Jairan, the first independent Emir of Almería and Cartagena, and Almotacin, the poet emir. Both Jairan and Almotacin were fearless warriors, but also sophisticated patrons of the arts. A silk industry, based upon plantings of mulberry trees in the hot, dry landscape of the province, supported Almería in the 11th century and made its strategic harbour an even more valuable asset.

Contested by the emirs of Granada and Valencia, Almería experienced many sieges, including one especially fierce siege when Christians, called to the Second Crusade by Pope Eugene III, were also encouraged to attack the Muslim ‘infidels’ on a more familiar coast. On that occasion Alfonso VII, at the head of mixed forces of Catalans, Genoese, Pisans and Franks, led a crusade against the rich city, and Almería was occupied in October 1147.

Within a decade, however, Almería had passed to the control of the puritanical Muslim Almoravid emirs, and not until the late 15th century did it fall permanently into Christian hands. The city surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinan and Isabella, on December 26, 1489.

The 16th century was for Almería a century of natural and human catastrophes; for there were at least four earthquakes, of which the one in 1522 was especially violent, devastating the city. The people who had remained Muslim were expelled from Almería after the War of Las Alpujarras in 1568 and scattered across Spain. Landings and attacks by Berber pirates were also frequent in the 16th century, and continued until the early 18th century. At that time, huge iron mines were discovered and French and British companies set up business in the area, bringing renewed prosperity and returning Almería to a position of relative importance within Spain.

During the Spanish Civil War the city was shelled by the German navy, and the front page headlines of the Diario de Almería, dated June 3, 1937, referred to the press in London and Paris carrying the news of the “criminal bombardment of Almería by German planes”.

Almería and Málaga were the last Andalusian cities to surrender to Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces.

In the second half of the 20th century, Almería witnessed spectacular economic growth due to tourism and intensive agriculture, with crops grown year-round in massive invernaderos – plastic-covered “greenhouses” – for intensive vegetable production.

After Franco’s death and popular approval of the new Spanish Constitution, the people of southern Spain were called on to approve an autonomous status for the region in a referendum. Although there were 118,186 votes for and 11,092 votes against it in the province of Almería, an absolute majority was needed, and the results in Almería were just 42%. The Government impugned that result, and Almería is now part of the newly autonomous region of Andalusia as we know it today.


Portocarrero’s Sun

As typical symbols we have the ‘Indalo’ and the ‘Sol de Portocarrero’. The Indalo is a cave painting found in the Cave of ‘Los Letreros’ (Sierra de María-Los Vélez) and represents a human figure with outstretched arms holding a bow. It was used to keep away the evil eye in Mojácar, but nowadays, at souvenir shops, ‘to bring good luck’. About the ‘Sol’ (UAL shield), was sculpted on the Cathedral of Almería which was used both for religious acts as well as to take refuge from pirate attacks.

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