Hey, welcome to discover the secrets of Muslims Spain
With this travel plan through Andalusia, Spain, we provide you day by day scheduled itinerary plan, with booking consulting and assistance as well as optional in-person local guides at any part of the program, plus monument guided tours or other activities and arrangements to set the trip to your own standards while you are planning your trip.
Chosen hotel in Cordoba*
Leaving hotel in Sevilla by taxi at 8:30
Leaving Sevilla at 9:13 by ALTAVIA train. from Sevilla Santa Justa Train Station.
Train tickets arriving in Cordoba at 9;56am
Aim to reach Córdoba by 10 am.
Visit Medina Azahara
You will be introduced to the modern capital of Granada, we will go through the most important areas of the historical medina within the modern city centre, the old medina after which Granada is named. After this introduction you will have free time for shopping, leisure walks or activities in Granada, during your last afternoon in Spain.
Chosen hotel in Seville*.
10 AM → Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos - Royal Palaces -
13:00 pm → Giralda Tower
Toledo - Madrid departure route. Independent city plans in Madrid.
Explore the history of Madrid from an islamic city, to the capital of Spain today. Appreciate Spain’s full flavour, connecting from Al-Andalus, and the ‘Moriscos’ to former ‘Castille’, La Mancha, Toledo and central Spain.
Madrid also offers leisure and shopping programs to your custom arrangements. Should you need any assistant in town please contact hop over to our guides section and pick your dates! Thank you.
Walk through the Medina Al-Qadima of Córdoba.
Upon arrival and check-in to your hotel in Cordoba, we will take a leisurely walk through the Al-Medina Al-Qadima of Córdoba into the very surroundings of the Ummaya Mosque, current Cathedral of Córdoba. Free time is provided here for any extra activities, rest, or shopping! As well as a lively town center and many shops, there are three active mosques in Córdoba today worth visiting, a marvelous opportunity to meet some local Muslims while touring around town. Our welcome group dinner plan is optional at extra cost, we will advise you on possible activities at the hotel lobby upon check-in.
Chosen hotel in Seville*.
10 AM → Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos - Royal Palaces -
13:00 pm → Giralda Tower
The Islamic origin of Madrid is integrated here in a welcome city tour, passing through the capital's most popular highlights, and key areas. *This tour includes the recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, "Paseo de Las Luces" , from Madrid-Atocha Train Station to Palacio de Cibeles, passing by the Arts District, Paseo del Prado and Botanic Garden of Madrid.
An introduction to Madrid for first-time visitors, or a deeper exploration for those who know it already, this city tour will reveal many cultural details that – though common knowledge to locals – are not so obvious to people passing through. We also aim to take you back in time from the modern capital of Spain to the former Muslim defensive outpost, named after the Arabic word for the river on whose banks the Muslims once tended orchards of apple trees.
This is the only remaining part of the original city wall of Muslim-founded Madrid. Though there is not much to see now, we can imagine the 10th century fortress where the Royal Palace and Cathedral now stand, in the same exact location, and surrounded by gardens that would have looked quite similar; in fact ,the gardens below the Palacio de Oriente are now called the Jardines del Moro, or ‘the Moor’s gardens’. Below the Palace and Plaza de Oriente you will see steep slopes heading south, reaching as far as the highest bridge in Madrid, at 100m high. This is no coincidence, as the former Alkasar (Al-Qasr) fort, constructed by Muslims in the 10thcentury, was placed on a site some 70m above the rest of the city. This was a strategic defensive location from which neighbouring towers, up to 40 km away, could be seen.
Hispano-Muslim towns were similar in layout to those found today in North Africa and the Middle East. The centre was the medina, a walled city featuring a ‘qasr’ or government residence, and the main mosque. It also had open spaces such as markets, small horticultural gardens, and graveyards, which were surrounded by another wall, beyond which lay thearrabales, or residential suburbs, whose modern Spanish name is derived from the Arabic wordar-rabad.
The medina – ‘city’ in Arabic – had defensive towers with visual communication systems, and offered its inhabitants protection in times of war. Andalusi cities, both large and small, fostered stable environments where scholars in the different sciences would gather together to share and develop their studies.
The main streets of the medina began at the doors of the city wall and were paved with stone. Around these main thoroughfares, a labyrinth of tiny alleyways erupted. Due to a lack in construction regulations, people would build their homes wherever and however they wished, which meant that streets were never completely straight, and towns would quickly turn into mazes that locals had to know like the back of their hands.
We will be recalling Madrid’s Islamic origins as we pass by some of the city’s most famous monuments, the arched city gates that gave access to the former Muslim citadel. The Puerta del Sol, Puerta de Toledo, and Puerta de Alcalá, among others, are modern-day icons of Madrid, embedding the city’s history in stone, even though their architectural styles have evolved with the passage of time, and range from Neoclassical to Renaissance.
Andalusi city walls seen from the Muhammad I Park
Two outstanding echoes of Islamic Madrid are the Emirate-period city wall, dating back to the 9thcentury, and the Church of San Nicolás de los Servitas; the belltower, built in a Mudéjar style, still preserves the original 12thcentury structure, although it is topped off with a Baroque steeple.
Parque Del Emir Mohamed ICuesta de Ramón, Madrid, Madrid, España, 28005
Madrid came to the forefront of Spanish history when, in June of 1561 (or 939 AH), King Felipe IItook his court to the city, inaugurating it as the country’s capital. However, prior to this date, the site was far from being an empty space. The scattered remains of a few hermitages from the Visigoth period can be found here. But the city of Madrid is first mentioned in historical texts dating from the end of the 9th century CE, when Emir Muhammad I (852-886 CE / 230-264 AH) raised a fortress on a promontory next to the River Manzares, where today the Royal Palace stands, close to what is now the Catedral de la Almudena, at the start of the Calle Mayor.
This fortress was designed as a lookout that would keep watch over the mountain passes of the Sierra de Guadarrama in order to protect Toledo, the old Visigoth capital. However, it also functioned as a ribat, a place where Muslim armies would gather at the beginning of a campaign against the Christian armies of the north. For example, in the year 977 CE (355 AH), Almanzor began his military campaign from Madrid. When the Cordoban Caliphate disintegrated, Madrid became part of the Taifa kingdom of Toledo.
Calle Mayor is probably the most historic street in Madrid; dating back to the Middle Ages, it had changed greatly with time, and now the facades of many of the buildings date back to the early 19th century, when cars first started cruising around the Spanish capital. Calle Mayor is also important due to its location, connecting the Royal Palace to Plaza del Sol. Walking down the street in this direction, you will find several places of interest to the right; after passing the military HQ and a few religious buildings, you will come to an open square with a picturesque building at the back, and a statue standing in front of it, almost in the middle of the square. This statue represents Quevedo, a famous Spanish literary figure from Madrid, and the building is the former Town Hall, which was moved a few years ago to Palacio Cibeles.
Plaza Mayor (Main Square) is surrounded by residential buildings that overhang a covered pavement that runs around the whole square, bursting with restaurants and café terraces.Built over the original Plaza del Arrabal, it was the scene of manyauto-da-feevents, at which ‘heretics’ (secret Muslims and Jews) were condemned at tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition. Today it has lost its eerie connotations, and the varied seasonal markets and events regularly held here make Plaza Mayor a reference point in Madrid.
If you cross the square to its southernmost entrance and go down the steps, you can walk down to Calle Toledo, a street that leads to our next stop, Puerta de Toledo, which will allow us to expand a little on our ongoing topic of Madrid as an Islamic citadel.
‘Is this really an Islamic gateway?’ you may well ask, since nowadays it looks more like anarc de triomphe, a tribute to the city of Madrid’s historic origins. This is a good place to start understanding Madrid from its roots as an Islamic medina. We are close to the original palace founded in Umayyad times, currently the Spanish monarchy’s residence, Palacio de Oriente.
This emblematic Neoclassical monument retains nothing more than the memory of the original foundation of the city of Madrid. A silent witness to centuries of history, it has been referred to in pop songs since the 70s, yet still bears scars from bullets from the Spanish Civil war in the 1930s, visible as patches in the granite. The Puerta de Alcalá thus embodies Spain’s heritage all the way from its roots through its Neoclassical architectural elements and up to the present.
Retiro Park was made by and for the monarchs. These recreational grounds were where Spanish kings and queens came to escape their urban routines and enjoy riding, outdoor games, or hunting, until the mid 17thcentury, when the royal family donated it to the city of Madrid. Since then it has been a public park.
The longest street in Madrid is Calle Alcalá, which begins at the Puerta del Sol and leads northwest. It intersects Paseo del Prado at Cibeles Square, and its main highlight is the Puerta de Alcalá, the gateway to Alcalá. This was the original entrance to the Islamic city, from Alcalá la Real, a city that lies some 40 km away from Madrid in that direction. Alcalá comes from the Arabic wordal-qala’a, meaning ‘the fortress or castle’. There are many towns and cities in Spain whose names contain this reference in their names, hinting at their Arabic and Muslim roots.
A visit to the Casa Árabe (Arabic House) is also fascinating for tourists interested in Spain’s relationship with the Muslim world: this is a public Spanish consortium headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. A strategic centre in Spain’s relations with the Arab world, this meeting point is where various private and public agents and institutions – in the spheres of education, academia, business, culture and politics – can come together, dialogue, and develop joint projects.C/ Alcalá, 62. 28009 · Madrid +34 91 563 30 66 email@example.com
This is our first example of Mudéjar art, and it allows us to explore the fusion of the unique cultural heritage to be found in modern Spain. Mudéjar – from the Arabic term meaning ‘adopted’ or ‘integrated’ – refers to Spanish art made after the end of the political state of al-Andalus, but based on Islamic inspirations, techniques, or motifs – and even, initially at least, created by the Muslim craftsmen who had remained in Spain after theReconquista.
Madrid’s bullring was constructed in 1925 at the same time as Plaza de España, which was built to a very similar design; the two buildings were the centrepieces of Seville’s ‘World Ibero-Latin Expo’ that year, an event that was intended to present Spain and Hispanic American countries to the rest of the world. The results of that exhibition were strongly affected by the Wall Street crash of the same year.
This is the main mosque in Madrid, founded and maintained by the Saudi Kingdom for Spanish Muslims, and inaugurated in the late 1980s. The complex contains not only a large prayer room with a ladies area upstairs, but also a library, offices, shower rooms, toilets andwudu’facilities in which about 50 people can perform their ablution simultaneously. The complex also boasts a café and restaurant. On our tour we usually stop here for a few minutes to pray before continuing with our exploration of Madrid from its Muslim roots to the present day.
Mezquita de la M-30 mosque and cultural centre, C/Salvador de Madariaga, 4
Mosque (Islamic Cultural Center of Madrid)
Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.
Paseo de Recoletos is often confused with Paseo de la Castellana or Paseo del Prado, although this is not surprising, as it is essentially the same avenue. From Atocha through to the north of Madrid, it is first called Avenida del Prado, then once it reaches Plaza de Cibeles and passes through the city centre it is called Paseo de Recoletos, while further north, after passing Nuevos Ministerios, it becomes Paseo de la Castellana, ending at the northernmost point of Madrid at Plaza de Castilla.
In the Chamberí district of Madrid, just off Paseo de la Castellana, we find Nuevos Ministerios (‘New Ministries’), one of the most important governmental buildings in the capital that now houses the Ministries of Employment Development and Social Security. Construction began in 1933, and despite being halted during the civil war, the complex was eventually finished in 1942. Nearby we can also find the Nuevos Ministerios station, a transport interchange connecting bus, metro, and local train services.
The Santiago Bernabeu stadium is the grounds of the Real Madrid football club, and is categorised by UEFA as an ‘élite stadium’ – the highest rank. With a maximum capacity of 81,044 spectators, it is situated on the Paseo de la Castellana, in the Chamartín district. It was inaugurated on the 14thof December, 1947.
An official tour of the stadium can be made independently. The €21 cost includes access to the stadium, and arrows point the way so you can carry out the tour at your own pace, passing through various areas and the field itself, and even the trainers’ seats. The tour comes to an end at the Real Madrid Official Store, on the opposite end of the stadium to the main entrance.
This public square is a landmark at the very north of the Spanish capital city, named after the central kingdom of former Iberia, Castilla. Some of the highest buildings in Madrid can be found on this square, which are its main attraction. The Puerta de Europa (Gate of Europe) – also colloquially called the Kío Towers – are a pair of skyscrapers that stand at 114m tall and have almost 30 floors. They are visible from anywhere in Madrid, and their main curiosity is that they are symmetrical, both of them leaning at 15º towards the same central point. Also on this square is the blue and yellow Castilla Tower, with a total of 24 floors, on the far west side of the square.
This 92m tall, 6m wide obelisk was designed by Santiago Calatrava, and was donated by Caja Madrid to the city of Madrid to celebrate the bank’s 300th anniversary. Set on the southern side of the square, when seen from Cuzco station as in this picture, the obelisk seems to be placed exactly between the two slanting towers of the Puerta de Europa. Its steel structure is made up of 12 turning rings that give the impression of creating waves as it slowly spins. The project was launched in 2004, but because of the busy metro stations underneath, the plans had to be altered, and construction finally ended in 2009. Further along this street we come to the four tallest towers in Madrid, also of recent construction.
M-30, M-40, M-50 RING ROADS
MADRID BARAJAS / ADOLFO SUAREZ INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
TAKE THE METRO INTO TOWN
FLIGHT CONNECTIONS TO MADRID
EXPRESS ARRIVAL FROM AIRPORT TO HIGH SPEED TRAIN: CORDOBA, SEVILLA, MALAGA, OR BARCELONA
The veneration of Madrid’s patron saints dates back to the earliest years of Christian domination. Legend tells that an image of the Virgin Mary was found on the outer city wall on the 9thof November, 1085 CE (463 AH), while San Isidro Labrador (b. circa 1070 CE, d. 1130 or 1172 CE), a Mozárabe farmworker born during the Muslim era, was a great devotee of the Virgen de la Almudena. Both are patron saints of Madrid.
This brings us back to the religious syncretism of this European capital, which has barely been studied but which is in plain evidence: the Virgin of the Almudena is the image of the Madrid cathedral, which is situated over the foundations of the ancient mosque of the citadel. The word Almudena is derived from Al-mudayna, meaning citadel in Arabic, and related to the worddin, or religion. SanIsidro Labrador could be a Hispanisation of Idris, probably referring to a local Muslim saint.
Although this was a fortified city, designed to control the border and protect the important city of Toledo, few vestiges of the Islamic or Mudéjar period remain. However, we will explore these on this tour, shining a light on a little-known aspect of this European capital’s Muslim past.
Even though all that is left of the original building is its tower, the archaeological remains that have been found, together with its location, suggest that this 12thcentury Mudéjar church was built over one of the six mosques that existed in Majrit before the Christian conquest in 1083 CE (461 AH). This is why it is referred to historically as the only minaret that was preserved in the city, although this is not conclusively proven. What is evident is that it was built by thealarifes(Muslim builders and master craftsmen) that remained in the city after the Reconquista, on the condition that they continued their work as builders for the new Christian rulers.
At the end of the 11thcentury or beginning of the 12th, a second city wall was built around Madrid; it was described as the ‘Christian wall’, but constructed in the same style as the previous one, as it was the Mudéjars who were responsible for its construction. These Mudéjars lived in what would be the modern-day neighbourhood of La Latina, previously known as the Morería (Moorish quarter); in this district we can still find the Moorish gate and a square that bears the original name of the neighbourhood.
Tiles showing the names of squares in the original Moorish quarter of Madrid
The new name of this district came from an old hospital, but today it is better known as the most fashionable district in the capital, to which thousands of people flock every weekend to enjoy its atmosphere and itstapas.But while La Latina might be the correct name for the Mudéjar district, locally it is still known as La Morería.
La Morería is the neighbourhood where initially the Mozárabes (Arabised Christians) lived during Islamic times, and to which the Mudéjars (Muslims who remained after the Christian conquest) would later move when the city fell to Alfonso VI in 1083 CE (461 AH). This Spanish ruler gave the Muslims a generous degree of autonomy, allowing them to live according to their customs and traditions.
Muslim farmers, craftsmen, and builders crossed the city towards the valley of Las Vistillas to live in what had been the Mozárabe quarter, which was eventually incorporated into the citadel when Alfonso VI raised the new defensive walls around the suburb, protecting it from attack. The interior boundary of the Muslim quarter was delimited by a small stream that the Muslims called Majra, literally meaning ‘running water’ in Arabic – from which the Muslim name for the city, Majrit, was derived, and from there its modern name. This is where thehammamwas situated. This stream has long since dried up, and Calle Segovia was built over it.
12th century addition to the city walls; within these new precincts the Mudéjar quarter was found, also known as the Morería or Aljama quarter
In contemporary times, the layout of this neighbourhood allows us to distiguish its original street plan, splayed out around the Plaza del Alamillo, where the Islamic court of law was located. There were also two mosques on the sites where the churches of San Andrés and San Pedro el Viejo – with its magnificent Mudéjar tower, clearly recalling its Andalusi influences – stand today.
Mudéjar church of San Pedro el Viejo in the Morería district
An ancient Muslim water channel (qanat) from the 11th century is hidden in the Plaza de los Carros (shownbelow). Channels like these brought the water that lay under these rich soils out through underground conduits and carried it to distant agricultural fields for irrigation. This hydraulic supply system is one of the most important inheritances of Islamic Madrid, as it remained in use until the creation of the Isabel II canal.
Next to this old water channel we also find some of the almost 100 granaries and wells that have been found in excavations, which served to store foodstuffs until, much later, they were turned into rubbish dumps. Shards of Andalusi pottery have been found in these containers, which are now on display in the Museo de los Orígenes, located in the same district.
Muslim-era granaries in the centre of Madrid