Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Madrid - A Collage of History. Architecture. Christopher Columbus, Plaza Mayor, Prado, Don Quixote, Palace


The idea of proportion comes across despite the many forms used. Recalling here an art history lecturer in college, who used a conductor's baton to tap out architecture - the base might be tap....tap....tap; one for each major aperture.

Then, the level above, with four apertures to each one below, might be taptaptaptap; and above it, two above the four, for tap tap; and a whistle and swoop for an arch with a tap, and BANG for the cupole on top of the dome. Gets under your skin.

Make your own sound effects as you look at buildings.


Here is Neptune, in a roundabout -

Some sites start Madrid's history with medieval times, see :// Nuts. We like to do back and back. This one is better - 1000 BC, settlement by Iberian tribes, and Celts; and in 218 BC, in came the Romans with roads, many converging here. So, that is maybe why we have Neptune here. In the 4thCentury AD, Visigothic Kings took over after Rome fell. There is a whole park lineup of them. Very impressive, macho. Toledo was the capital for the Visigoths. See://


Always surprised that the Celts were all over Europe, including Eastern and Central Europe, later pushed into England, Wales, Ireland. See :// Need to research more on Celts and Visigoths.


10th Century: Arab. Emir Cordova Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Rahman. This site says that the Muslims founded Madrid proper. See :// full name is listed because we want to know what each part means - a lineage, a tribute?

Liberated 11th Century.


Here is the great Plaza Major or Plaza Mayor - a huge space, cafes, and in the early evening the tapas gets going, with later evening (dinner starts about 11:00 PM) busy with crowds. Enter from a regular city street, up a staircase, through an arch and suddenly there it is - wide open. Wonderful.

Madrid became the capital and seat of the Royal Family in the 16th Century.

Many monuments to explorers, kings.

Memorial to King Charles III?, 18th Century.

He also ruled Naples and Sicily - we often forget how fluid national boundaries were then. Find out after we get back. Reforms in sanitation, no more slops out windows, liked French dress, overall did well, says ://



This is no longer used as a residence. Meet the Royal Family at ://
King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, and children.



This memorial is so tall that it took two photos to get it all in. See Dan at the bottom for scale. Is is as high as Trafalgar Square?  There is a tradition that Cristoforo Colombo was a child out of wedlock, his childhood unknown, but piece together the stories and such support for it as you may choose to weigh, at Bogomilia, Shadow Children.


If you arrive in Madrid on a Sunday and expect to see the Prado on a Monday, you will have to go elsewhere - and there are many alternative museums. Prado closes Mondays. Another choice is to hop one of the many sight-seeing buses where you get on and off all day, taking any of the many routes offered - just go all over for the price of one ticket. Great.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pamplona - The Bulls

Pamplona, Spain. Dawn, by the Corral

Bull Runnings

Bullfighting has a long history, and worth learning about before going. See  Catalonia has moved to ban killing the bull, see,8599,1930746,00.html

Here is The Drill for watching a bull run at Pamplona. And a guide: ://

1.  Walk down the evening before to see the bulls arrive at the corrals; and plan where to go for the run the next day.

We were there when killing is the goal.  I tried not to think too much about it. The festival is in the name of Saint Fermin, Pamplona's first bishop, says this reputable site, We had been told that he was a martyr, killed by bull-dragging or trampling.  He was first a bishop, then the martyr in the 1st Century AD, but those events occurred in Amiens France, see ://  The year traditionally was 257 AD (makes more sense than a cite to 1st Century). He was tied to a bull and dragged. See ://

See a daily roster of events at

2.  Get up at 5 AM to walk walk walk from wherever you found a room, to claim the spot for viewing.

We had checked out where to go the night before, aiming to see the bulls safely, and we found a high spot at the starting section, at the top of a flight of stone steps leading to a square. We were at the beginning of the run.

Grab a coffee and bun as you go, watch people with the fire hoses washing down the streets, and washing the el inebriatos out of the doorways.

3.   Once you get your place, hold it - if you shift an inch, someone will slither in front of you - Viva Yo - and you lose. Or a big arm with an alien camera will suddenly block your view. Plan for it. That's life.

Pamplona, Spain. The Runners Amass

Look down and see everybody in the red and white customary attire - includes women these days. Hear the runners sing their Prayer to St. Fermin - that is a chanty singsong in honor of that St. Fermin who was martyred by bulls in centuries past.

4.  There goes the rocket.  Out come the bulls and up the street below.

Pamplona, Spain. The Rocket, the Bull Run, with a few oxen.

5.  Then see the scatter.

Pamplona, Spain. The Great Scatter at the Bull Running

Everybody run.

Bulls and people tend to slip at the curves, on the cobbles; and are totally confused and panicked at the end of the run, to the tunnel into the ring.
Several oxen run with bulls in an effort to keep them calmer, but it is dangerous.

We heard many sirens, off an on, all during the run. At least in the tunnel, there are roll slots you can roll into and out of the way, or leap into cut-outs in the wall.

Meanwhile, in the ring, people have been entertaining the crows by clowning with calves, or female cattle that will not then be used in the ring, I think. The animals are smart and learn what to do fast. They don't get used or exposed to the ring twice, I hear.

The bullfights are on TV all the time, and to this outsider, there is nothing glorious and epic about the encounters I saw between man and brute forces that Michener wrote about in the old "Iberia." Capitalism took over. Advantage: to the people. Seldom not messy. But that is an outsider speaking. Limited. But there is a lot to learn about the tradition behind it, so do read and respect

Pamplona, Spain. Mounted Police, in Feathers. End of Day.

6.  Expect inebriation. Everywhere. You will also get wet. Very wet. Wine and beer are poured and sprinkled about at the end of the day. Set a meeting place in case you get separated. Practice locking arms. If the crowd squeezes and you can't move, then you can stay together.

Police on horseback to control everything.

Read Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" for a fine literary lookback. Here is an excerpt: at ://

Pamplona - Getting Older; and History

Festival of St. Fermin - Bull Running Agenda

For the July bull-running festival, there are parades during the day for the - large puppets over head. If you arrive in the middle of one, however, expecting to see macho, athletic young men flexing all over the place, think again.
Pamplona, Parade, Spain
This has become family reunion time. All the strollers and spouses. There are plenty of young people, sleeping in the park like old Woodstock or something, and the partying goes on all night. Still, the impression is of middle aged people coming back to relive what they did or wished they did, or made up that they did, this time with the kids. All is red and white. For all ages and shapes. No place to go, so just turn off the ignition and let the parades flow around you. Get out and join in.

History: Plenty to do after the run. Pamplona was a Roman town 75 BC - near the Basque area and town of Iruna. It does not subdue - as the Visigoths and Moors found. Even Charlemagne and his Franks were stopped by the Basques at Roncesvalles nearby. In medieval times, there were three towns at that basic spot, with differing populations - Basque, French (see how close to the Pyrenees) and a mix of others. The French tried to take it definitively in 1521, lost, and Ignatius Loyola - who fought there - was wounded and later founded the Jesuits. For a long time, Pamplona was frontier. Walls, fort.

Listen. The Song of Roland at :// Here is an online translation of this old French poem, about the son of Charlemagne and his death at Roncesvalles. At ://

Monday, February 11, 2008

Muslim Spain - Contributions. Saracens. Fatimids. Granada.

Vast architectural structures. Islamic influence in so many places.

I believe this is in the town of Granada, not the palace, Alhambra, there. See where a later Christian influence (the Christians liked rigid squares and rectangles; or Gothic pointed arches) changed the original fluid, arched Moorish windows.

They made them look more Gothic, except for a few on the right that remained Moorish, with an Arab look if you scrunch up your eyes- see the flaring just at the arch, the scimitar shapes?

At this site, click on the main Islamic cities in Spain during the Muslim Occupation, and get overviews that help put the era into perspective - at :// The main cities were Seville, Cordoba, Jaen, and Granada.

But who were the Saracens? The same as the Islamic conquerors of Spain? This site says the term was used generally for Muslims in the Middle Ages - see ://

Same as Fatimids?

No, the Fatimids were Shi'a, and this site has a fine, short history :// This is of interest because we learn of the Shiites in Iraq.

Note the focus of their history there, apparently in Egypt.

For a review of the Sunni - Shi'a divisions, see ://

Looked up Catholic - Protestant in the same vein - and found a confusion of quasi-dogma and big words that would mean nothing to an outsider without a glossary and authority to support, at ://

Presenting another culture's beliefs. Trouble.

Perhaps Muslims feel the same way about how their divisions are represented. This historical view, from the Tudor period, was far more informative. Take a look at ://

Remember, that is from the Tudor period, 1500-1700 or so, but deep roots are there.

Here is a map of the Fatimids, and Wikipedia's note that information needs brush-ups, at :// Fatimids were Shi'a, of an Ismaili branch (?). Wikipedia notes a high degree of religious tolerance to non-Ismaili, Coptic Christian, Jew, or other Islamic persons.

Malaga - The Costa del Sol, The Sun Coast, Alcazaba

Picasso was born in Malaga. Update 2013: The Picasso Museum, now in its 10th year, is regenerating the center of town, the old Jewish Quarter where it is located. The building is a renaissance home, from the 16th Century - the Palacio de Buenevista. See the activity there in the Financial Times article, In the Footsteps of Picasso, Nov.2-3, 2013. See  ://

Malaga, Alcazabe, Spain. Sun Coast.
The Sun Coast, Costa del Sol, Malaga and great Islamic fortress dating to 1065, the "Alcazabe," is on the side of the hill. At the top of the hill is another, older Muslim fortress, the Gibralfaro. See Malaga is on the way from Gibraltar to Ronda, a town on a deep gorge in the mountains.

Malaga is a vacation destination, highrises at the beach, and many flights  from UK, Germany, Scandinavia.  There are signs in many languages. And has large enclaves of expatriates not just vacationing, but retiring there.

Alcazabe, Malaga, Spain. Wall View.
History:  Malaga was founded by Phoenicians, an ancient, sea-faring, trading people 1200-800 BC or so, who originated near Palestine. Main cities there were Tyre and Sidon, see ://

Phoenicians are also known as the "Canaanite Phoenicians," see Their alphabet formed the basis for the first transliteration of the Hebrew collections of stories over thousands of years that, in about 550-600 became a proto-Old Testament. Phoenicians - deserve great credit, often forgotten.
  • Even the old name "Malaka" is from the Phoenician for "salt" - for salting the fish there. In Arabic, it is Malaqah, from the Islamic Occupation. See :// 
  • The musical work, "Malaguena," by Ernesto Lecuona, refers to the Gypsies of Malaga, all you pianists.

During the Muslim Occupation, this town of Malage grew as a "taifa" kingdom, and was formed as many did when the great Caliphate broke up (at Cordoba?) in the 11th Century. Supporting art and architecture was a way to show wealth - conspicuous visualization? see ://

Driving: Always look up. At most substantial-sized and small towns, there will be a castle on a hill, an Old Town below. Aim for either, then both.

Festivals, holidays, days for closings

We try to plan a trip when there will be a festival. Here is a website for Spain events:

The usual festivals center on Seville at Easter, Pamplona in July for the bull runs, and there is a tomato throwing festival somewhere also that we missed. Crushing.

Mondays are often closing days for museums. Check so that you are not at Bilbao for the Museum of Art, or only have a Monday left in Madrid, for the Prado. If you are in a city on a Monday, take the day on a bus hop-on-hop-off all day ticket - many routes usually color coded so you can see where each route goes, stay as long as you like, shift routes, all day, see everything but the inside. Many also have talking tour boxes and ear phones at each seat.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Granada, Alhambra Palace. Al-Andalus

Al-Andalus is the name of the old Arabic name for the overall Iberian peninsula, now Spain.  It then became associated only with the southern portions under Muslim control, that control extending some 800 years.  For the first 300 years, the nearby city of Cordoba and its caliphate dominated.  See Saudi Aramco World magazine, Granada's New Convivienca Sept-Oct 2003, article by Tor Eigeland, at,
Granada was known for its mutual tolerance of other religions, with restrictions that those others could tolerate.
Then factions weakened Cordoban control, and by the 14th-15th Centuries, the smaller kingdom of Granada represented the remainder, was the capital, and it remained glorious in its smaller geographic setting. It finally surrendered to Christian forces of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.
  • SaudiAramco World is an excellent resource, photos, reviews, articles, heavy glossy paper, and also online. At the end of articles is a section for other related materials in other issues.  This Sept-Oct 2003 issue is especially fine for its overview of the Muslim religion, see it at Islam FAQ's,
Granada is the city in southern Spain where the Sultan's Palace, the Alhambra, is located - see
Granada, Spain. Alhambra garden courtyard
The guidebook may say that you have to have advance tickets to do the Alhambra palace. Not so. If you get there later in the afternoon, you can see it all, and avoid the tour buses. We spent the night in town, and went back the next day to fill in anything we missed.


Alhambra, Granada, Spain, Lion Fountain

While the Moors ruled, there was an extensive flowering of architecture, culture, mathematics, architecture, etc. See; and

There is a new mosque at the Albaicin, the first in 500 years. 
.Albaicin, Arab Quarter, Old Grenada, Spain (view from the Alhambra)

There is a fine view to old Granada from the Arab Quarter, The Albaicin is the area where the Christians, upon retaking Granada in 1492, forced the Arab Muslims to live.  It became known as the Arab Quarter, and is located on a steep hillside, now the Old City. See, fine photos and notes by Lorenzo Bohm. Details for tourists at Take time at the spice market in the Albaicin, heaps of turmuric, others, and take time to wander and get totally lost. You will find your way back.
In the cathedral here are Ferdinand and Isabella, and our favorite, Juana la Loca, see this site and read every word, at There she is, in stone, with her fingers lightly tented over her chest, moving ever so slightly, and her head turned just a tad away from her husband, Philip (handsome but....) beside her, as her mind still wanders. Or doesn't, or never did.
Read her story in James Michener's extensive novel, "Iberia" - see We are looking for the pages about Juana now. La la la. But not all is necessarily as it seems....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Islamic Studies, Orientalism, Resources

Some names, since Spain was under Islamic rule for 400-500 years, this is pertinent to its history and Europe's - and the world now. Our own filing place for further reading.

1. Hamilton Gibb, "Essays on the History of Islam," - British Empire origins, but a world of esoterica, Arab history - in process of getting feet wet here. More neutral, older.

2. Bernard Lewis, a neo-conservative spokesman for Arab-Islamic scholarship, Princeton?

3. Edward Said and "Orientalism," a broader concept than the too-stereotyped "Islamic" cubbies used in the West.

Burgos - Way of St. James, Pilgrimage Point, Cathedral

Burgos, Cathedral, Spain

The Romans took possession of this area around Burgos, while it was "Celtiberian" - the Celts were all over Europe, with first roots perhaps in Eastern Europe. See ://

Founded as a town in 884, as part of an effort to consolidate where Christians lived, it was part of the Arab Muslim empire for a short time (Arabs held all of Castile, "land of castles," built for the defense of Christians).

There is a beautiful Gothic cathedral, begun in 1221, and work on it continued for 300 years. But Burgos is not the birthplace of El Cid, despite Burgos' tourist claims in attention-getting headers. Even in the fine print of this site you read that El Cid was born in Vivar, a/k/a Bivar, or Bevar.

We had made a special trip over to Bivar before coming to Burgos, and it is a tiny town between Segovia and Burgos. There is a statue there and memorial tower. See post at Spain Road Ways, El Cid at Bivar. See:// Read about El Cid at :// Read about Burgos development, wars, alliances and breakups with Navarre and Leon and Aragon, and other major events at ://; but remember two things:

1. Time your arrival before 1PM or after 2PM, sometimes 3PM.

Long lunch period, for the main meal of the day and a rest and all is closed; and this is so in many places. Change your eating habits, check the guidebook for times, and enjoy the plaza; and

2. Write down where you park.

Better yet, take a picture of the nearest cross streets and your car if you have a digital camera. By the time you find a space, and walk back through the wonderful, twisty streets, you are among the truly, truly lost. The irritation is just in the time spent - but change your perspective on time, and enjoy where you find yourself.

Burgos is also on the famous pilgrimage route, The Way of Saint James, to Santiago de Compostela - see :// Pilgrims were given special safe passage, at least that was the idea, and carried or wore a scallop shell to identify them. See pilgrimages and scallops at ://

Cordoba - the Roman City

Cordoba, Roman Temple, Claudius Marcellus

Explore the remains of the Temple constructed by Claudius Marcellus, at Claudio Calle Marcelo, about a mile from the Mezquita, the Mosque, now Roman Catholic Cathedral, see other post.*

See the temple as imagined at //

And the long bridge over the River Guadalquivir, to the Mosque and Cathedral, at Cordoba, Roman Bridge.

Do not underestimate Cordoba. There were more cultural buildings in Cordoba under the Romans than in Rome itself, says ://

Cordoba, Spain. RomanTemple setting, on street, Claudia Calle Marcelo

Today, back up a little bit from the cropped picture to see how the ruins are integrated in modern times.

Those are original old walls, and the building adjoins. Several hotels tout their location over Roman ruins, some, apparently, with glass in the hotel floors so people can look down.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cordoba, Christian and Muslim and Jewish

Cordoba, Roman Bridge
Beautiful Cordoba, city of Romans, see Roman Cordoba, Visigothic Christians, Muslims, Catholic Christians. The lovely Guadalquivir River, now much silted in. But the old grandeur is all around.

Look at that distance to the Mosque-Cathedral, from the perspective of people like us, who drive, and who have to park on the far side of the Puente Romana, the Roman Bridge, and walk, leaving luggage behind. There is always the hovering concern that oops, on the return, empty car.

That's me looking back fitfully, in great hopes of seeing it all again when we returned. Cordoba, Puente Romana

We are hugely vulnerable to evildoers - any around would know there will be several hours before we walk back. So what.

Go anyway.

We've only been burglarized once - in the Blarney Castle parking lot, in Ireland - see Ireland Road Ways, Blarney post. Lost it all, including passport and ticket, so what more can happen. Spain was great.

We often do pay someone who happens to be standing nearby, and ask the impossible - could they watch the car, no way of enforcing that, but it is a human connection only.  They could be the first to barge into it, knowing we were walkers and not coming back soon.

No problem. So what if it all disappeared? Health counts, the second pair of jeans doesn't.

On the other side of the river is, the old Mezquita (Mosque) that was later, after the Muslims were defeated in 1492, included in a vast Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Cordoba, Cathedral incorporating the Mosque
Cordoba was governed by the Muslims 929-1031 AD, and was a foremost intellectual center in Spain and (this site says) in all of Europe. See :// There was a large Jewish Quarter, that now is a destination in itself, and the walk on the way to the Roman ruins, see next post, but the Jews were all expelled by the Christian (?) Ferdinand and Isabella by edict in 1492.

Some background: Spain, a Visigothic Christian kingdom mostly, was invaded by Muslims in 711, and ruled by them from overall about 711 to 1492. The Muslims were defeated by the Christian King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Thus, Spain was an Islamic territory and until 1031, was "administered by a provincial government established in the name of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus and centered in Cordoba." See discussion and photographs at ://
Cordoba, Guadalquivir River
The bridge walk back - and the car was just fine.
Thank you, Spain.

For a discussion of the concept of Caliphate as serving in direct line (the "rightful caliphs"), see ://
The phrase apparently means, Successor to the Messenger of God, the Holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). See also ://


Roman Bridge, Cordoba, Spain
Roman bridges are still in use - that is the one at Cordoba.

I understand that the Moors had conquered Spain by 711, except for some mountain regions. They ruled for 800 years , and, unlike the Christian areas, welcomed Jews in administration, ambassadorships and finance. Cordoba was the seat of the Umayyad caliphat, its peak in the 10th Century. See original source material at ://

Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain
Building encompassing building.

The Cathedral at Cordoba contains within it the huge Mosque originally there - they just built around and over. Huge. The Christians finished their reconquest in the 1490's. See

With the reconquest, however, came the Spanish Inquisition, see; and; and the expulsion and death of any who opposed the form of Catholicism of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

II. Pursuing "dhimmitude" 1492 -- in Christian Spain, the Reconquest and Re-taking from the Muslims

The Jewish Expulsion

Part II of a look at Muslim expansion in Spain; and its aftermath - 
Christian Rule and Expulsion of the Jews.

This, after centuries, of living together under the Muslims


This follows up the earlier post on the status of dhimmi for subject Jews and Christians under Muslim rule, at Spain Road Ways, Pursuing "dhimmitude" to 1492.

Jews were expelled from Spain in about 1492. From there, many ended up in Eastern and Central Europe. This is the second part of our look at  "dhimmitude" -- the condition or status of non-Muslims under Muslim rule.

Spanish Synagogue, Prague, CZ

II. Jewish life at the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

What happened then?

Here is the "Spanish Synagogue" in Prague, the Czech Republic, see Czech Republic Road Ways, Prague, Jewish Quarter.

Whoever built this clearly valued a heritage from and in Spain. How did this get to Prague.

History here focuses on an old event, and a recent one:

Edict of Expulsion. The old event. This is the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by formal Edict of Expulsion in 1492. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's Christian armies had defeated the Muslims who ruled Spain from the 8th Century until 1492. This is called the "Reconquest" of Spain, from the Muslim conquering of the Visigothic Kings and others, the first invasion being in 711. The expelled Jews went wherever they could find homes, out of Spain. You can still see the empty Jewish Quarters, especially in Seville, where the occupiers now are Christians, clubs, very scenic and old, but no longer Jewish.

The Spanish Jews, ending up in Turkey, Italy, North Africa and elsewhere, became known as the Sephardim.

A loss to Spain - Spain caused its own brain drain.

The Spanish Christian response was not a new angle. Earlier Christians, the Visigoths, ruling before the Muslims, also forced conversion or expulsion, see ://

Petr Ginz. The recent event: Some Jews ended up in Central and Eastern Europe. Read "The diary of Petr Ginz," by Chava Pressburger, his sister, about his life in World War II in Prague. His whose grandmother attended this synagogue, also known as the Dusni Synagogue - -see Places of Petr Ginz. The conditions under which the Jews were expelled, and where some of them ended up.

The persistence of ethnic memory in all of us.

Dhimmi Status - after Muslims are Gone.

1. Most sites address how bad it was or must have been. With that background, see the numerous sites decrying the treatment of Christians and Jews under Muslim rule, see for example, :// No doubt atrocities happened - but the essence of the "dhimmi" status under the Muslims, the subservient legal status afforded Christians and Jews in Muslim lands, was essentially economic, political, religious, social - behavior and privilege oriented. We have been looking around our Koran, and see no requirement or advisement for atrocities on top.

2. Does applying a separate type of "dhimmi" legal status, even temporarily, offer some constructive way to meet our own issues with different populations.

See the dabblings with a plank on dealing with immigrants without documentation here now, and until further study can be made. How to suspend ferocities until after an election, so we all can stop and think.

See Pose Juxta: Plank, Lawful Temporary Residence Permit (Red Card).

If "Dhimmi" as a theory or legal status was indeed intended as an administrative, functional - even if clearly unequal - legal status, the inequality was part of the overall social - religious structure and in their time made sense.

I do not yet see that a cruel or humiliating enforcement or implementation was required - that looks like the normal variations among rulers. Is it worth exploring. Yes. See exploration discussion of possible uses of this legal status approach for us in transitional immigration issues at Hello, Fodder, Dhimmi Status; and Joy of Equivocating, Dhimmi fact-finding.

2. With the "dhimmi" status in mind as to how Muslims did it, then look at the "dhimmi" status imposed by Christians over Jews in Christian lands. The Spanish Inquisition killed Jews who would not convert, and committed terrible atrocities in order to obtain confessions and conversions. Ferdinand and Isabella than expelled them all - the Edict of Expulsionn in 1492. Liquidate property, throw them out.

See ://

3. Compare: Muslim dhimmi laws that permit ongoing life, even protect it, but impose restrictions - harsh ones, but so far no advocacy for atrocities against compliant "dhimmis." Is this accurate?

Christian dhimmi laws - the Edicts of Expulsions in Spain and other countries- that permit no "dhimmis" to live there at all, and certainly not in the country they had populated for centuries, living with Muslims and Christians alike. Kill and expel. Or torture, and persecute, as in Inquisitions.

A hope for future co-existence: Can we as people recognize that the abusive form, that a religion takes in its interactions with others from time to time, is a function of the leaders' agendas and interpretations, and not necessarily at all what the scriptural basis of the religion may have intended.

How does any religion change depending on the interpretations of authorities.

Here, on this little island, let's say, is the founding place of a major religion. All that we have of the life and teachings of the founder now is two chimneys, one at each end.

For Christians, this is an apt analogy. So much was never written down, until it became other people's differing recollection, or hearsay filling in, all the rest did not survive, or is still in desert jars, for some reasons intentional, others not.

For Jews, or Muslims, let them interpret as they will.

For all of us, what was originally intended may well be in the mists, after all the intervening "inspired" interpreters filling in the gaps between the chimneys to suit them. Everybody dhimmis everybody, so we all need help from somewhere and that 's the truth. Bhlpppthpt.

Who is the pot calling which other kettle black?:// Or six of one, half dozen of the other, etc. See :// Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the .....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I. Pursuing "dhimmitude" in Arab-Berber - Muslim Spain 750-1492 C.E.

 This is part I of a look at Muslim expansion into Spain: to 1492. 
The Status of Dhimmitude - the Infidel in a Muslim Society

Christians retake Spain.


Part I. Islamic Expansion in Spain through the centuries - Arab, Berber in Spain.

This looks at the Muslim invasions and occupation of Spain 711-1492 CE.  The Visigoths had taken over in the 5th Century in Spain, following the fall of Rome.  See ://  Note that the Ottomans, out of Turkey, came much later - in 1369 with the Ottomans invading Bulgaria and heading north.

Note there were not Ottomans in Spain. The Ottoman Empire spread out of Turkey into Central Europe and Europe later.

1. Arab. Berber.

Muslims in Spain were Arabs and Berbers. See this Fordham University site for Islamic history - at :// And here are a series of maps showing Islamic conquests from time to time, including in Spain, at this University of Pennsylvania site :// More maps at ://

The invaders were also known as "Moors," and included Arab, Berber and African persons, with the largest genetic group now being identified as Berber, from North Africa - see :// For Berber history, see :// Their language was spoken from the Canary Islands to Egypt, now mostly in the mountains of Algeria. Fierce fighters.

2. Ottomans. These are not the same. 

The Ottomans were a a different Muslim Empire from the one that conquered Spain. Spain's conquerors were Arab-Berber Muslims, not Ottoman. Ottoman means the Turkish Muslims of a later era, that began their expansion out of Turkey in about 1300. See map at ://

The Ottomans do appear to have taken areas around Algiers. by its greatest extent in about 1699, but they then stopped. That map site also shows the extent of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, leaving only Turkey itself by 1924. Scroll down.

3. The status of Dhimmi. Dhimmitude. Dhimmis.

Regardless of which group or branch is Islam is the topic, our understanding is that each imposed a particular status on Christians and Jews after conquest by Muslims. From Arab- Berber entry at Spain, probably near Gibraltar, and then extending briefly to Poitiers, France; to the Ottomans from Turkey later knocking on the doors of Vienna, the Balkans, Asia, Central Europe.

The meaning of Islam has not been a focus of our education of ourselves or our children, to our demonstrated peril in terms of decisions we make and conclusions we draw in a vacuum as to that heritage. So, we look here at Dhimmitude.

Hot topic. Search for "dhimmi" or "dhimmitude" and you will find invective as well as objective assessment. See Hello, Fodder - Dhimmi status posts; or Europe Road Ways Themes - Kosovo I and II posts. And Joy of Equivocating, Fear of Fog, Facts before Conclusions.

4. Jewish History in the Islamic Empires.

Go here for a timeline on Jewish topics from their history in Spain. ://

What was life for a Jew or Christian in the Spain experience, who chose not to convert to Islam in Spain in those years, we will let you know. So far, we see a kind of "chastened subservience" applied, see see :// A legal status with overtones of humiliation? And, the element of forbidding arms to be used against Muslims - see :// Need to see all the cites. Still looking. Complex area.

Christian retribution against Jews after the Christian reconquest.

Dhimmi status looks benign compared to the fate of the Jews in 1492- the Reconquest, when the Christians finally drove out the Muslims, from Granada at that late date. The Christians expelled the Jews - no-one could remain who would not convert. See the Edict of Expulsion itself at ://

So any discussion of dhimmitude, stay with restrictions; has to be seen against its Christian counterpart - get out. This sourcebook from Fordham University lets you read all about it, from original texts: ://

The invective sites in looking up Islamic law that you will find, may or may not be found to be supported by history. You need to check up on each site you find. Please do not rely on conclusions from talking heads or neighbors at the coffee shop without finding facts. Good idea.

We should criticize others, when our own Crusades were holy wars, and offensive, not just defensive, see overview of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the rationales at Spain Road Ways, Castles, Crusades.

5. The meaning of the Koran.

Where did dhimmi come from. Is it written. For those of us with an interest in what the Qur'an says, note that it cannot be translated - all is phrased as interpretation or meaning. I understand that these versions are among the best,
  • "The Meaning of the Glorious Koran," 1930, by Marmaduke Pickthall, see ://; and
  • "The Koran Interpreted," by A. J. Arberry ://
Arberry looks more poetic, as the Christian King James version reads more poetically than later versions. Pickthall may be easier to understand.

Status of research so far:

It looks like the conditions of dhimmitude for the conquered - second class status, no political say, no ownership of land, deference to Muslims, and pay a special tax (reducing income available) is nothing more than what good Christian men rejoiced in doing to their Christian women for several thousand years.

See next section, looking at after 1492's Edict of Expulsion of the Jews, at Spain Road Ways, Pursuing dhimmitude 1492 - in Christian Spain, the Reconquest.

Segovia - The Alcazar

Alcazar, Segovia, Spain

Fortress, castle, military academy, parts used as a prison, origins of the word "Alcazar" in Arabic, probably from the 11th Century. See .

Segovia is a perfect first stop after arriving in Spain - an easy drive from the airport, a few wrong turns on motorways, but good signs. Inside is a hall of armor, mounted knights, knights in corners, knights around corners, in centers, off to sides. Spears, weapons. Then, in town, a huge aqueduct - Roman.

Andres Segovia, guitar, hush:  Video, Andres Segovia Plays Capricio Arrabe.  He is not from the town, Segovia, however, see 

Segovia - Cochinillo Asado; not Andres Segovia

We started in Madrid, went to Segovia, see Segovia , and then north east toward Bilbao.

Segovia, the town, is not the birthplace of the famous classical guitarist, Andres Segovia, and is not near it - Segovia was born in Linares, in the south, see ://

Here in Segovia, not far from Madrid, is a beautiful palace with an exhibit of medieval armor and weaponry. Near the aqueduct is a cluster of find cafes. See Segovia at :// And here is the late Andres Segovia, 1893-1987:// This advertises free music downloads: ://,,514488,00.html

Big roast pig. Do not confuse with the delicate roast suckling pig, cochinillo asado, Spain
Cochinillo Asado - roast suckling pig - this site says the piglet is 21 days old and has had nothing but mother pig's milk. See :// Find a recipe here - you did good if you can cut it with a plate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don Quixote Figures - Undoers of Injustice - Many Cultures

This is a look-back to our trip, spurred onwards by some considerations of today's (2010) American politics - The puzzle and even the inspiration of an Alvin Greene who won a substantial primary election seemingly out of nowhere, and is staying in the race for the duration, against the Biggies. Go, Alvin.


Cultures and empires and religions are  built upon wrongs.  Periodically, people arise to right them, with varying results. Who pans out.  Who is the actor, who the genuine. 

In Spain, think of Don Quixote: the righter of wrongs, the undoer of injustice - see ://

Let Sancho Panza himself introduce him, in straightening out which is which to those who did not know:

"And the real Don Quixote, of La Mancha, the famous, the valiant, the wise, the lover, the righter of wrongs, the guardian of minors and orphans, the protector of widows, the killer of damsels, he who has as his sole mistress the peerless Dulcinea Del Toboso, is this gentleman before you, my Master, all other Don Quixotes and all other Sancho Panzas are dreams and mockeries."

Read the book - start here: at page 197, at ://

A Righter; one who sets out to fix.

Saint Nicholas was a Righter. when he was Bishop Nicholas, did that at Myra in intervening in the imminent execution of three innocent men, and securing their release, see :// But Don Quixote holds our attention most, because he was dedicated to that principle. Read an okay summary at :// Best to read the book.

Who is like unto Don Quixote?

Shall we try America's Alvin Greene, who, by fluke or fate, won the Democratic party nomination primary for candidate to the United States Ssenate, and noone yet has found trickery or fraud or exploitation. It may still happen, still, enjoy the ride.

Is he a fraud or genuinely disingenuous.  A plain man, with education but few skills in presenting himself, awards in the military, and erroneous roads taken in his life, little stellar about him from information to date, but still he seeks to fix the things that went wrong in his life, the institutions that did not recognize him, the jobs that did not come about, etc. See the amazement at The Fey in Religion and Politics.

Spain has many legacies, but the Don Quixote story of human connection, endeavor, effort directed at windmills, is worth our best attention. See America Road Ways, Washington DC

Puerto La Pice, El Toboso - Don Quixote in La Mancha

The La Mancha area is south of Madrid, a broad area of reference points that people have tied together loosely, as having stimulated the imagination of Cervantes in creating the fictional Don Quixote. See


Puerto LaPice, Spain, Street scene

Puerto LaPice is a small town, see Don Quixote on the stucco on the side of the building - its favorite fictional son. It is hard to time your visit so the recycling bins are out of sight, so enjoy.

We forget over here what it is like without most everyone owning some kind of car - note there is no traffic at all.

Don Quixote, Puerto LaPice, Spain. Trough.

The Don Quixote country - the book "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes 1547-1616, at :// remember that he is a fictional character, but there are towns associated with his adventures, and those of Sancho Panza, his companion; and Dulcinea, his heart's desire.

Here is the statue of Don Quixote at Puerto La Pice, where someone has set up a commercial enterprise to serve you lunch, a reconstructed sample Inn of the period, but clearly geared to provide the buses with a stop point: the Venta del Quijote.

Do go to the gift shop - really. Some people are gifted at selecting good goods to sell. They are here. Skilled entrepreneurs without borders.

We are not shoppers, but the black silhouette of Don Quixote and the head-down horse on a plain white thin mug was worth the buy. This commercialism is not a negative - the area does not offer many focal points, and we do enjoy lunch. Go anyway. There is a map at this site to get you oriented - Dulcinea's home, at El Toboso, is not far. These are not well marked, so enjoy the roads.


Here is Don Quixote in the town of El Toboso. See
Don Quixote and Dulcinea, El Toboso, Spain

There is also a very fine art/gift shop in El Toboso where you can dress up as Don Quixote and Dulcinea and have your picture taken. Everybody needs good kitsch.

Other spots are Campo del Criptana with its windmills, for the rest of the Don Quixote circuit. If this is new to you, do see Man of La Mancha, 1972 film and later Broadway musical, at ://; and sing "The Impossible Dream."

Cadiz - 1100. Phoenicians BC, to Rome, to Moors, to Now

Cadiz, Spain

Cadiz is an old port city, on a peninsula, and nearly surrounded by water. It has been settled since 3000 B.C. and is the oldest city in Europe.

The James Bond film, "Die Another Day," was filmed here - looking so much like Havana. See :// The old town has close ties with Cuba.

Phoenicians first settled here, says :// That would have been in about 1100 BC.

Their range for trade was broad -- amber from the Baltic, British tin, Spanish silver.

Romans kept a navy base here, Moors constructed an extensive town, see ://, but its commercial success waned. Palm trees, tropical (is this Florida?)

Columbus was brought back here when he fell in disfavor, and used this location to contact Queen Isabella for reinstatement in the good graces, see story at ://

After walking the streets and squares and mosques, enjoy the beach. There are several, many near the hotels and commercial area, full of tourists, this one just as we left the peninsula.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Salamanca - The Cathedral Facade (Moorish(, Shell House, Order of St. JamesOrder

Salamanca, Spain, Cathedral facade

Spain was controlled for five hundred years or so by  the Moors - the architectural and other influences are everywhere.

Here is another kind of influence - individuality. The shell shapes affixed to the side of this house cast different shadows as the day moves on.

Salamanca, Spain, Shell House

See it at // Casa de las Conchas. It was built in the 1500's and is now a library, but once was the palace of Rodrigo Maldonado. He was a knight, of the St. James Order (is that part of what much later was named the New Orleans St. James' Infirmary in our culture? I went down to the St. James' Infirmary.... blues - hear this New Orleans traditional at ://

The Order of St. James was formed in the 12th Century, see The Ancient Military Order of St. James of the Sword at :// It was part of the First Crusade, and upon return, its members continued on the Iberian Peninsula, gathering recruits. It also aided the Iberian kings in the reconquest from the Muslims. See its full history at the site.

The shell is the insignia of the Order. It also is the sign carried by many pilgrims on their pilgrimages - the scallop shell.

St. James' Way is the name of the Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela - the pilgrims carried scallop shells to show their status as Pilgrims, not carrying much, so please do not rob. See a German pilgrim represented as leaving for Santiago de Compostela, at Speyer,Germany - see Germany Road Ways, Heidelburg, and Speyer and Pilgrims  Meet Jakob Spilgar there.

Salamanca - Plaza Mayor, Performances

Salamanca, Spain, Plaza Mayor

Salamanca dates from before Roman times, came under the Visigothic Kings, then the Arabs, and back and forth until the reconquest. It is particularly known for its university, famous in Medieval Spain and Europe. In 1254, the university was deemed to be one of the four leading lights of the world, by Pope Alexander IV. What were the other three? See ://

There is never a shortage of things to do at the end of the day. Find the main square, the "Plaza Major" - stroll, spectate, eat etc. Eat more.

Salamanca, Spain, Plaza Major, Performers

Here were jugglers.

Salamanca, Spain, Musicians

As it gets darker, go inside to eat some more, and for the musicians. Plaza Major - no end to the variety of street and eatery performances. Jugglers, music, clowns, mimes.

Salamanca houses one of Europe's earliest and finest Universities. It is northeast from Madrid. See

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Merida - and Rome. Estremadura Theater, Circus, Amphitheater, Bridge

Merida, Spain

Merida - this city dates from 25 BC. It is a World Heritage site. See :// It was a provincial capital for Rome.

See what the Romans left. A fine theater, now being renovated, that could seat 6000 spectators.
Theater, Merida, Spain

The Roman bridge over the Gaudiana River is still standing - all spans of it, now a footbridge.
Bridge, Gaudiana River, Merida, Spain

The Super Tank.

There is also a huge circus structure that could seat 30,000 for chariot-racing, and, we were told by a guide, they used to flood it to do mock naval battles.
Amphitheater, Merida, Spain; including water tank facility for reenactments, naval spectacles
The Extremadura or Estremadura section of Spain was home to the conquistatores, and is now considered remote, toward Portugal. But worth it. Find it at ://

Friday, January 25, 2008

History Chronology - Old Spain, and Muslim Spain - Granada, Arago, Castille and Leon, Navarre: And Portugal

Maps as anchor. To make Spain's history more immediately understandable: Find a map to locate the old boundaries - references to them recur throughout Spain's history and tour books. This is from a simple Images search - ://

This map shows no "Ottoman Empire" incursion into Spain (Turkish roots), but apparently Arab-Berber. See ://

Chronology of Muslim Rule. For an overview of Muslim rule, and further maps of that influence and expansion, go to ://

Timelines understood so far. These to be filled in as to impact on pre-Christian, Christian, Jew, unaffiliated, and Muslim, as we go. Dates are from the islam_history site. Will also use this site - a medieval history source, from Fordham University ://

For a timeline on Jewish history, see ://


1. Pre-Roman times

2. Roman

3. Post-Roman


570 CE (Christian Era used here) Birth of the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca
632 CE Death of Mohammed. Islam had spread in that short time to most of Arabia in the west and central sections

642 CE Muslims control Egypt; and by 656, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Iran;

661 CE Death of the fourth caliph, 'Ali - succession issues led over time to a split between the Sunnis and the Shi'a. By this time, the spread was this:

"Arab Empire west to Tripoli (Libya), north to Taurus [did you know the origin of Ford's model car?] and Caucasus mountains (Turkey and Georgia) and east to Pakistan." See www.;.

4. Muslims and Spain (mostly)
711 CE - Arab Muslims enter Spain through North Africa;
732 CE - Arab Muslims cross the Indus River into India. They also got as far as Tours [tours de France? please take a joke] in France, from their earlier entry into Spain. That was as far into Europe as the Muslim expansion extended. - France to India.

Were they Sunni or Shi'a?

Do we know where they came in? What the ships looked like? When did families follow armies, or did all come at once? Where was the central authority - still back in Arab lands or independent in Spain?

What were Christians doing in the 8th Century? What beliefs, what divisions.

756-1037 CE- The "Umayyad Dynasty" - in Spain

874-999 CE - The Umayyad Dynasty was in Cordoba, Spain

1037-1492 - Fatimid dynasty in northern Africa and Syria, based on Cairo

1254-1517 CE - Moorish Muslims are in Spain (is this Turk rather than Arab, and when and how did the transition happen?) - note the Reconquest in 1492 - it must have taken additional years to complete the process?

1453 - Meanwhile, back at the European Crusades, the Crusaders capture Jerusalem

1492 - Christian Constantinople fell to the Turks; the Mamluks rule in Egypt.

In Spain, Granada falls to the Christians, ending Arab rule
(but I thought Moors were there by then?)

THE EDICT OF EXPULSION AGAINST THE JEWS. And, in Spain, the Christians expel the Jews completely - everybody out who will not convert. See :// Compare that to the legal status of dhimmi applied to non-muslims in muslim lands - they could stay under restricted economic and political conditions, but they could stay and practice their own religion.

1566 - The Ottoman Empire [did the Turkish branch break away from the Arab?] Ottomans "Turkic people from Central Asia - but continued to spread Islam", see

See map here - no Ottomans in Spain apparently.

1858 - end of Mughal (Muslim) rule, India
1922 - Ataturk deposes last Ottoman* sultan
1947 - Pakistan was founded as Islamic state
1979 - Islamic regime, Khumeni; also al-Qadafi (Libya?)
*Ottomans: Turkic people from Central Asia, but they also spread Islam
Stats from 2005 - Muslims 26% of world population. Majority in Middle East, North Africa, 100 million in rest of Africa, over 500 million in rest of Asia, 90% of India and Pakistan are Muslim, Islam has spread to 184 countries at least. See again this recurrent site, see

5. The Reconquest 1492

6. Single Monarchy

7. Today

Why do all this? Spain's history is a different trajectory than the rest of Europe because of the Muslim rule for some 400 years. And relevant to our understanding of Muslim ways - what was the experience of Christians, Jews, the "unaffiliated," under the Muslims of that period. Who was extreme on any side, and who tolerated. What was life like under the Muslims, and how did their governing and belief system differ from contemporary Muslims, whether (like us) extremist, conservative, liberal, whatever.

Our interest here is in the chronology of the evolution of Spain through various very different kinds of rulers: and where they ruled, and when. Also the populations: Pre-Christian, Christian, Roman Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and especially the Dhimmi (Jews and Christians conquered by the Muslims, and living under economic, social and political restrictions known as "dhimmitude" until they converted, if they chose to so convert. Who was where, when, who kicked out whom, why.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cuenca - The Square; Benefactor Zobel

Cuenca, Spain, Plaza Mayor, main square
The town square at Cuenca. There is our car, at the right. There is a lovely Cathedral dating from about 1170, see ://,-Spain&id=619313

Look well at the hapless little car, because you will not see it again and neither did we until, the next morning, we got to the police impound lot (by taxi, thank you).

Know your street symbols for each country well. We did not interpret the sign we saw to mean no parking for any vehicles at all - it looked like it only forbad trucks. Learn your road signs!.

Also, do not use common sense.

You would think there would be some available short-term parking at the main square after hours, where the only parking lots are far, far away. The lots at Cuenca are at the top of a long hill, a twisting narrow road, like half a lane, and there is no sidewalk down, and the road goes right to the walls of the buildings and is a tight one-lane with cars going both ways.

No, you have to park up there and apparently walk down anyway, life in hands. Jam your bod against the stucco, walk with head swiveling to see which car is coming from where, wheeling around the curves like mad, pack into a doorway, close your eyes, and wait until you can dash to the next door. We did that as far as the hotel a short way down, but then went back up for the car. The risks I want to take with Dan are zero, and that was a hazard. So we drove back down to the square, and you know the rest.
Daniel Widing conversing Fernando Zobel, we think, Cuenca, Spain

While we were eating, off slipped the car, chained behind the gendarmes in theirs.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed ourselves, in our ignorance.

There is Dan, at the cafe, a little inside open courtyard late afternoon, with who we believe to be Fernando Zobel, 1924-1984, founder of the Museum of Abstract Art, professional painter and member of a prominent philanthropic family - spent much time in the Philippines, came back to Spain and Cuenca.

See more about Fernando Zobel and his family at ://; and ://

Cuenca is known for its art museums, galleries. It dates from the Iron Age, through the Romans, the Visigoths, the Muslims, the reconquest.