Madina Mayurqa

The year 707 A. D. marked the beginning of the Madina Mayurqa, the settlement that once had been Palmaria Palmensis and that today is known as Palma, Palma de Mallorca or simply, Ciutat.

Mallorca went through an epoch some 1000 years ago that is alternately called Mallorca Musulmana, the Muslim period, the Islamic period, the Moorish period or the Arabic period. In my opinion, none of these definitions fits the actual historic reality.

The first visit from North Africa to Mallorca was probably by a fleet of ships coming from Ifriqiya which in today’s terms would be the northern part of Morocco and Western Algeria. In fact, the Romans called that geographic stretch Mauretania, then an independent kingdom named after the Mauri tribe, not to be confused with today’s nation of the same name which is located further south. That visit occurred at the beginning of the 8th century. The visitors are said to have come with friendly intent and a peace treaty was agreed between locals and the visiting fleet. People from that part of North Africa were not what today we would like to call Arabs; they were predominantly Berbers and Nomads. At that time, Mallorca suffered from, and also engaged themselves in, a number of pirate activities; the island was defended from a Saracen pirate incursion in 799 by the French emperor Charlemagne. Back in the 9th century AD settlers from that north African territory moved into Andalusia and the Balearic islands, mostly Berbers from Mauretania (land of the Maures). The continued piracy in the region lead to retaliation by Al-Andalus which launched its naval power against Palma, then  called Madina Mayurqa, and the whole of the island. The Maures finally invaded Mallorca in AD 902 and remained in control until AD 1229. If today we call the Maures by the term of Moors or Arabs it is somewhat derogatory and misleading.

The Maurish domination of Mallorca came to an end in 1229 when a fleet of boats arrived from Catalunya under the leadership of the Aragonese king Jaume I, a young regent of barely 21 years of age. The conquerors landed near Santa Ponça and almost lost their stakes in their attempt to invade and repossess the island. They finally succeeded in achieving the capitulation of the last Almohad Wâlî (governor), Abú Yahya Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abi Imran at-Tinmalali on December 31st, 1229.

Not much physical evidence remains from those early days of Muslim life in Mallorca except perhaps the Banys Arabs (the Arab Baths), reportedly dating from the 9th Century and supposedly once belonging to a Maurish nobleman. It’s a nice place to have visited at least once, not least for its lovely shaded garden. Admission is 2.00 €. There is a square in Abú Yahya‘s name, the Plaza de Abú Yahya in Palma, up from the 31 de Diciembre, fittingly. I shall have to look into this so-called re-conquista in more detail at a later stage.

Arabic History Star02

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