Yesterday we went to Jijona / Xixona just for a random day out and were pleasantly surprised to see that the Moors and Christians festival was going on...
Here is a brief history for those of you interested.
If you do not want to read the following that is fine check out the pictures of part of a parade. The fiestas went on for 3 days in Xixona...
click on the3 title of post to be taken to my picasa web album and a slide show, pictures speak better than words sometimes
Almost 800 years of coexistence between Muslims and Christians gives a lot of substance for the festival of Moors and Christians. You can participate in this historical play almost every month in some town or village of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
There is hardly a castle without a role in the struggle for supremacy over Al-Andalus, an Arabic name for the land ruled by Muslims in 711-1492. In its widest it covered modern Spain, except for Asturias, most of Portugal and the southern part of France.
In some towns the stage performance goes on for days, featuring the most important phases of local history. The scenes of many battles, schemes and alliances take place in town squares, castles, harbours etc.
Most of the plays start from the reconquest, the process by which Christians reconquered the Iberian peninsula. Depending on the town, the closing scene of the play involves the conversion of Moors to Christianity or their expulsion to Africa.
Besides watching the theatre of reconquest, people make themselves part of it. They hang the Muslim or Christian symbols, coats of arms and banners, outside their houses, wear traditional costumes and dramatize various scenes in the streets.
Playing the role of a Muslim is at least as popular as being a Christian. One reason is that the Moorish garments were more elaborate.
Thanks to henna, woad, madder and other coloring agents together with materials like cotton that were introduced by Moors their dresses were brighter and more sophisticated. But there are also more serious motives. Many people want to trace their ancestors back to the Moors.
It is only natural that over the centuries the Moors - constituting Arabs, but mainly Berbers of North Africa - got mixed with the Christians through marriages. The first invaders brought no women with them. This way a large part of the second generation Moors were actually half Hispanic. Many Christians also converted to Muslims or adopted their customs while still maintaining their Christian rituals. Mozarabs, Renegades and Muladis were all Christians or former Christians who embraced Islam and often fought against their former compatriots.
Parades that take the streets late in the evening show these and many other characters in fantastic dresses surrounded by skillful constructions of castles, boats and other scenes of the reconquest.
Fireworks, thundering guns and clattering swords are part of both the parades and plays. In many towns the dresses and other properties of the parades are inspired by the Muslim piracy, common in the coastland after the expulsion of Moors.
The festival of Moors and Christians gives a good introduction to the origin of names, things and customs you see and experience while travelling in Spain and in the Iberian peninsula. Gibraltar is named after the Moorish general who led the groups that landed at Gibraltar in the year 711.
Names with prefixes like Beni- or Ali- are of Moorish origin.
Much of the foodstuff and spices you enjoy daily was brought to Europe by Moors. They added pomegranates, oranges, lemons, aubergines, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, saffron, sugar-cane, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots, rice etc. into the European diet. Systems of irrigation, which you can still admire, provided Al-Andalus with an agricultural economic sector by far the most advanced in Europe.