Valencia: A Spanish testimony to Arab civilization
Regional-Spain, History, 8/13/1998
The footprints of ancient civilization inscribed on stones may sometimes be more expressive than many books that could convey the lively story of past grandeur.
There are many books and studies about the history of Arab civilization in Andalusia, which flourished in southern Spain. Very few follow up this same civilization in northern Spain, though there are pieces of evidence to this effect. The reason is that Arab dominance over these places was short compared to their rule in southern Spain which lasted for hundreds of years. This short period was, nevertheless, fruitful and influential.
The Arab people conveyed their sciences, knowledge, arts, conventions and traditions to these areas. They also left many monuments. Tourists can trace the names of Arab streets and lanes in Valencia city. Al-Rasafa is one of them. Though we do not know whether the present site of this street is the same as the ancient one at the time of the Arab rule, it is known for sure that it is an old one.
The location of the street is important, as it is the commercial center of the city. Palm trees, which are typically Arab trees and were conveyed by the Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, flourish in the streets. They brought to this land many other fruits and plants like oranges and rice, and introduced bee-breeding in order to use the honey because it is recommended in the Holy Koran as a cure for many diseases.
The general features of the city, however, help stones and other records narrate the tales of the Arabs in this area. The narrow old lanes and projecting windows of extant buildings are of typically Arab taste. The old souks (bazaars) are found in many squares in the city.
The most famous one is the Arab Souk which still retains its ancient name. In the 18th century it used to be a very important commercial center. People would gather there, exchanging their merchandise. Though it is now losing its importance as trade center, it still enjoys its historical significance. It lies near the main cathedral of the city, which had been a church in the Roman Age and was converted into a great mosque in the times of the Arabs. When the Spanish people restored the city, they demolished the mosque and built the present cathedral. One column was left from the mosque defying destruction. It still occupies a place in the Cathedral, testifying to the genuine history of the Mosque.
The gate of the city, called the Arab gate, affirms the testimony of historical records. They tell us that the city was fortified by a huge wall having many gates. It was destroyed in 1871 together with all its gates except the "Arab Gate."
Traces of past Arab contributions can, in fact, be traced even in the countryside surrounding Valencia city. This is manifested and can be clearly seen in the waterwheel. It is considered by Arab farmers as a basic means of irrigation. It is still used both in Syria and Egypt. The distribution of water needed for irrigation to farmers is subjected to just and strict rules in the countryside. There is a special committee which meets once a week to allocate water to farmers. This arrangement had been followed since the time of Arab rule.
As a matter of fact, there are many other cities, towns and villages in North Spain which had Arab presence and witnessed their civilization.
Arab contributions to music science
The Arab concept of loyalties of kin
Collapse of the Umayyad empire
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