Lecture on al-Andalus in Cairo: The Fall of al-Andalus, Memory of the Diaspora (Aug 4th)

Today I gave a lecture at El Sawy Culturewheel about the fall of al-Andalus and the dispora of the moriscos.

The fall of Granada in 1492 marked the fall of the last Islamic kingdom in the Iberian Peninsual, bringing the rule of Islam over al-Andalus to an end. The Muslims living there initially enjoyed a peaceful period under the Christian rule as mudejars, before being eventually forced to convert into Christianity, becoming moriscos.

These moriscos suffered the horrors of the Inquisition, as well as several attempts to erase their cultural identity, forbidding them to use the Arabic language and names, and preventing them from listening to their music, wear their traditional clothes, celebrate their festivals, or even posses books in Arabic. Finally, they were subject to expulsion by Felipe III between 1609 and 1614.

This expulsion marked the diaspora of 300,000 to 500,000 moriscos that had to leave and spread in every direction, from Italy to the Niger Basin, and from Morocco to Turkey. Wherever they went, they left a clear mark that can still be noticed in art and architecture, in music, in gastronomy, in traditions and in almost every other aspect of life.

We are still reminded by these forced migrations through family names like Torres, Salas, Blanco and Medina in Morocco, Lorca, Cordoba and Qastali in Tunisia, and Qutri, Shatibi and Mursi in Egypt.

Timbuktu, Fez, Tetouan, Rabat, Algiers, Oran, Tlemcen, Tunis, Kairauan, Tripoli, Alexandria, Cairo, Istanbul…these are some of the cities that offered refuge for the moriscos, whose fate varied according to the destination that they ended up heading to, suffering in Algeria, privileged in Tunisia, risking in Mali, etc.

This diapora is absolutely one of the greatest collective tragedies in human history, and it deserves further study and research. It comes as no surprise that there appeared a whole discipline titled Moriscology; considered with the study of this tragedy.

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