Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Moors

In this fascinating documentary, Bettany Hughes explores the world of the mysterious and misunderstood Moors, the Islamic society who ruled in Spain for seven hundred years. In 711 AD an Arab-led Muslim army, composed principally of recently converted North African Beber tribesmen, crossed the straits of Gibraltar and invaded Spain. The conquest brought a decisive end to ‘Visigoth Hispania’; it was part of a much larger series of ‘Arab’ conquests that included Syria, Iraq and Persia.
The Arab-Muslim Empire was based on a dynamic religious creed. Yet Christians and Jews were permitted to keep their faith; the Umayyad rulers of Iberia recognised that religious tolerance and cultural exchange would contribute to enduring success. Al-Andalus – as Muslin Hispania became known – briefly became the strongest state in Europe. The Moors built a rich and powerful society. Its capital, Cordoba was the largest and most civilised city in Europe, with hospitals, libraries and public infrastructure light years ahead of anything in England at the time.
Amongst the many things that the Muslims introduced to Europe at this time were; the concept of romantic love, mathematics and the numbers we use today, advanced astronomy and medical practices, fine dining, paper, deodorant and erection creams as well as a huge body of classical Greek texts which had been lost to the rest of Europe for centuries. This wasn't the rigid, ferocious Islam of our imaginations, but a progressive, sensuous and intellectually curious culture, which has influenced European life in ways that we are only just beginning to understand.


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