The narrative stands strong. With the archaeological evidence that has just recently come to the surface, it seems that the city of Madrid was founded by Muslims in the ninth century.
Towards the end of June 2023, a fundamental part of Madrid’s Islamic heritage went on display in the Galeria de Colecciones Reales. This popular museum which is part of the city’s Umayyad fortified wall has been visited frequently immediately after it was opened in the Spanish capital.
The history of Muslims dates back to the early eighth century in Spain and Portugal when it was known as Andalucia or Al-Andalus. Cities such as Madrid, Cordoba, Gibraltar, Granada and Seville played a significant role in the narrative, yet for some reason, Madrid is usually missed when discussing Islamic heritage trails in Spain.
The fortified wall in Madrid may have been present all these years, yet something was missing; the narrative of Muslims and Islamic heritage in Madrid. But things are now developing, as the city is finally embracing its Islamic past.
With archaeological evidence pointing towards this very idea, academics and archaeologists are now sharing this very narrative with the world through this museum.
According to a report by Al Jazeera, Álvaro Soler, the archaeologist and curator responsible for the exhibit said, “Madrid is the only European capital with Islamic origins.”
Soler goes on to say: “When Felipe II decided to establish the capital in Madrid [in 1561], he was embroiled in religious wars against the Turks. He found himself facing the paradox that he was going to put the capital in a Muslim city. And that’s how the whole process of manipulating the city’s history began.”
The Galeria de Colecciones Reales museum stands exactly where the original fortified wall stood which is near the city’s royal palace, and artefacts are still being discovered to this day from when Madrid was known as Maŷrīṭ in Arabic.
Madrid was no ordinary city in the ninth century. The city developed and established into one of the most thriving commercial and cultural hubs and was filled with mosques, markets, educational establishments and royal residences.
With such evidence of Madrid’s Muslim past coming to light, the Galeria de Colecciones Reales museum has dedicated a rather large room to tell the story of how Muslims founded this city in the ninth century. Presented interactively, it shows a 3D reconstruction of Maŷrīṭ and explains how forts were constructed to keep Toledo protected from attacks by Christians in the north.
Whilst Christian presence and structures in the late 16th century replaced remnants of Madrid’s Islamic history, one can still identify the vast Islamic heritage if one looks closely.
Those interested in visiting should know that the Galería de las Colecciones Reales was inaugurated by Spain’s king and queen on June 25 and opened its doors to the public on June 29.
Main Image Credit: Jorge Fernández Salas (Unsplash)
Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.
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"The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" [Saint Augustine]