Moorish Walls of Ronda

Almoravid and Almohad Reign in Ronda

By 1085 the Christian armies of the North under Alfonso VI had retaken Madrid and crushed a Moorish army at Toledo, the first major city to fall in the reconquest of Spain. Fearing that the Taifa’s would be powerless to stop their onslaught, the kings sent emissaries to the Almoravid clans of North Africa pleading for their intervention.

The following year an Almoravid army swept North from their landing point at Gibraltar and within a few short months had routed Alfonso’s army. In 1090 they returned, but this time they deposed all the Taifa’s except for Zarogoza, and unified what was left of Muslim Spain under the Almoravid dynasty.

Ronda at the time was a promising beacon of enlightenment filled with poets and philosophers, but the murder of her poet governor Abu Khalid Yazid Al-Radi, son of the emir in Sevilla in 1091 by an Almoravid general named Garur al-Lamtuni, was a portent of the times to come.

The surrender of Ronda was negotiated to allow the governor and his family, and the important families of Ronda to leave in peace and return to their lands, but in a treacherous moment reminiscent of the best of Shakespeare, Al-Radi was held captive, publicly tortured, and killed in Ronda’s main square.

A period of vicious persecution of Jews and Christians followed, and at the same time Almoravid disdain for the easy and corrupt lifestyle of the Spanish Moors saw an austere society develop with Sharia law at the heart of their religious society. The Almoravid elite were known for being quite zealous and were required to cover their faces.

Almoravid architecture too has been described as functional rather than beautiful. Never very numerous, and fearing assassination from their subjects, the Almoravid elite frequently employed Christian mercenaries for protection.

In 1145, a very brief independence ensued in Ronda which was joined with Jerez (today known as Jerez de la Frontera), under a quick succession of rulers, Abu-l-Qaim Ahyal banu Idris, Abu-l-gamma banu ‘Azzun banu Galbun, and ‘Ali banu Isà banu Maymun. By all accounts the rebellion was swiftly and viciously put down by Almoravid soldiers, with many of Ronda’s nobel families put to death.

The Almoravid’s natural enemies in the Maghreb, the Almohads, instigated riots throughout the Almoravid empire in protest at heavy handed Almoravid rule, and in 1148 having ousted the Almoravid in Morocco now invade Muslim Spain. The Almohad siege and conquest of Ronda was decisive and destroyed large parts of the defensive structure of the city, resulting in a second golden age in Ronda as the city was rebuilt.

The Almohad dynasty was every bit as orthodox as the Almoravid they replaced, yet in Ronda their rule is marked with a number of major defensive projects, the city walls were strengthened, the Almocabar Gate built along with the octagonal defensive tower which collapsed during the Catholic Monarchs attack on Ronda in 1485, and where the Iglesia de Espiritu Santo now stands.

They are also responsible for the construction of the water mine and fortress below the Casa del Rey Moro, and it is believed the original Puente Arabe, the lowest of the three bridges may have also been built by them.

It was during the Almohad rule that fake conversions to Islam became common, historians believe that well over 50% of the population of Muslim Spain were Mozarab, people who spoke Arabic as their mother tongue, yet still kept the Christian faith. The wars of reconquest with the Christian Kingdoms to the North were well underway, and non-Muslims in Al-Andaluz had many of their rights curtailed, in fact random imprisonment or torture on trumped up charges of aiding the enemy are believed to have been common.

Yakub Al-Mansur, the emir of the Almohad dynasty decreed in 1198 that all converters to Islam should wear a blue tunic with very wide sleeves, and a blue skullcap that covered the ears, apparently similar to a packsaddle used on donkeys. No doubt this design was deliberate, and fueled even more rebellion.