The African Land of Spain
According to the British Encyclopedia:
“Spain is shaped like a gigantic bull’s hide stretching in the sun between Europe and Africa. Spain’s large area of 195,379 square miles (506,030 square kilometers) covers about five sixths of the Iberian Peninsula. In Western Europe, only France is larger. At its widest Spain stretches some 635 miles (1,022 kilometers) from east to west. From north to south the country is about 550 miles (885 kilometers) long.”
Spain has a coastline which stretches in some parts for 1,700 miles (2,740 kilometers) along the Mediterranean Sea from the eastern end of the Pyrenees mountain chain to the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain shares with Portugal the peninsula’s coast which borders the Atlantic.
Since ancient times Spain has been physically and culturally a part of Africa because both land mass used to share a common land bridge across what is now the Strait of Gibraltar. Whereas Spain was physically connected with Africa in the ancient times and was only separated by an earth quake in relatively near antiquity, it was always separated physically and culturally from Europe by the Pyrenees Mountain.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Of all Europe’s mountain ranges, the jagged and often snowcapped Pyrenees, 270 miles (435 kilometers) long, have functioned most effectively as a barrier to human movement. Unlike the Alps, the Pyrenees have no low foothills or hospitable valleys to ease access into and through their heights. Rather, the Pyrenees rise abruptly from the flanking plains of France and Spain with only steep gorges and steep-walled natural amphitheaters that lead to almost impassable lofty summits. The French peasant’s adage, Africa begins with the Pyrenees, is not without a large measure of truth in emphasizing the historic significance of the Pyrenees as a barrier in the development of Spain. In the words of the U.S. historian Will Durant, Spain’s mountains, particularly the Pyrenees, â€œwere her protection and tragedy: they gave her comparative security from external attack, but hindered her economic advance, her political unity, and her participation in European thought. The continued political independence of the tiny principality of Andorra is largely a result of its remote location amid the Pyrenees between France and Spain.” (Encyclopedia Britannica )
The Moorish Story:
The ancient Maghreb which spanned Morrocco and Algeria has been populated for longer than most of the rest of the world. There is evidence of people living there as far back as 200,000 BC, and cave paintings depict a fairly vibrant Neolithic culture living thriving around 6000 BC, when the climate of the Sahara was very different.
Then the area that is now Sahara had giant lakes, and lush savannah land teeming with wild life. Cultural complex were developed in that area and extended to nearby Iberia, onward across Southern Europe as far as Black sea. These people have been called various confusing names (such as Cro-Magnons, Aurignacians, Grimaldi, Celto-Iberians, etc) by European anthropologists to hide their African cultural roots. Eventually the various peoples who lived in the Central Sahara area formed the people now known as the Touaregs/Moors/Berbers.
At its shortest point to Africa, Spain is separated by a strait of water about 8 kilometers in width. It is possible to stand on one end of Africa and observe actions on the Spanish side of the coast. Racist Euro-centric scholars would want us to believe that for 100, 000 years, the Africans who lived on the opposite side of the Mediterranean coast were so incurious and incapable that they could not cross an 8 mile water strait, whereas the Cro-Magnon man could do a 10,000 kilometers trek crossing the impassable Mount Pyrenees, a mountain of barrier against ingress from Europe and successfully established themselves successfully in Spain. But the ridiculousness of such a thesis is self-evident. In full recognition of the fact that Africans were the first to establish communities on both side of the Mediterranean coast, classical scholars have used such moniker as â€œIbero-maurisianâ€ culture to describe the early inhabitants of Spain. Maurisian stands for Maures…Africans.
Since the earliest periods, the Moors(including the Berbers) had spread out from Central Sahara, Northern Africa, into Portugal Southern Spain, and Southern France. Those in North Africa are described as the Berber/Moors of North Africa while those in Spain are described as the ancient Iberians (Ibero-Maurisians). Those in the Mediterranean are called the pre-Hellenistic Aegean or Creteans. (See: Arnaiz-Villena A, Iliakis P, Gonzalez-Regueiro Hevilla M et al. The origin of Cretan populations as determined by characterization of HLA alleles. Tissue Antigens 1999 53:213-26. See further, E. Gomez-Casado, P. del Moral, J. MartiÂ´nez-Laso, A. Garcia-Gomez, L. Allende, C. Silvera-Redondo, J. Longas, M. Gonzalez-Hevilla, M. Kandil, J. Zamora, A. Arnaiz-Villena; HLA genes in Arabic-speaking Moroccans: Close relatedness to Berbers and Iberians; Tissue Antigens 2000: 55: 239249.)
North Africa and the Mediterranean had in later antiquity fallen under the influence of the Black Carthaginians/Phoenicians sailors. Originally from the Horn of Africa, the Carthaginian/Phoenicians a sea faring migratory people, had settled in Canaan/Palestine and Syria. A group of them later journeyed back again to their original motherland Africa, but this time they settled along the coast of Tunisia.
The Phoenicians had arrived around 800 BC. They formed an alliance with the Berber groups which enabled them to gained power rapidly. They eventually became the most influential and strongest power in the Mediterranean partly due to their largely Berber-staffed army. They controlled the Northwest coast of Africa as well as the Iberia the regions where the Berbers have lived in since the earliest human records. They founded the Iberian city of Cadiz among many others.
Carthage and Roman were soon colliding since it was that the Romans had tried to muscle in on the lucrative maritime routes controlled exclusively by the Carthaginian Empire. The trade competition led to armed conflict known in history as the Punic wars. Carthage lost both of the Punic wars to regional upstart Rome.
After losing the first Punic War to Rome, many Berbers became disaffected with the regional power Carthage and thus rebelled and gained a large amount of independence. In modern-day Algeria, then called Numidia, two main kingdoms emerged. These eventually united under Masinissa, who teamed up with Rome (and especially with Scipio Africanus) to launch devastating attacks on Carthage.
It was also in the course of the second Punic wars that the great African General Hannibal mobilized in North Africa and Iberia and then marched into the Roman Empire and ceased most of its European territories. Hannibal actually ruled western European section of the Roman Empire with the exception of the city of Rome itself which gates he had reached several times before being fought off.
Eventually Carthage lost the Punic wars and Hannibal committed suicide after having been betrayed and disappointed by high-ranking officials of Carthage. Rome thereupon destroyed Carthage, took over possession of its territories including the Iberian Peninsula and shared out to its vassals and client states.
The Moors, the Romans and the Goths:
Roman administration continued with the age old cosmopolitan flavour of coastal North Africa and southern Iberia. Soon wide-flung persons were immigrating into North Africa and Iberia. Of these, were elements of the defunct Carthage, others were Jewish traders, Greek and Roman Christians, and some Nordic Vandals, Suebians, Alans, and Gothic guests, who later proved inimical to the political security of the region. These all lived with the traditional owners of the land the Maures (the Blacks) of Iberia and North Africa.
Following the disturbances created in areas of Europe outside the Roman Empire (central Europe) by the advancing armies of the oriental Huns in 4th century A.D. who destroyed virtually every resistance to their onslaught, many Danubian or Ostro Goths, Vandals and Alans migrated from central Europe to the relative safety of Northern and Central Spain. It was not long before those tribes were infiltrating the southern shores of Spain and France where the Berber/Moors had lived from time immemorial which was at that time under Roman administration. (Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire – Vol 2. See XXV)
Sooner than one would have thought, those Nordic Vandals, Alans and Goths who were later called Visigoths (western Goths as opposed to the Ostrogoths, aka the eastern Goths) had become a dire security threat for the Roman administrators of the Berber principalities of old Iberia.
Spain was overrun by barbaric Vandals following the fall of the Iberian Roman administration in 409 AD. The Visigoths in turn defeated the Vandals and ran them out of Iberia into North Africa. The Visigoths quickly established an administration to fill in the void and chaos that marked the declining period of the Roman Empire about the fifth century AD. Though they were Christians, their brand of Christianity was cruel and unjust. For this reason, the people of Roman Spain, Maures/Berbers, Jews, serfs, and slaves looked hopefully for a time of liberation from such foul oppression. The Gothic kingdom of Spain lasted from 460 AD to 711 AD. (See:The Story of The Moors in Spain (1886) – Stanley Lane-Poole )
The Vandals who were booted out of Spain in the wake of the Visigoth advance then moved over to the Maghreb and seized control briefly. The Vandals were the unkindest sort of Arian barbarians, led by King Gaiseric. They persecuted orthodox Christians terribly until they themselves were booted out of the region in 533 by Justinian of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).
The Byzantines, however, were not very good administrators and it was not long before the area grew restive. Islamic Umayyad Caliphate was a rising power of this period and quickly took advantage of the popular disaffection to increase the number of Muslim converts. The Islamic penetration began in 642 AD, and by 711 AD, had converted a great many Berbers to Islam and conquered the whole of North Africa.
This led to a long and very confusing period of time of being ruled and fought over by various Islamic caliphates and related sects. The eastern part tended to come under the control of dynasties centered in Tunisia, such as the Aghlabids and the Zayanids, while the west fell under the sway of Morocco-based powers such as the Almoravids and the Almohads. The Fatimid dynasty, based out of Algeria, began their rise to power in the 10th century.
Africans, Moors and Arabs:
One must recall that the concept of Arab nationality/race (as a sub-race of the Caucasians) was non-existent until it was created by the western political powers in the late 19th and early 20th century as a ploy to undermine the Ottoman Turk Empire.
The concept of Arab as a racial identity different from the dominant black cultures of Middle East and the horn of Africa was also non-existent at the time of Mohammed and at the time when the so called Arab invasion of Africa (a term coined and promoted by European Aryan scholarship) occurred.
Arab refers to a language and culture not to racial origin. The Arabs are indeed a mixture of different peoples. Arabs themselves recognize to come from two unrelated patriarchs: Qahtan (Southern Arabs) and Adnan (Northern Arabs), to be respectively identified with a Sabean the Afro-Arabs, and the Ishmaelites pale-skin Arabs linked with Kurds and Turkish groups. (Encyclopedia Britanicca ‘Origin of the Arabs“, http://www.
britannica.com/eb/article-45294?hook=484896#484896.hook. Visited on 20/08/06)
Habib Hassan Touma in his book Music of the Arabs (1996, p.xviii) holds that “an ‘Arab’, in the modern sense of the word, is one who is a national of an Arab state, has command of the Arabic language, and possesses a fundamental knowledge of Arabian tradition, that is, of the manners, customs, and political and social systems of the culture.” Thus, contrary to the popular media representation of “Arab” this term does not denote any particular phenotype, race or colour. Rather it indicates a cultural system that evolved through cross-fertilization of thoughts across many centuries.
Geographically Africa is connected with Middle East through the Sinai. The land of North East Africa and Middle East share the similar type of climate, topography, fauna and flora. Moreover, the Red Sea has never been a barrier to communication and contact between the people that lived along its coast lines.
Thus, the Middle East was always an extension of Africa. One wonders why there is a middle-east region but no middle-west region of the earth defined by geography. It is further observed that the term central Asia is another way of saying middle east, yet the current geographically identified region of central Asia is not anywhere near middle east. One then wonders about the parameters that have been used in defining the region currently known as the middle-east.
In the beginning, early Africans peopled the Middle East. Those Africans introduced language, culture, agriculture, masonry, writing, and sciences into Middle East. For instance, the Semitic language is an East African language, first developed and spoken in Africa before being introduced into the Middle East. (Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man, 2002, p. 106)
Ancient historical accounts do not make any distinctions between Africa and Middle East. One of the earliest political principalities of Arabia was also called Kush, the name of the earliest political Empire in Africa, Ethiopia-Kush.
Scholars agree by implication that Africans had crossed over repeatedly into Arabia in different epochs, first as the Natufians (nick names coined by western scholars), then as the PPNA and PPNB culture (more false names) and then as the Yarmurkians (another name falsifying the contribution of black Africans to Middle East). They were the first settlers of Middle East, the first cultivators and the first builders. For example see: (Garfinkel, Y. 1993. The Yarmukian Culture in Israel. PalÃ©orient 19:115â€“134.)
Then again Africans came into Middle East and settled. They came as immigrant groups like the Kushites, the Egyptians, the Punitians/Phoenicians (People of Punt). They blended together and became the later Black Israelites, the Black Syrians and Canaanites) They established themselves in the land and built many amazing cultures and civilizations. The builders of these civilizations maintained very close trade and cultural linkages with their African motherland. Accordingly, there have always been constant interchanges of cultural and commercial contact between the African peoples of East Africa and the African peoples of Middle East. (See, Hamito-Semitic Africa: )
Middle East is the centre of many of the worldâ€™s biggest religions. Undoubtedly the African continent and its people played significant roles in the formation of those religions. The literatures and liturgies of those religions recount the cultural centrality of Africa in their cosmogony. Ethiopia, Libya, Kush and Egypt feature constantly in the Torah, Bible, Koran and the Hadiths. This is another clear indication of the significance of Africa to the people of the Middle East. (See Kebra Negast, The Bible, The Koran, etc)
Furthermore, just as is testified by the currently living Black Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians, Saudi Arabians, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, etc, black people have always been the original population of Middle East and they remain an integral part of that geographical zone to this very day. The paler skinned Arabs who constitute the media definition of Arab are comparatively recent immigrants into the Middle East. Yet, those paler type Arabs have so inter-mixed with the original black owners of Middle East that they have become a sub-group of the black African race and culture. It is impossible to tell between a morphologically black Arab and a paler Arab, which is â€œmore ethnically pure.
Archeological and skeletal analyses confirm that black Africans were the first and original inhabitants of Arabia. Genetic studies further confirm the close biological relationship between the people of Middle East and Africa. The fact is that the entire Middle East is virtually suffused with markers of African genetic imprints that it can be correctly described as a part of Africa which European imperialism pursuing religious bias have appropriated culturally. It is always interesting that there is a culturally and geographically defined place as Middle East but there is no Middle West.
The Muslim Moors:
In the aftermath of the fall of Rome, many of its former provinces and colonies were thrown into a state of insecurity and chaos. Material progress was in retrogression and the outlook on life across the territories of the former imperial power was not very bright.
In the beginning of the seventh century, the Arab prophet, Muhammad, began to preach the word of Islam. Consumed with religious fervor, Arabs both black and pale, sought to spread the message of Islam to the entire world.
By the year 708 AD, Islam had penetrated North Africa. North Africa was until then a province of the Byzantine Empire and hence under the influence of Christianity. Consequently, many African Moors accepted Islam in large numbers, and began using Arabic, the language of Islam as the national language.
As the Muslim administrators aspired to cosmopolitanism, many immigrants moved into the great centers of the Islamic religion. Many Arabs, (again both Afro and pale), moved from the Middle East to the better opportunities offered by North Africa, with its ancient connections to ancient Egypt and metropolitan Rome, as well as scientific, trade and administrative know-how. Moreover, there was the usual Jewish community found universally across North Africa and the Middle East, as well as Syrians, and some southern Europeans.
The Conquest of Iberia:
With order reigning again in the land of the Moors, and a re-flowering of culture and learning in its wake, it was inevitable that the chaotic condition that Spain had been turned into by the Nordic Goths would have to be redressed.
Preparations were soon put in place for the liberation of Iberia from the rule of the neo-paganic Christian Goths who had wrought great and terrible depredations on the land. Tarik, a great African general was chosen to lead the Moorish Islamic army sent to raid Spain.
On April 30, 711, Tarik landed on the Spanish Coast with 7,000 troops. His troops consisted of 300 Arabs and 6,700 native Africans (Moors). A muslim writer, Ibn Husayn (ca. 950) denoted these troops as “Sudanese”, an Arabic denotation for the citizens of the then dominant African Empire of the Central Sahara).
The Moors were unstoppable, and Visigothic Spain ceased to be. The few resisting Visigoths fled to the caves of the Cantabrian Mountains. It was only later in the ages that those people would venture out of the Cantabrian Mountains and reclaim parts of northern Spain. The Black African Moors established the most important Iberian principality and ruled Spain for 700 years thereafter.
The next installment of this series will demonstrate the most fundamental contributions the Moors made to the taming and civilization of Europe, and how their impact is still felt even 500 years later after their defeat and unjust expulsion from Spain.