The Gateway to al-Andalus


On the horizon is Africa. Scarcely 15 km separate the tip of Europe from the Moroccan coast. The Straits of Gibraltar, which owe their name -as does Tarifa- to the first Berber Caudillo who crossed it with his troops with the intention of extending Islam, are today a cultural frontier.

In the times of Al Andalus Cadiz was a gateway open to men and religious and artistic ideas. Tarifa, a fortified town for many years, conserves, as a reminder of legendary exploits, the ruins of the Castle of Guzmán el Bueno and the ancient ramparts, an outstanding feature of which id the Gate of Jerez. As we move upwards towards Cadiz, situated on the hilltops are the villages which formerly formed the frontier of the Nazarite kingdom: what remains of their fortifications can still be seen and Muslim vestiges may be appreciated in their design and popular architecture.

In Vejar, there are pre- 13th century castles, towers, gateways and streches of the city walls; in Medina Sidonia, the Arch of La Pastora, the Arch of Belén and the Gate of El Sol (9th- 12th C.); in Arcos ,the Tower of la Tradición and the Arch of Matrera. Our journey takes us now to Jerez, the Alcázar Palace of which conserves baths, the Octogonal Tower, the Tower of Homenaje, part of the mosque -transformed into a chapel- and some streches of the walls. Dotted around the town are towers and what remains of the city walls. This route may be rounded off with a visit to Puerto de Santa María, at the mouth of the Guadalete. There, in its Castle of San Marcos, the Mosque of Al Qanatir (11th C.) may be admired.

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