“And then the Umayyad Caliphate expanded their empire all the way across North Africa and up into Spain.” Yep, this statement is a regular occurrence in my life. After all, I teach Advanced Placement World History where we cover all sorts of historical details that you (and quite frankly, I) never learned in school. I know many of you are probably wondering, who in the world are the Umayyads and what’s a Caliphate? Unfortunately, some of my students still ask those questions, even though the school year is almost over…
The Cliff Notes version of the Umayyads is that right after the start of Islam in 622 CE, (that’s the fancy way of saying AD) we see the expansion of the Islamic empires – all across the Mediterranean. The Umayyads, which is pronounced oo-my-ads and something I didn’t know how to say my first year teaching, was the first of the Muslim empires. And just in case you missed it, the Umayyad Caliphate (fancy way of saying Islamic empire) expanded across the Arabian Peninsula into North Africa and up into Spain. You may have heard of the Moors before. That’s these guys. So the Umayyads/Moors set up camp in Cordoba, Spain until the Reconquet of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christians in 1492. Yes, the same year Columbus sailed the ocean blue! Boom. A mini history lesson for you… that hopefully some of my students read before their AP Exam. 😉
The influence of Islam is seen all over southern Spain, especially in the Mezquita Cordoba -a mosque turned church. This place is known for it’s beautiful red and white patterned arches. Fun fact: Islamic architecture uses patterns and designs rather than pictures of religious figures to the avoid idol worship. In contrast, when the Christians took control of Cordoba, they wanted to rid Spain of the Islamic influence. So they loaded up the mosque with all sorts of Christian symbols. It’s a weird architectural juxtaposition with a crucifix on one wall and Islamic patterned arches on the other, but makes for a great history lesson! Just ask my friend and students who toured around Spain with me. They had to hear all about it while we were in Cordoba. And none of them ran away from my lesson!