The Route of the Caliphates
A journey through space, time and emotion
The route of the Caliphates crosses lands known in antiquity as Al-Andalus and joins together the capital cities of an ancient Arabic Caliphate, Córdoba and Granada. At the end of the Middle Ages this territory was clearly divided into Christian Spain and Muslim Al-Andalus and a much disputed frontier zone, or no-man’s land, moved around like a lace curtain in the wind across almost all of Andalusia.
The modern route traces the old trade routes and is formed by a chain of castles, watchtowers and fortresses that silently look to the horizon for armies that have long gone.
» Read more? Click here
The route sets out from Córdoba (if that is the direction you start from) and the main axis passes along the N-432 road, via small towns including Espejo, Castro del Río, Zuheros, Luque, Alcaudete and Castillo de Locubin before arriving in Alcala la Real in Jaén.
A secondary route, also starting in Córdoba and ending in Alcalá la Real, takes the N-331 road through the towns and villages including Fernan Nuñez, Montemayor, Montilla, Aguilar, Lucena, Cabra and Priego de Córdoba. From Alcala la Real it rejoins the N-432 road towards Granada and passes through the towns of Moclin, Pinos Puente, Colomera, Güevejar, Cogollos Vega, Alfacar, Viznar and finally Granada.
Along its way, the white villages are made up of houses whose mirror images are still found today in Morocco and whose very walls and narrow street seem to tell a story filled with all the components of the best fictional novels including death, destruction, conquest, proud leaders, love, longing, loss and fear.
All of this happened over 1,000 years ago, but legends abound and the places where hopes were raised or fears were realised can still be seen as if the many years that have since passed are peeled away leaving the bones of history open for inspection. Throughout these years, settlement of the land was fiercely disputed not only between opposing Christian and Muslim forces, but also amongst rival Arab factions. Life musts have been harsh for early settlers who attempted to eke out a living as their homesteads were often attacked and populations were frequently displaced.
Several famous historical figures trod the stage during this time. Perhaps one of the best known was during the first conquest of the town of Alcaudete, an incursion into Arabic Al-Andalus that was led by Alfonso VI in 1085. He was supported by the army of El Cid, a figure who later went on to carve out a kingdom for himself in the region of Valencia.
This particular town changed hands between the Christians and the Moors many times over the centuries that following until it was finally conquered by Alfonso XI in 1340. The imposing castle that presides over the modern town was built by the Moors in the 10th century over earlier roman ruins and several watch towers, used as early-warning stations, still watch blindly over the surrounding countryside.
In Castillo de Locubin, the view from Hins al-Uqbin, or the Castle of the Eagles, again built over the ruins of an earlier roman civilisation, spans the Jaén countryside. Nowadays, however, the castle is in private hands and only the base, clearly seen as the village is approached, remains.
Alcala la Real is home to the spectacular Al-Andalus fortress of ‘La Mota’. This is so special that it was declared an Historical and National Monument as early as 1931. The Castle and its three towers (Bell or Candle, Mocha and the Homage tower) are built around a parade ground that was the military enclosure of the ancient Muslim city. It was constructed in the year 727, once again over the ubiquitous roman ruins, and has been extensively restored to reflect the vitality and power that it must have displayed over 1,000 years ago.
The fortress has large stretches of wall with towers, seven gates that permitted access to the enclosure and a central mosque that has been converted to a Christian temple and is now an archaeological museum. The defensive system around the town was completed with a complex watchtower system, of which fifteen remain. During the treat of an attack, fires were lit in these towers which provided the town defenders with advance warning.
» Show less
View our Flickr collection of images from the Route of the Caliphates by following this link.
There is a lot of information about this route and many small hotels have been established to cater for the increasing demand. The three provinces that the route crosses, Córdoba, Jaén and Granada are arguably the most varied, in terms of culture and scenery in the Iberian Peninsula and its outstanding beauty has attracted many people seeking to take advantage of the good life throughout history. The latest wave of people seeking a tranquil hideaway continues apace and the welcome has never been warmer.
For more information for this route, follow these links: