Here are some facts about the Moors in Europe:
1. The Moors Introduced Numerous New Fruits and Vegetables to Europe
The Moors introduced a variety of fruits and vegetables that were previously unknown in both Spain and Europe, and thus deemed exotic novelties. These items included peaches, lemons, oranges, saffron, cotton, rice, silk, sugar cane, apricots, figs, dates, pomegranates and many others. Although commonplace today, during the Middle Ages these items were almost alien to the Spanish. Today, centuries later, they have become staples of Spanish production and diet.
2. The Moors Were Several Steps Ahead of Medieval Europe. At the time of their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula , the advanced civilization of the Arabs was renowned for its architecture, science, mathematics and exploration. Upon their arrival in Spain, the Moors introduced architectural techniques that amazed European stonemasons. One of the most impressive examples of Moorish architecture is the Alhambra, a palace complex and fortress located in Granada, Spain. Construction began in 1238, and it surpassed any similar palace in grandeur and beauty. Today, it remains one of the best-preserved palaces of the Islamic world.
3. Chess Spread Throughout Europe Thanks to the Moors
Even though chess is over 1,500 years old, it was first introduced to Europe in its current form by the Moors. Chess spread from India to the Arabic world and was introduced to Spain by the Moors. It quickly became popular and swept across Europe's courts and society. In medieval Spain, chess was a popular game of strategy and patience. The first written mention of chess in Spain dates back to 1010 AD, in the Catalonian Testament.
4. The Moors Were Very Strict About Their Hygiene
The Moors were known for their love of cleanliness, with a popular saying claiming that a Moor "would rather go without bread than without soap.” Due to their traditions and the rigors of their religion, the Moors were fond of looking spic and span, and encouraged frequent bathing; In the Moorish town of Cordoba, there were around 900 public baths . This allowed for proper hygiene during a time when plumbing and running water were not yet widely available. Some sources also claim that the Moors brought some form of soap to Europe, introducing a new era of cleanliness.
5. Education Was Very Important to the Moors
Education was of utmost importance to the Moors, who ensured that it was universally available to all within their realm. This stood in stark contrast to medieval Europe, where 90% of the population remained illiterate, and education was reserved for only the wealthiest nobles and clergy. In fact, there were even some European Kings who could not read or write. The Moors established 17 great universities in Spain, located in cities such as Cordoba, Malaga, Granada, Seville, Toledo and Almeria, among others.
6. Numerous Moorish Words Found Their Way into Modern Spanish and English
After their arrival in Europe, the Moors brought with them new concepts and words that quickly became a standard part of everyday language. Spanish has up to 4,000 words of Arabic origin, including algebra, checkmate, and influenza. Other examples are cipher, alcohol, chemistry, typhoon, orange, alkaline, cable and nadir.
7. The Moors Were Very Industrious
Upon their arrival in Iberia, the Moors saw the potential in the old Roman irrigation systems they found and quickly adopted, enhanced and revived them. This led to a surge in agricultural productivity and a boost in the economy. They were also able to cultivate new crops they brought with them such as lemons, oranges, figs, dates, and apricots. Soon, Spain became one of the largest producers of crops in Europe, all thanks to the Moors' innovative irrigation techniques.
8. The Moors Greatly Transformed Spanish Cuisine
Spices were a rare commodity for Europeans, and their food was often considered bland. The Moors changed that by bringing over hundreds of unique spices, new recipes and innovative methods of preparing food. This culinary revolution gave rise to many wondrous dishes that we still enjoy today. The Moorish spice markets were famous for their variety, offering choice for cooks of all styles. The colors and smells of these medieval markets must have been truly incredible.