National Geographic : 1972 Jul
(Abu Abdullah), Spain's last Moorish king. Crowding their way through its manicured gardens and labyrinthine halls, even noisy hordes of tourists hush in awe. In sumptuous calligraphy, woven through the carved plas ter arabesques, the very walls speak-"There is no conqueror but God." For 250 years the shrinking Moslem en clave around the city held off the growing Christian power to the north. But with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella uniting powerful Aragon and Cas tile, the days of the Moors were numbered. Finally Boabdil surrendered the keys of Granada to their Catholic Majesties; the Cross and the banner of St. James were raised above the Alhambra. This same year, 1492, that Columbus bravely set out to claim new horizons for Spain, a weeping Boabdil sailed away from the Costa del Sol to Africa. H AVING PASSED the torch that helped to light Europe's Dark Ages, the Arabs slipped in to a long and fitful sleep, from which only now they are rubbing their eyes. Since World War II, freed at last from centuries of alien rule, blessed with new oil revenues, and borrow ing back from Western technology, the long divided Arab peoples again grope for unity. Nahda, the Arabs call it-renaissance. So far it is merely a feeling, a beginning, a spirit one senses throughout the Arab world. I dis cussed it one evening with a Meccan friend. "The days of the empires are over," he told me. "But surely we Arabs will, Allah permit ting, flourish once more under our common religion, culture, and language." And he recounted the story about the skep tic who taunted Mohammed about Islam's promise of resurrection: "What possible power could raise a man to life again from mere dust and bones?" "That power which, from clay, created him in the first place," the Prophet had answered calmly. [O Like a sage among students, Moslem Spain in the Middle Ages passed the advanced knowledge and learning of the East to a benighted Eu rope. The influence of 800 years of Moslem rule still survives in the passionate flamenco music of today's Spanish Gypsies (below) and in the dazzling archi tecture of C6rdoba's Great Mosque (right), now a cathedral. Other vestiges can be found in modern Eu rope's languages and litera ture, science and technology. But the Arab Empire's greatest gift to the West was to spur the curiosity that opened the golden age of the Renaissance.