One of the Spanish festivals that Paul and I have never witnessed is that of the 'Moors and Christians'. All the months we have spent in Spain in recent years and we've never been here at the right time. Well this year it was the right time.
The festival was held on the beach in the beautiful town of Moraira.
First, here is a little background history on the 'Moors and Christians'. The Moors are a mixture of peoples from North Africa. They invaded the Iberian Peninsula (now known as Spain and Portugal) in 711AD and within a few years ruled most of Spain. They built splendid palaces, brought huge agricultural improvements to the country including irrigation and introduced citrus fruits, figs, sugar cane and rice crops. The mosque at Cordoba became the 2nd most important Muslim place of worship after Mecca.
After 800 years of Islamic rule the tide turned and towards the end of the 15th century the people of Spain rose up and after 10 years of warfare the Spanish Christians defeated the Moors. The country was returned to Christianity. Many of the Moors who had settled on the Peninsula wished to stay so they converted from their Muslim faith to Christianity
Now to the festival which commemorates the confrontation between the Moors and the Christians in the 8th and 15th centuries.
On the first night of the festival the invading Moors with their army landed on the beach. With shouts and aggressive gestures they attacked the Christian stronghold. The Christians retaliated and sent flaming arrows, shot from the castle ramparts, into the air to ward off the aggressor’s. The invaders fired a deafening volley from their blunderbuss’s, fire and smoke filled the air.
Battle lines were drawn along the beach. The Christian knights in their chain mail and full coat of armour, white cloaks emblazoned with the red Christian cross hanging from their broad shoulders, sat high on the backs of their destrier stallions. The horses' black coats gleamed like polished metal, they tossed their great heads from side to side, ears twitching, nostrils flaring and their great hooves pawing the ground. They could feel the anticipation of the coming battle as much as their masters.
On the far side of the beach the Moors also prepared for battle. The Arabs were draped in a dazzling array of fabrics, royal purples, emerald greens and peacock blues with golden trims dripping from every turban, sleeve and hem. They sat upon smaller, daintier horses, whose long groomed manes fell smoothly down the sides of their arched necks. These smaller Arabian horses are fast and nimble but don't be deceived as they are born for battle.
The battle commenced, the loud clang of metal as broad swords hit shields, heavy hammers battering armour, long bow archers firing arrows that pieced flesh of man and beast, the neighs and wickering of the horses, screams of the soldiers as they were cut down, then the boom of the blunderbuss’s filled the air along with the acrid smoke billowing from the guns' muzzles and the Moors were victorious and took procession of the castle.
The following night of the festival, the Christians were back on the beach, ready to retake their castle and to reclaim their lands. Another battle took place but to decide the overall victor a joust was held and between a knight and a Moor. The knight was upon his great stallion and the Moor on his Arabian horse both carrying 10 foot long lances. There was really no contest as the knight with his huge, powerful, beast, lance at the ready, bore down on the Moor with great speed and force and ousted him from his saddle with one lunge of the heavy wooden lance. The Christians were the victors, the castle and lands were theirs.
The town erupted as fireworks filled the night sky in a blaze of light to celebrate this centuries old tale.
Thankfully it was all acting. No men, women or beasts were injured during the performances!!
On the 3rd night of the festival a parade marched through the town. It took an amazing 3 hours to pass us. Each Brotherhood involved with the festival had their own Christian or Moors outfit and they were out of this world. Furs, feathers, animal horns, skulls and bones along with great bird talons (hope they were all imitation!) were used in the head dresses, on their capes and gowns. Their richly decorated outfits of gold, silver, deep red, vibrant greens, bold blues and intense pinks swept past us in a kaleidoscope of colour while bands beat out heavy marching tunes.
Paul and I were swept away with the whole pageant. It was a breathtaking, dazzling, amazing event.
Liz and Paul x