viernes, 10 de octubre de 2014

Travel the halal way and discover Toledo, the city of the Three Cultures

Toledo (Tulaytulah) is located 42 miles (70 km) southwest of Madrid, on a large hill that juts up from the meseta (high plain) in the La Mancha region. It is surrounded on three sides by the Tajo river, serving as a natural fortress.

Since Roman times, Toledo served as a strategic location on the road from Emerita (modern Mérida in the southwest), to Caesar-Augusta (modern Zaragoza in the northeast). The city became the capital of the Visigoths. The conquest, without a fight, of the city by the Berbers of Tarik in the year 711, began the period of Muslim domination in which the Moors occupied Toledo for 373 years, a relatively short period, but their influence was enormous, both in the labyrinth-like layout of narrow and steep alleyways, of parapet walks that go nowhere, often with covered passageways on top, and in important architectural remains, such as the Bab-al-Mardum mosque, today known as Cristo de la Luz (the Christ of Light), built by Musa ibn Ali, among others.

Bab-al-Mardum mosque, today known as Cristo de la Luz (the Christ of Light), in Toledo


The religious tolerance of the Muslims allowed the Christians to co-exist with the Moors, and led to the appearance of the so-called Mozárabes-"Mozarabs"-who created a unique culture which would have far-reaching effects on architecture and decoration, as well as customs, vocabulary, literature and music. This situation also allowed the Jews to form a prosperous community, although their presence dated back to the Visigoth period.


In 1085, when Alfonso VI took the city walls with no bloodshed, many of the Muslim inhabitants decided to stay with the Christians and Jews. The harmony between the three cultures bore fruit as notable as the School of Translators of Toledo, renowned for having recuperated part of classical culture from various Arab documents. The Islamic legacy faded with time, and the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, expelled the Jews in the 15th century. However, the cultural mix in the city had been determined and can still be felt today.
Mazapán (from Arabic موثابان mawthābān)


Today, Toledo is known for its mazapan (marzipan), a pastry made with sugar, eggs and almonds. Persian immigrants introduced this delectable delight to Al-Andalus.


Toledo also has long been famed for its metalwork, particularly steel blades and other arms. Expert craftsmen produce these items in a style clearly reflecting Islamic origins.


Damasquinos
Jewelry and other articles of gold and black metal are called damasquinos. The term refers to the Syrian city of Damascus. The Umayyads came from Damascus to establish their rule in Iberia.

Toledo features a quaint Medieval quality, with narrow cobblestone streets and a variety of handicrafts. It has a population of about 75,000 inhabitants. In 1986, UNESCO designated the city as a World Heritage Site for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage.



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