Gibraltar named after a slave

Mohammed’s followers burst out of Arabia after his death in 632 and by the end of the 7th century their descendants had conquered the whole of North Africa. The first Moslem incursion into Iberia was in 710, when a small reconnaissance force landed at the southernmost point of the peninsula.

The following year a former slave, a Berber by the name of Tariq ibn-Ziyad, led an army of about 7 000 ashore at a point close to the huge rock which dominates the entrance to the Mediterranean. They called the rock Jabal Tariq, or Tariq’s Mount, and eventually Christian tongues changed it to Gibraltar.

Or is it?

Prior to the invasion of the Iberian Peninsular by Tariq, small incursions and recces were conducted by Tarif ibn Malik Nakli, who reported that Spain was ripe for the picking. According to Tito Vallejo in his article in the Gibraltar Chronicle, when Tariq landed in Gibraltar in 711, the Rock was named Jabal Al Fath and the town Medinat Al Fath, which mean the Mountain of Victory and the City of Victory respectively.

The Arab word Tariq means track or path. The Rock of Gibraltar became “Jabal Tariq” or The Mountain of the Path, for the Path of Islam into the Iberian Peninsula. The theory is that the Muslims, at the height of their religious fervour, would not dare to name the mountain after the name of a person but rather in honor of their religion.

End of the earth

Before Columbus “discovered” America, Gibraltar was considered to be the end of the earth. The Spanish town of Tarifa is named after the Arab word Taraf, which means the end of something. Going beyond Tarifa meant that you would fall over the edge of the earth.

It took 2 years for Tariq’s small force to subdue the peninsula. But after crossing the Pyrenees, they were defeated by the Franks and withdrew. Tariq ibn-Ziyad died about 720. Gibraltar was recaptured by the Castilians in 1309 but was regained by the Moors in 1333 and held until 1462, when it finally passed from Moorish possession. In 1502, it was annexed to the Spanish crown. In 1830, Gibraltar became a British crown colony.

After the sacking of Gibraltar by the Algerian corsair Barbarossa II (Khayr ad-Din, 1483?- 1546) in 1540, the Rock was furnished with strong defences by command of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. On July 24, 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Gibraltar was captured by combined English and Dutch forces. In 1830, Gibraltar was named a crown colony.

Gibraltar official site

Panorama – Gibraltar online daily news

The Gibraltar Magazine

Tito Vallejo contributed to this story.

02/06/2010. Category: did you know. Tags: , .

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