Blog 10. Ibn Battuta, High Drama or Fake News.

On Friday morning, whilst reading the Sur in English, I read an amazing article by Patrick H. Meehan on page 33.   It was about the 14th-century traveller Ibn Battuta and how he came close to being killed in a dramatic incident on his way to Suhayl; as Fuengirola was then called.  

Before going further with the story, it’s worth stopping here and reading the story in the Sur in English.

Are you shocked? Amazed? Can you believe something like this happened to such a famous person right here?  

Of course I had read of this story in ‘Fuengirola Revisited’’ and as well as the great books written about Fuengirola by Dr. Juan Antonio Martin Ruiz and Manuel Lopez de Ayala.  However, I had not realised its significance and the importance of the man it happened to.  

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battuta or in Arabic: أَبُو عَبْدُ ٱللّٰهِ مُحَمَّدٌ بْنُ عَبْدِ ٱللّٰهِ ٱللَّوَاتِي ٱلطَّنْجِي بْنُ بَطُّوطَةُ,  known simply as Ibn Battuta was a writer and explorer who travelled the known world perhaps as far as China.  His diaries indicate he had travelled further than any other explorer in pre-modern history, perhaps around 117,000 km, considerably surpassing Marco Polo’s 24,000 km.  Over a period of thirty years Ibn Battuta cataloged visits to most of Southern Eurasia, including Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China and, of course, the Iberian Peninsula.  

This is not the place for his life story, but it is relevant to paste “Ibn Battuta” into your favourite search engine and see just how important this guy is/was.  OK, the world is full of important people, however, the point is that this important guy was right here, and spent a night in the Castle after being nearly killed.  

So with this in mind, I decided to escape the mid-day sun, and walk down to my boat near the Yaramar to go and interview the most travelled explorer in pre-modern history.  

A few people are using the boats as sunshades today but no one is near mine.  There are still people sleeping on the beach after last night’s Noche San Juan celebrations.  Ultrasound sensors encourage people to move away when I approach my boat and as I move beside it, a panel opens with stealth; I am in the vastness of my time machine.  The controls are set to intercept Ibn Battuta on the morning after this grave incident.  So I sat down to enjoy the journey.  

My boat arrives on the beach in front of the Castle, the year is 1345 on a spring day, the air is clean and the Castle looks in great condition, shining clean and fortified.  The settlements have moved back inland and up the hill.  The houses around the Castle seem mostly empty.  The Mosque still stands at the bottom of the slope behind the Castle, perfectly clean and oblivious to the desertion around it.  There are fences around the beach and defensive positions with watchtowers line the landscape.  Most significantly I notice how much of the land has been drained in the last few centuries.  

From the locations of the current Plaza de Toros to the train station, all the land to the sea has been raised and is being farmed.  Significantly, when I look across the current location of the church in the Plaza de Constitution, I see a large wooden watchtower.  One day this watchtower would be replaced by a stone one and then a larger one.  Houses would gather around it and a town would be born; for now it’s a lonely watchtower surrounded by crops.  

In his account, Ibn Battuta mentions that he had spent the night in the Castle along with the bodies of the people killed in the raid.  Under the religious traditions, the interment of the bodies would be carried out in the first hour of the next day.  So I wait at the foot of the Castle as the first light of day appears. But nothing happens – no funeral cortege, no fresh graves, perhaps I got the wrong day.  

Eager to find out why, I walk up the hill of the Castle, and with hypnosis, offer a greeting to the guard at the door, he greets me and lets me in.  

The Castle is divided into rooms and stables.  One of the stable hands sees me and asks, “do you have a horse for us to clean and feed sir?”  “No”, I reply, “I am here for the funeral of the victims of the attack.”

“Funeral for attack victims sir, we have not had one of those here for a while”, is his reply.

“Ohh”, I reply dumbfounded and thinking I may have got my time coordinates wrong so I ask, “did you have a visitor arrive last night?” 

“ Oh yes, you will be talking of the traveler Muhammad Ibn Battuta, he arrived with a troop of armed guards.  With the number of attacks we have on this shore, wealthy travellers have been compelled to take extra precautions.   Actually, Mr Muhammad Ibn Battuta was asking us about the attacks and making notes in his diary about them.”

“Well”, I asked him, seizing the opportunity, “what did you tell him?”

The stable hand thought for a while and said, “I told him about some of the raids that happened this year.  Some were by the Christians from Castile, others were by Pirates taking a break from winter in the Caribbean, sometimes you don’t know who it was.  In one, a fisherman was killed and his fish were left on the road.  In another, 2 horses were killed.  Another where 10 travellers were captured.  And yet another where 2 travellers were killed.  Sometimes it would be a lone galley or pirate dhow, sometimes as many as 4 craft would come ashore.  Would you like me to tell you more about these stories sir?”

“No”, I reply, “I have heard enough.”  This is new information which could distort time and sends me into a panic.  Even the hint of causing trouble with the Time Lords could seriously disrupt my career plans.  With absolutely no choice, I made my excuses and left ensuring that the stable hand would soon forget he saw me.   

This is the problem of time travel, unless you want to create huge holes in the future, you cannot interfere with the past.  Some of you may have heard of the ‘prime directive’ in ‘Star Trek’; in short, it means do not interfere with the development of a culture.  

For centuries, popular belief and culture have understood certain stories to be genuine and history is rewritten when they are disproved.  And whilst any species has the right to discover its own history, it is not the job of time travellers to do it for them; we should leave your history books as they are.  We are observers in the creation of your history, not participants.

Getting back to the beach, I have trouble distinguishing mine from the other dhows, but as I approach a blue light appears.  A door opens, I enter the craft to hastily leave through the gateway of time.  On the journey back I was able to do some research and be sure that I had done the right thing.  

The moment I found how the historical and actual events were unmatched other doubts were triggered. 

Since the first publication of Ibn Battuta’s works in his lifetime, there have been allegations that his travel accounts were not based on his own experiences.  These were backed by errors such as references to rulers who governed before, or after he arrived and inconsistencies in the geographical details.  He lost his diaries when robbed at sea by pirates and dictated the stories of his travels in later life.

German oriental scholar Ralf Elger claims to have discovered that Ibn Battuta faked most of his travel accounts. The professor’s theory dulls the polished image of one of the most revered figures in Arab cultural history. In his review of Elger’s book entitled ‘Contemporary Witness or Impostor?’ Lewis Gropp gives plenty of reasons why the veracity of Ibn Battuta’s work is in doubt.    

“Although Ibn Battuta is still viewed to this day by many Arabs as a great explorer and traveller of the Arab and Islamic world, doubts were raised as to the authenticity of his reports even during his lifetime. The great Arab historian Ibn Chaldun reports for example that there were several people at the court of Fez who did not believe the accounts were genuine.”

There are even allegations that he did not make it as far as China and that his writings were similar to other contemporary travellers’ descriptions.  Did he travel 5 times as far as Marco Polo and did he do the many things he claimed? the jury is out.  He will never lose his place as a cultural and intellectual Icon of the largest empire that ever existed; airports, roads, hotels, and shopping malls will continue to be named after him.  The accepted point in the discussion today is, that some of what he said is probably contentious but the culture that he promoted and embellished came to shape the modern world.  We are all guilty of a little embellishment, stories can grow with the telling and perhaps truth should not get in the way of good storytelling.  His was an important story, cultural narrative and and glowing memorial of a great age.

So why is this relevant to this incident which has become a part of the history of Fuengirola?  The story would not send you to sleep and could well give you nightmares.   You can read the whole thing in Sur in English,  or for now just check this excerpt.

When I had traversed the area of Marbala, and entered the area of Suhayl, I passed a dead horse lying in the ditch, and a little farther on a pannier of fish thrown on the ground. 

This aroused my suspicions. In front of me there was a watchtower, and I said to myself “ If an enemy were to appear here, the man on the tower would give the alarm” So I went on to a house thereabouts, and at it I found a horse killed. While I was there I heard a shout but vision denied me (for I had gone ahead of my part) and turning back to them, found the commander of the fort of Suhayl with them.  He told me that four galleys belonging to the enemy had appeared there, and a number of the men on board had landed when the watchman was not in the tower. The horsemen who had just left Marbala, twelve in number, had encountered this raiding force. The Christians had killed one of them, one had escaped, and ten were taken as prisoners. A fisherman was killed along with them, and it was he whose basket I had found along the road.”

This is high drama that did not happen often.  Speak to any journalist and ask how often they are statistically likely to witness a major incident, they are almost always a second or third hand account.   Dictating a great work from memory, at least 20 years after the event, could be difficult and the temptation of embellishing the account to make a more exciting story may be too great.

The raids by the Christian conquistadors would continue for over a century and the African Pirates would continue to plunder the coast for another 4 centuries until France took control of North Africa.  

Ibn Battuta still commands great respect because his travel journals enhance the legendary greatness of the Islamic empire.  His accounts serve as a confirmation of a grand empire, the virtuousness of a devout life and the misguided nature of the unfaithful.  His story about the incident that took place on his visit to Suhayl, if not wholly true, can serve as a metaphor for a millennium of raids now forgotten at a safe historical distance.  If they are exactly true or written with some purpose such as drama, politics and entertainmaent, they put the location on the map, a century before it became “Fuengirola”.    

My boat takes its place among those close to Hotel Yaramar, the revellers of Nocha San Juan are making a weekend of it.  The record numbers of tourists are promenading, sunbathing, swimming enjoying sophisticated soirees or watching football, golf or Rugby.  You have never had it so good.    

Dr Quien’s Blog Number 9

The more I travel through time, the more I appreciate the vastness of history.  For example, the sheer length of the Moorish occupation of the location of Fuengirola.  The Moors entered Spain in 711 A.D.; within 10 years they had taken the whole peninsula.  Armies from Christian Europe were summoned by the powers of Rome to fight a war that would last for three-quarters of a millennium.  For anyone who has not read or watched Youtube videos on this amazing story, I can only recommend it.  

Perhaps my recommendations will fall on deaf ears, consumers favour the latest news headlines over a spectacular history.  Here, we are concerned with the location of Fuengirola as I journey through history to check the ‘facts’ in the book written in 2021 by Patrick H. Meehan called Fuengirola Revisited.  

You can find out more about my mission through time in Fuengirola and previous journeys of 3D history here.   https://fuengirolarevisited.com/dr-quiens-blog/

The fact is that the location of Fuengirola (or Suhayl as they called it) was the home of the Moors for 775 years until the 7th of August 1485.  Longer than any occupation of this location before or since.  You may not know that from the local visual clues, except for the Castle towering above the modern town never to be erased from our sight.  

So for my next visit to Suhayl, I have done my time travel research and found a famous visitor by the name of Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib.  Records show that he was on the way to Africa on a diplomatic mission, trying to oust the then Emir Ismail I in favour of Muhammed V and that he would be sailing from Suhayl on a trip to Fez.  With a little ‘cheating’ I got the date and travelled from my beachfront location in front of the modern Yaramar and wound back the controls 666 years to a spring day in 1360 A.D.

On arrival, my boat has morphed into a typical dhow of the era and has landed on the shore indistinguishable from the other dhows around it.  The first thing I notice was a military or defensive look to the location.  On my last visit here the whole area was bathed in colour.  

Previously the Almoravid warrior monks were a danger to the lives of pirates and the Castillian Conquest had not got far enough south to attack.  There are less homes around the shoreline with more around the Castle and on the hills behind it.  On the quays between the Castle and the river, there are large dhows being filled with agricultural produce.  Everyone I see is armed with swords and daggers.  

There are fences between the beach and Castle from where a potentially hostile horizon is warily scanned.  These are dangerous times and Suhayl is looking dark and defensive; subject to raids at any time.   As I walk toward the Castle there are soldiers and servants everywhere.  My presence is hardly noticed, my wardrobe has been prepared so well that I blend in with the passers-by. 

The captain of the guard announces to the assembled dignitaries and local leaders that the distinguished visitor is crossing the ford in the river and will be with them in less than an hour.   Among the crowd waiting to see the visitor, I meet Suhayli Al Haseem, a bright intelligent fellow, born here in Suhayl.  

“So what’s happening today, looks like you have a famous visitor.  Why is there so much fuss, who is it?”   “Ah, today we are honoured with the presence of the great Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib, possibly the most powerful and intelligent man of his generation.  He was born 50 years ago in 1313, in Loja, a village near Granada.  He is a man of the greatest talent;, a polymath, writer, historian, philosopher, physician and politician.  Even his poems decorate the walls of the palace of Alhambra. 

His father was an official at the court of the Nasrid Emir Ismail I in Granada and was killed in battle in 1340.  Many other senior officials of the Emirate died young due to the plague and relentless war with the Christians.  In recognition of his great abilities, Ibn al-Khatib became head of the chancery and later as a diplomat travelling the Islamic world.   

Today he is passing through Suhayl while on his way to Mauretania. Some say he is on a diplomatic mission to Fez, others that he has been banished from Granada for plotting.  The local religious and political leaders are hopeful that he can solve one of their great problems.”  The Suhayli tells me to look along the river to where a group of horsemen has just crossed at the shallow end.  This will be his entourage.  

While waiting for him, I notice that in every one of my visits to this location since visiting the Phoenicians there are always a lot of cats.  We should return to this question, but I am wondering if these, and indeed our modern day cats, are descended from those brought here by the Phoenicians.  Just a thought!

We are waiting outside the Castle when about 20 riders climb the hill and dismount outside the Castle door.  Now I need to attract my interviewee’s attention.  When I see the central person surrounded by aides and guards, I call to him in a loud voice; Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib may I speak to you.  

He ignores me.  He is renowned as a ‘polymath’ which coincidentally is the name of the package on my Neuralink implant language translator.  (On the subject of the invention of the Neuralink, Elon was in a lot of trouble when he got back to the Time Lord school)

So I call the same to him in all of the languages he has studied, then, just for the fun of it, a perfect imitation of his Emir, Ismail I. He gets the point and walks over to me to ask  “and who do you think you are”?  

Well, I am not going to introduce myself by my Castillian name, certainly not while the Castilians are engaged in an all-out bloody war with his people.  So in my best grammatic Arabic, I introduce myself as Dr. Munazamat Alsihat Alealamiati.  He looks at me quizzically and asks me what I want.  “An interview”, I reply in my most persuasive grammar using some advanced neuro-linguistic programming with hypnosis.   

Agreed, he replied, let’s go and sit on the lookout tower of this amazing Castle where we can enjoy the view and take some refreshments.  

The group of officials and religious dignitaries were all amazed and slightly miffed.  They knew this distinguished visitor was just passing through and were anxious to speak with him.  He was catching a boat from here because further down the coast the sea was controlled by the Castilians making this the safest point to sail from.  When they saw he had dismissed their official reception to speak with a scruffy-looking foreigner they were not happy.  They had an important request for him and feared it may go unheard.  

When suitably refreshed and comfortable at the top of the tower, he asked me what I would like to know, and then said, “let me guess?”  He then proceeded to talk about the many subjects he had mastered, the countries he had traveled to, the books and poems he had written, his philosophies, wives and languages.  He told me of the complexities of diplomatic life in a system that has been under attack for six hundred years.  Of inter-tribal disputes, internal wrangling, politics, fear, loathing and the horrific death rate of a people under pressure.  

Despite my own scholarly ambitions, my appearance of taking copious notes hides the fact that the information he is giving me is too much to handle.  Thankfully my recording equipment is working and his words may one day be of use to someone studying this period.  After several hours of this ‘interesting’ monologue, I steer him toward a conclusion.  He finally asks me, was that enough for your interview Doctor.  

At this point, I am taken aback, not quite sure how to respond to all that I have heard, so I decided to wing it.  Remembering the purpose of my mission is to report back on the contents of Fuengirola Revisited by Patrick H. Meehan.  In particular this week I am looking at what the same author wrote in the Sur in English on the 27/05/22 <link>

Yes, there is, there are some quotes that are attributed to you, which I would like to discuss.  

You wrote the following of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada; “It is full of riches and abundance, and on the contrary, its inhabitants are all thieves”.  

Answering a question with questions, he asks me if I have been there and where did I think the riches and abundance came from?

Then I say, you wrote this in one of your books, is it true?

“there is a story where a young man asks the old man about the different places in Granada and asks him about Suhayl. He tells him that he has a Castle so strong that he has no rival in India or China.

Well sort of, the old man and the young man may be metaphorical to the passing of wisdom from age to age.  

It also helps young men from thinking they know more than old men but may not have worked.  

And this

Every intelligent man knows his usefulness and that his fame is founded. 

To which his cryptic reply was “those who can understand will, those who can not don’t matter.”  

OK, when you wrote this

“The basis of its prosperity is the cultivation of barley and figs. Its inhabitants are certain that they are a source of life and security.“

How do the ‘barley and figs’ bring security?

“When I was Chancellor of the Emirate of Granada this area was getting a lot of seaborne attacks from the Christians.  There was an outcry across the Islamic world twenty years ago when the great explorer, the great Ibn Battútta, wrote about the slaughter he witnessed right here.  So, I had to do something drastic.  Because we have a ready export market, I was able to increase the price of barley and figs so that it generated revenues to pay for defence.

And what did you have in mind when you wrote this about Suhayl?  

“The population extends along the slope of the Castle, in its river, fish abound and its lands produce abundant grain. For all these reasons the fame of this place reached the country of Nubia, south of Egypt, north of Sudan”.  

Good question he replied, “You see when I was Chancellor it was my job to make money for the area.  As you can imagine with all those raids many felt they would be better off inland or back in Mauritania.  When I was in Egypt, I went to see Meg, the famous fortune-teller.  She was part of a tribe that had been expelled from India centuries before and were traveling through Egypt.  They had rhythmic music to which their Women danced dressed in bright colours like Flamingos.  She told me that certain of their women had a talent for seeing the future through a glass ball and that she was the very best.  

She told me many things.  She described Suhayl to me and told me that the Castle would stand for thousands of years and its lands would be populated by hundreds of thousands of people.  She told me that the agents of estates would earn vast fortunes and bring people to the location by writing nice things about it.  Those words I wrote helped get some new settlers for Suhayl, especially from Nubia, but I am not sure if the fortune teller was right about the large numbers.  

She also told me I would be suffocated for treason at the age of 63, I am 47 and don’t believe in prophecies anyway. “ Then he asked me what I thought.  The rules of being a time lord force me to avoid answering this difficult question and I use my power of manifestation for a diversion.  Down on the dock a bell rang 6 times, and my visitor told me that time and tide wait for no man and it is time to sail while the tide is high and they can be on the other coast by nightfall.  

He asks me to accompany him to the boat and as he rushes down the steps, the local dignitaries are waiting for him and ask if they can speak with him.  ‘What is it?” he asks impatiently.  They repy, we need a hospital here, we only have a clinic and need a proper hospital.  

“Look guys” he said “the Emir has just banished me from the court for 2 years, because I am friends with Abu Abdallah Muhammad.  He thinks I want him to encourage a coup so that my friend becomes Muhammed V of Granada (as if I would do that?).  And as for your hospital, it could take seven hundred years.  Now I have to go and catch that boat“.  As we are going to the boat he asked me, “did I say seven hundred or seven years?”  “I am sure you meant seven”, I replied.

As he was getting on the boat, he turned to me and said, don’t think you have fooled me, there is something very different about you.  “And you” Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib I replied as we stare mysteriously at each other as the boat pulls away.

Being aware how the local dignitaries are not happy with me, I walk around the front of the Castle to the boats.  At least 2 guards are following me, but in no time I have disappeared into the group of 12 boats on the beach.  When the guards finally caught up there were 11.

Preparing to sit back and enjoy the journey I found something to listen to, suggestions of why sought and welcomed; https://youtu.be/fregObNcHC8

To find out more about Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_al-Khatib

Stay tuned for more adventures through history with Dr Quien

If you want to know more about Dr Quien and his amazing mission to travel through the past of the location of Fuengirola, you can find the introduction and previous installments here

Follow the rest of the website to find out more about Fuengirola Revisited, the (real) story of this amazing location.

And finally, if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola Revisited.

Dr Quien’s Blog Number 8

The Fuengirola Time Traveller Visits Sohail At The Height Of A Golden Age.

An agreeable walk through a rare wet and windy evening in Fuengirola I find my boat on the beach in front of the Yaramar.  In the fading light it was easy to slide behind the stern, open the secret door and enter the luxurious spacious interior of my time travelling machine.  My name is Dr. Quien and I am on a mission to trace the first complete history of Fuengirola, written by Patrick H. Meehan in 2021.  

You can find out more about my mission through time in Fuengirola and previous journeys of 3D history here.   https://fuengirolarevisited.com/dr-quiens-blog/

Today I want to see the newly built Castle and find out what life was like in the location of Fuengirola in 1080 A.D. at the height of the Almoravid era.  Headphones on, lay back in the comfy chair, I never know how long it takes, so let’s choose something to listen to, press this button and…  

A silent arrival on the same beach nearly a thousand years before.  My boat takes on the appearance of the popular Arabic ‘Dhow’ of the time as it appears at dawn among the many craft along the beach.  Time to check what the wardrobe has created for me, oh, well if it helps me to blend in!   

A short walk in from the beach the sun comes up over the sea and casts light on the location of Fuengirola almost 1,000 years ago.  And what a sight it is.  Most of the land is formed into fields filled with either livestock or crops.  The rivers are neatly channelled with sandbanks across the beach to hold water in.  Then I look over at the Castle, as the morning sun lights up the familiar face that launched a thousand postcards.  

Around it there are distinct roads lit up by what appear to be streetlamps being extinguished as the sun rises.   A bright new morning, silent with no wind, is pierced by the Islamic call to prayer of the muezzin standing on a tower of a mosque, just to the right of the Castle.   

With a long day in front of me, there is plenty of time to look around.   Wondering what happened to the Finca del Secretario, I took a walk down there, but it was buried.  A soil test confirms that the 6th century weather event, when it rained for years, just covered this place in a deluge of waste from the mountain.  There is a newer riverhead settlement nearer to the current river site, which again is full of water with a sand dam at the beach.   They are not growing grapes and cutting marble so the Rio Pajares is not as important as it was in Roman times, the priority everywhere is farming and fishing.

As I head South to the Castle I cross the neat wooden bridges that cross the 5 rivers of the flat plane.  The neatly channelled banks link to outlets to feed irrigation systems and the early morning sun causes mist to rise from the irrigated land.

As I get closer the mist rises and the Castle shines with the sun directly on it.  The closer I get the more I am amazed by how it seems identical to the one we see today.  The front battlement is not as wide, there are more towers, and it looks so shiny and new, not an ancient ruin, but a fearsome defence for a century of peace.  

As I reach the river, I see a huge harbour, a wide inlet from the sea over 300 metres wide and back further than the modern road.   It was full of Arabic style Dhows for fishing, trading and of course for defence of the coast.  At the side of the port I am greeted by a man who introduced himself as Abdul al-Suhayli.  Abdul tells me he is a guide, licensed by the authorities to show visitors around this great town.  

He has lived in Sohail all his life and after a career building the Castle, he is now licensed to guide tourists.  We spoke about his fee, and I was not sure how much was in my pockets, so I gave him all the Dirhams I had and asked him if it was enough.  He seemed overcome and asked ne for how many years I was staying, I said just the day and he rained down blessings upon me and praised me through eternal time.  Perhaps I overpaid but it set the scene for my day in Sohail with a guide so knowledgeable and pleased to tell me as much as he knew.. 

He called the best of the boats, and we crossed the mouth of the river to port beside the Castle.  As we crossed he asked me why I was here, I told him I had come a long way to see the new Castle and would like to know about the great town that it defends.  My guide led me through the busy port, people standing to one side respectfully as Abdul exchanged blessings with the locals.

The town of Sohail was built of stone, wood, and large amounts of cloth for protection against sun and rain.  Streets stretched South and West from the Castle and along the river bank.  A large Mosque with a tower stands on the site of today’s car park and streets go to the port, the seafront and up the hill to the all imposing Castle.

Abdul suggested we start at the seafront and find somewhere to drink tea and talk.

In front of the sea on a lower hill of the Castle were a series of tents, Abdul gave some money to the owner, who immediately scurried to set out cushions, carpet and table.  He continued to load the table with a range of delicacies, fruits and drinks while praising God for the abundance of this great location.  

When we are comfortable, my guide asks me what I would like to know, I reply, tell me about the last three centuries and what happened here?  My guide explains how today I am lucky as there are so many versions of history and his version is the truth, (and then wonder where I heard that before!).  

In 711 the army of Tariq ibn Ziyad arrived near Gibraltar followed by more armies to spend a century in minor civil wars for control of each area.  One North African army after another would occupy this area for a year or decades and a new army of the same faith but different language would come and take the town or the whole area.  This place is so bountiful that it will only be held by those who can defend it.  The first period of peace was under the Caliphate of Cordoba under Abd al-Raḥmān III who ruled from 929.  

He built the Madinat Al Zahara near Cordoba, which for less than a century was a city-palace amongst the most magnificent in the world.  Under his rule of prosperity the Castle was heavily fortified and the area became more widely settled and farmed under the protection of the mighty Caliph.  By 1009 the Madinat Al Zahara lay burned and looted following the usual failed succession.  Again this location was fought over by pirates with new settlers and armies making it the best location in times of peace and the worst in times of war.  

Then came the Almoravids, who ousted the ruling Caliphate from Cordoba in 1031 and strengthened the coast including the building of this Castle to bring peace and stability.  The Almoravids were Islamic warrior monks originally from Berber tribes with an expanding Caliphate in North Africa.  Using Sufi principles of prayer, study, and defence they defended commercial routes while organising administering lands.   Abdul tells me that for the last fifty years, his entire life the Almoravids have brought peace, civilisation and prosperity to this town.

They have the military might to deter any invader and have built this Castle that could stand for another thousand years.  It is impenetrable, to access the gate visitors had to circle the hill and be inspected from the battlements.  It is all-seeing, impregnable and ideally suited to watch and defend the coastal strip, roads, mountains, and riverhead.  You can see your enemies long before they land, then our brave warrior monks will feed them to the fish.  Our town and our Caste are impenetrable, we can live our lives without fear, which in this location is the biggest blessing of all. 

He continued for some hours to explain the town and its importance to the Caliphate and the Isalmic empire.  By his own version of events, the known world centred around Sohail and to him it was the centre of the world.  He often mentioned that one day hundreds of thousands of people will live here and millions will visit this great coast.

After a few hours and so many stories, I had drunk enough tea and asked him to take me around the town to see the sights of Sohail.  The grand mosque was the second largest building, new, impressive and bright white with a large tower.  There were water fountains and water channels on every road and beside every building.  Every type of flower grew in neatly tended rows and every part of the town was perfectly clean. 

Next to the mosque were a hospital and a school both run by the Almoravid warrior monks.  He showed me the water wells 600 metres south of the castle, around which there are many dwellings and hostels.  In another prophecy he tells me how this will be the best hostel position for a thousand years because of its natural water supply. He explains the importance of the hostels as the location is halfway between Marbal La and Mālaqah.  

Then we climb the hill to the Castle, Abdul is well known and exchanges greetings and blessings to all whom he meets.  Close up, the smooth concrete lining of the Castle is a lighter sand brown and every stone is in perfect place.  Inside the Castle are a series of administrative areas for the public to visit, behind that are training and study areas with accommodation for the Monks.  We pay taxes to the Caliphate and we are able to study, farm, fish and live in peaceful prosperity, this is as good as it gets.

Of course there is a war in the North of the Country with invaders sent by Rome.  Again in a chilling prediction he tells me that it will take 400 years before the troops of Rome can take this Castle.  He is right, this is indeed a golden age for this location.  Abdul could live to be one hundred years of age while the Almoravid provide defence, peace, prosperity, education and even a hospital.   At this point I had learned enough, so I asked Abdul to return me to the ferry so that I could walk along the beach back to my boat.

As I leave him, Abdul tells me he is worried, because the amount of money I gave him is enough to buy a hostel with a swimming pool.  He tells me that if I want it back I can have it because he already lives in heaven and will be happy to give it to the monks because they will use it for the good of everyone.  Walking back to the boat, I hope Abdul will live to be a hundred, then he will have enjoyed all of the longest peace in half a millenium.  My boat floats back gently through time, its early evening, I slip out into the fading light and realise I am still wearing the ‘costume’ as I walk down the seafront.  No reaction or second looks, people just walk by,  perhaps another fashion to revive……

Dr Quien’s Blog Number 7

Scandinavians bring havoc and chaos to the location of Fuengirola. 

My most significant learning to date as a time traveller is that it is impossible to describe an epoch of hundreds of years in one short report.  So in this episode there needs to be some  context to the times to which I am travelling.  It will be brief, these times are called ‘dark ages’ because so little information about them survives, not because they were not full of action and excitement, it’s just that the ‘news’ did not survive.  The almost three centuries between the Romans leaving around 420 A.D. and the Moor’s arriving in 711 A.D. was never going to be a period of stability for the location of Fuengirola.  The acts of war, takeovers, power struggles and defeats were common and would have filled newspapers the world over; but they would not be printed for another 1000 years. 

So we launch blindly into the past, down to the beach near the Yarmar, into my time machine and through time to the same spot in 650 A.D.  On arrival I find myself another 100 meters inland from the shoreline, clearly the land has moved.  On my last visit here, I had been to the Finca del Secretario so I thought I would start my visit there.  But something seems wrong, it’s like there has been a landslide and the whole of the Finca and the bathhouse have been covered in earth.   The river has been moved about 100 meters south by the earth that must have come down from the mountains in the storms of the 6th century.   

Some rocks have been used to make some kind of chapel and the only use they seem to make of the place is as a burial ground.  Looking west to the hill (close to the modern Gardenia Park Hotel) there is a settlement around some kind of Church, so I follow the coast to find out what is happening. 

About a kilometre north of the Finca el Secretario, on a small raised hill beside the Río Presas, close to the then shoreline is what we know today as the ‘Termas Romanas de Torreblanca del Sol’.   Around it and along the flowing Río Presas are wooden houses, but this is a stone building around 2 connected octagonal rooms that now look like a badly built church.  

It’s early in the morning and slowly people are coming from the houses and down to the river and beaches from about 50 surrounding wooden huts.  What I need at this stage is a guide, or someone to interview, so I use some futuristic technology to scan the brains of the local inhabitants to find the smartest person in town.  After pointing my device at people heads, taught me that there were no shortage of dumb people about, until one particular scanned head gave a full signal, I had found the local genius.  

“What are you staring at”? she said, “you” said I, “who are you, what do you know and where are you from?” I asked.  “Ingrid” she said and “everything of course, and I am from Svithiod” (modern day Sweden).  “Well Ingrid, I am lucky to have met you. I am a traveling writer and would like to know more about this area where you are living, please would you help me?”  At that point she picked up a large log and threw it at my head, if i had not ducked, she would have killed me, “You think I have not heard every trashy pick up line in the modern world, you creep round here with this bulllshit, who do you think I am?  And then she goes to get another log, picks it up and is ready to throw it at me!”   

Look I know it’s cheating, and that they are banned, but in the future, where I am from, the same device that I used for the brain scans earlier, can be used to make people, well, nice.  Quickly pointing the laser at her head, I give it the full ‘cool vibrational speed blast’ which gives the maximum ‘helpfulness, memory and talking’ ability.  The problem is it wears off after just 2 hours.

Just as she is raising the log in a blow that would have killed me, she suddenly puts it down, adjusts her clothes, flicks her long blond hair back, flashes her deep blue eyes at me and tells me she is sorry and that a girl cannot be too careful around here.   This seems like a good opportunity to invite her for a beach walk along the coast so that I can get back to my boat before her brain wave wears off.  She then takes half an hour to get ready and I am getting worried that I will have wasted this long planned trip into this chapter in Patrick H. Meehan’s 2021 book ‘Fuengirola Revisited’ 

Eventually she is ready, she looks amazing and offers me her arm as we walk toward the beach.  There is little time left and I want to know as much as possible, so I start by asking her about herself and how come she knows everything.  Her story is amazing:-

She comes from a long line of Norse families and is of course descended from the Gods.  As she is from such an important family she was brought up in a huge wooden palace in France.  She was educated in a travelling school that followed the Army that her Father led as they served tours of duty across the whole Visigoth kingdom from South of Paris all the way to this place on the southern coast.   She told me about her life, travels, education and the people she had met in the Visgoth kingdom.  

She tells me about the chaos, the feuding, the wars between the families, dukedoms and fiefdoms.  It took 2 centuries of bloodshed until the Visigoths changed from being a wandering tribe of slaughtering plunderers, to a sophisticated and settled ruling class of ‘Teutonic Christians’, allowed to continue their belief in the old Norse Gods and view Christ as a hero.  The people descended from the Romans, argue with the original local and a few so-called ancient tribes.   At this stage the Iberian population of 5 million is administered by just 200,000 Visigoths, hence it had to be brutal and often inhuman.   The rule at a local level was mostly left to the Iberian Romano families who after generations have married into the Visigoth families.  Hence the country people, the townspeople and the independent tribes people can never agree on anything.  Over centuries of revolt against their rulers, great massacres took place, but never enough to bring peace.  This way, the rulers were in some spiritual alignment with the ruled, thus it was God’s will that they ruled.  After hearing about the disaster that had occured since the Romans left, and listening to her for an hour, I made the mistake of asking a question.  OK it may have been the wrong question, but I asked it anyway.

“Look,” I said, “this place was great under the Romans, under you lot, massacres, famines, plagues, civil wars, instability, starvation, this place is crazy; why?”  Then, she explained how Rome had been the largest empire ever, and was the only one capable of bringing top-down order to these chaotic lands.  They had ‘books’ almost a millennium before we did, they had the organisation, leadership and incentive to get things done, while the Visigoths fell out over which side of the fence to put the chickens.  “You are not comparing the same thing, “ she said “one is highly civilized, the other barbarians from the north.  Rome bought 4 centuries of peace, no-one has achieved that since and probably never will.  If you came here looking for order or something that works, you are in the wrong place.  The Castle and surroundings are covered with mud, we are raided by North African pirates every year and the only fighting our armies do is with each other.”

We reach my boat on the beach, I notice she is starting to become argumentative again, the brainwave must be wearing off; what is it you are doing here again? And as she asked more questions about me, my accent, where I was from, was I a spy.. this time traveller thought  “Hang on, I have to climb into that boat……. “

Dr. Quien’s Blog Number 6. The worst of times…

Today’s adventure through time will take Dr. Quien back to 400 A.D. to the final decade of the Roman occupation of Spain where we will witness at first hand the decline of Rome from our local perspective. This once great Municipality, which centered on the location of modern Fuengirola, is now in dark days that are about to get much darker.

My boat is parked as usual opposite the Yaramar and still no one suspects that it hides a time travelling machine with 2 floors of luxury living. The coordinates are set and the same boat will soon appear suitably disguised as a local craft on the same beach in late Roman Suel, 400 A.D.

My last visit here was 375 years before, at the height of Roman wealth and decadence, which continued before a long slow decline about a hundred before my visit. All empires end, normally as the battles become long drawn out wars. As I emerged onto the beach, the sea was flat, the day was windless and the first thing I noticed was the smell. The indistinguishable smell of a fish salting factory hung in the air like death.

There were fishing boats with battered dirty sails around the river by the Finca de Secretario and from a distance I could see more around the river by the Castle. It was the height of Summer,and the rivers had silted up because they had not been maintained, this meant that boats were pulled up the beach after losing their natural harbour. From a distance, I could see the Finca del Secretario had plumes of smoke and steam belching out of the land in front, so I decided to go there first. As I got closer, the smell got worse, you will only know how bad it is if you visit a fish salting factory.

Previously the finca had an adequate supply of water with tanks and reservoirs to supply the luxury life to the Finca and its now famous baths. But now, most of the Finca was in ruins and the water for the baths was used in the water-intensive fish salting process. The fireplaces that once heated the water were now being used to heat kilns in which clay pots are created. Amid the heat and smells about 20 people are working industriously.

I move through the new factory, past the dried up baths and up the steps (crossing the current n340) to the site where a magnificent finca now stood in ruins. In the one corner of the finca that was still standing, there were some offices and living accommodation which I went to investigate. As I approached the building a large man approached me and introduced himself with a long Italian name and the title of ‘El Secretario’. At last, after all the mystery of who this person was, I was now standing in one of the last holders of this great office; this would make an amazing story. He was a kind man, with a look of melancholy about him and when I asked him for an interview for a journalistic piece I was working on, he sighed and said, ‘why not’.

My first question got him talking straight away, when I asked him about the historical role of his office. He explained that he is the head of Roman tax collection for the area, he got the job 20 years ago due to ‘family’ connections in Rome and lived under a threat to his family if he did not collect the right taxes for Rome. A huge war was being fought against the invaders from the North of Europe and Rome needed every dinar to fight them off. But it was never enough, every couple of years a delegation would arrive from Rome, check the books and urge the local Ibero/Romans to keep the local tribes in order and create more wealth. He points to the finca that has crumbled to the ground and tells me what happened.

“Five years ago the delegation came here and demanded that we quarry more marble from the hills, I told them how we had no workers, the marble was high in the hills and the river was no longer usable. It was then that they walked around the finca, counted the 365 marble columns and acquisitioned them all to help the war effort. After that, most of the Finca fell down and even more boats came to take away the fine building materials to sell to the Persians.” El Secreterio explained his own particular favorite was a statue of Venus which was carved as an image of his late wife. Rather than let the statue be taken by them, he took a large hammer to it, removed the head, arms and legs and buried it below the finca to ensure that statue will never leave this site.

He told me another story given to him by a local marble trader concerning a ready carved temple front with 4 columns. Half of the money had been paid and it had been agreed the other half would be paid by the boat that arrived to collect it. While they were waiting a long time for the boat, for security reasons they decided to bury the columns under cover of darkness. The workers have since moved on, the owner of the columns died and no one had a clue where they were buried. Perhaps one day someone will discover them and erect them to look out across the sea…..

He mentioned that he had to go to the Castle for a ‘crisis meeting’ with the local council and offered to walk with me and explain what would become of this jewel of the Roman empire. The first problem, he explains as we walk along the battered pathway, is that nobody wants to live and work here anymore. Under the Roman system, if you lived in a Municipum such as Suel, you paid taxes, were protected by Roman troops, represented by elected councilors and could perhaps one day be considered to apply for Roman citizenship. However in a century or more of sharp decline, this status had become less attractive to new generations. Many had left to join the local tribes living inland and only taxed on trade with the Romans.

The Secretario goes on to explain how living in a town under Rome was good when the economy was good, but now, it does not really pay. The people who really make it work are the class of Ibero / Romans, an elite class who intermarried with the locals to make a class of rulers who could manage affairs on behalf of Rome. They collect the local taxes and represent the local people to the rulers in Malaga, can read and speak Latin and even visit Rome. This class has also suffered, they used to have a privileged lifestyle but now their lives were becoming more desperate with the demands from Rome to keep collecting and paying more taxes. Life expectancy had risen to 40 years and beyond in the good times, now life was ‘nasty, brutish and short’, perhaps 30 years for a worker.

He then explains the next problem, the seabourne invaders. The North Africans and other pirates have been invading these shores for the last 50 years. The Castle was just a tower until 50 years ago, since then walls were built all around it so that the community could shelter when an attack takes place. He explains how most of the financial matters are now administered from the Castle because of the extra security it provides; hence the decline of the Finca. The Secretario explains how security was not a problem under the old Roman empire, if anyone invaded Spain the world’s fiercest army would find them, kill them and take over their country. “Now the Roman army is being driven back home through the bottom half of Europe, chased by the angry Visigoths and Vandals, the last thing they have time for is to hang around here and defend us.”

After a long walk along a decaying road no longer fit for chariots, past abandoned homes and ruins along the way, we arrive at the Castle. The first thing I notice is the smell; the huge villa in front of the Castle has been converted into another fish salting factory, again to produce money from exports. Rows of empty houses line hills around the Castle, a settlement that had once been home to a couple of thousand people was about half empty. With every new raid by the pirates more families would depart for the interior until eventually the ruling classes would stand alone as the Romans inevitably left.

El Secretario explains to me how almost everyone has fled for the hills, the only ones left are the Ibero Romans who were bred to be tax collectors, politicians and poets. When the soldiers leave, as they will have to in the coming years, these people will be left high born, noble and completely defenseless against the local tribes from Coin and Alhaurin, or the invaders from the sea. El Secretario bids me farewell; he knows that these crisis meetings can go on for 12 hours and that I would not enjoy attending. In thanking him I encourage him and try to explain my belief that the great role that he fill in this place will be remembered thousands of years into the future. At first he looked self satisfied, then confused and then look at me like I was mad, we exchanged further Latin greetings of the road while I went to look at the grim declining town.

It all seems so desolate, decay and industrial grime everywhere masking a sense of impending doom, of enemies arriving from every direction and Rome, the glue of civilisation for over 500 years in its final decline. Just 9 years later the Vandals would cross the Pyrenees into Hispania and the Silingi Vandals would take the South, Rome would be sacked by the Visigoths in 410.
There were 5 or 10 years between the Romans leaving and the Visigoths arriving, but it was too late for the residents of Suel, the North Africans got their first. Most of the gloomy people I saw had short lives ahead of them.

Reflecting on the gloom I had witnessed I sat on the south facing slope of the Castle, looked toward the villa that had become a factory, and remembered that would be the spot on which a stage would one day stand. On the 4th of May 2019, the creator of the following song would stand in that very position, the words seemed apt for this desolate landscape.

——————————————————————
Stay tuned for more adventures through history with Dr Quien

If you want to know more about Dr Quien and his amazing mission to travel through the past of the location of Fuengirola, you can find the introduction and previous installments here

Dr Quien’s Blog

Follow the rest of the website to find out more about Fuengirola before you get here.

And finally, if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola RevisitedFuengirola Revisited.

Dr Quien’s Blog number 5. What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?

It was A.D. 25, the location that is now Fuengirola was enjoying the best of times, with lands farmed, mined and quarried while fish were caught, salted and exported. Rome provided everything, trade, laws, boats, roads, language and most of all, protection. After centuries of loyal service Suel is about to become the Roman Municipality of Suel. The deal is quite simple, the town pays taxes to Rome and gets a local council.

Today’s time traveling blog takes a trip back to the day when a new standard of political leadership came to this location, perhaps the birth of our local authority. The day Fuengirola became a municipality of Rome.

“Authors Note; if you are new to Dr Quien, and his time travelling mission to explore the past of Fuengirola, you may like to start at the beginning https://fuengirolarevisited.com/dr-quiens-blog/ “
But do continue reading, love, like and shere…..

Back to the story..
My boat arrives on the beach in front of what is now the Hotel Yaramar in the year A.D. 25, early morning in the Summer. The Roman world is full of chroniclers and so, with my instant language brain implant, I can find some useful information on what may be an important day in the history of our town.

Instead of heading for the tower where the action is, I head for the hill where the Bull would stand 2000 years later. The Rio Pajares was so wide that to continue along the beach I needed a boatman and right on time, he appeared. A tall man, almost bald with an engaging manner that combined with a laconic sarcasm that was sort of, well, funny. As we crossed the river, he told me about the resident of the nearest buildings. The ‘Secretary’ is the richest and most important man in town, he lives in a grand villa just behind those tree’s and has a huge bathhouse. For the last few days dignitaries have been arriving from the big cities of Malaga, Sevilla and even Rome to bestow this great honour on Suel. The Secretary is extending his hospitality and the 50 guest suites in his villa are full with visitors bedecked in the grandest toga’s lined with jewels followed by officials, servants and guards.

He goes on to tell me that his business as a ferryman is suffering because today the Romans are opening the redeveloped road with new wooden bridges across each of the town’s rivers. This road will link the whole of the South Eastern corner of the Roman Empire (although half of it falls into the sea every decade or so, but today they are happy). He proceeds to tell me more local gossip, the one about using the bath house for Romans to breed with local women and create a new race, but it seemed a bit far-fetched.

My guide seemed to be an intelligent man with a strong local knowledge, he seemed strangely familiar which you will later discover. When he asked if I needed a guide on my visit, I instantly agreed.

We headed for the hill to get a view of the area from where the bull stands today. As roads and railways had not yet made the front face of the hill vertical we were able to climb to the top from the front. At the top, the sight was breathtaking. The beaches were a little further back than they are now, the mouth of the rivers wider and deep enough for water to flow. Most of the line from the top of the beach to about the level of the modern train line, was a swamp with tall reeds growing in it. My guide showed me where parts of the swamp had been drained and turned into farmland. He was against this, reasoning that the farmland would become stable and built on, thousands of people would live there and we would have lost a good swamp and disturb the wildlife. This he explained, was typical of the troubles that these Romans will bring to this land. In all of my conversations he repeatedly asked the question, “what have the Romans done for us?”

Looking down from this great height at the beaches, fishing boats with oars and small sails lined the top of the beach, many were starting out on their mornings fishing to get food for the celebrations tonight. He pointed to the south bank of the Rio Pajares and mentioned he had an appointment there tonight.

Looking across the land with the morning sun shining on it, I could see the castle site with one tower and a number of buildings nearby. White painted homes made of rock or wood lined the river banks. The river beside the castle has a port and the sea entrance 500 metres wide. It housed a flotilla of small ships that had bought dignitaries for the celebrations. The modern railway was positioned where it is, because it is at the top of the flat land, west of the track and the land rises on a rock bed and the east was a swamp. For this reason, the new Roman road ran along this line with ‘strip development’ of small wood and stone houses where people could live on solid ground rather than marshes. My guide told me that since the Romans arrived people have come from everywhere to live in Suel. As my eyes ran back along the road, I came to our current position, looked down and saw the most amazing villa below my feet. All that survives in the modern day are the bathhouses; a road is driven through the rest, and where now sits an empty field is a huge mansion with at least twenty buildings behind to service it, house, servants and troops.

The entire hill behind me and everywhere I could see, was filled with deep green vines. My guide pointed to the white scars in the hill, the material facts are here, they extract marble from those mountains and make wine from the grapes. They carry it down these rivers and the Secretary’s men collect the taxes on everything that moves. Bronze, grain and some tin from the interior mostly go through the castle. This is where the expensive goods are and doubtless why the secretary has this palace here.

As we stood gazing at the wonder of it all, we saw some boats leave the river in front of us to sail, or row the flat sea, to take the dignitaries to the Castle. Another large group followed the new road and over the new wooden bridges which led to the Castle.

My guide suggested that we leave them on the main road and follow the beach to the castle. He found a small boat and we crossed the Rio Pajares down river from the palace of the Secretary.

The morning sun was shining at us and my guide suggested that we call into the bar just past the Rio Pajares, funny enough it is about where @Hutchys bar is now. We were let in with a special knock at the door. The landlord, Sam, a foreigner from somewhere, let us in, his first clients of the day, he knew my guide and it all seemed very comfortable. It was a stone building, with cracked walls decorated with hanging white and patterned blankets. He said we looked thirsty, and suggested a drink. red or white says he, red says my guide, from the Sirah grape from our local hills, none of that imported stuff for us.

As we talked and the wine slipped back, he told me about life under Roman rule. It was a process of industrialisation, prior to their presence, it was subsistence farming, enough for people to eat and share some. The people were drumming, dancing and dreaming, then Rome arrived, things were written down, records kept, productivity increased, wealth extracted and long working days became the norm. Resistance is met with unspeakable brutality and very few privileges or opportunities exist for the non latin speaker. Sam bought us lunch, the wine was constantly refreshed and my guide continued to tell me stories of life in Roman Suel. At some time, I remembered that I had intended to be at the ceremony beside the Castle and reminded my guide that we were late.

He looked at me and said “do you honestly think it worth hearing more politicians make more speeches about how much more they are doing and how we, the people, are so lucky because we do the work and they take the money. Take today’s festivities if you will, we have become a ‘Municipum’ of Rome. It means that the residents of Suel are allowed to pay taxes to Rome, in exchange for protection. What I really want to know is, he repeated to me for the umpteenth time, ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?”

All of these long and intricate explanations had not mixed well and, after a siesta, my guide woke me up with a fresh cup of wine and the stories continued, most had an anti Roman theme. It continued through the afternoon and the same question was asked again and again, “what have the Romans ever done for us?” Toward the evening, 2 other men were let in the bar and sat either side of him at a long table covered in cloth. The Landlord responded to a certain knock at the door as the bar filled with local farmers and fishermen dressed in cloaks with headscare held by a yellow braid. When they all sat or stood on the other side of the table my guide called a meeting to order. Realising that if the Romans arrived we could all be gruesomely executed, I sat nervously realising the importance of this meeting. Realising I could get in trouble with the Time Lords, I used some recording equipment. You can see my recording here

Stay tuned for more adventures through history with Dr Quien

If you want to know more about Dr Quien and his amazing mission to travel through the past of the location of Fuengirola, you can find the introduction and previous installments here

Dr Quien’s Blog

Follow the rest of the website to find out more about Fuengirola before you get here.

And finally, if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola RevisitedFuengirola Revisited.

Dr Quien’s Blog number 5. What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?

It was A.D. 25, the location that is now Fuengirola was enjoying the best of times, with lands farmed, mined and quarried while fish were caught, salted and exported. Rome provided everything, trade, laws, boats, roads, language and most of all, protection. After centuries of loyal service Suel is about to become the Roman Municipality of Suel. The deal is quite simple, the town pays taxes to Rome and gets a local council.

Today’s time traveling blog takes a trip back to the day when a new standard of political leadership came to this location, perhaps the birth of our local authority. The day Fuengirola became a municipality of Rome.

“Authors Note; if you are new to Dr Quien, and his time travelling mission to explore the past of Fuengirola, you may like to start at the beginning https://fuengirolarevisited.com/dr-quiens-blog/ “
But do continue reading, love, like and shere…..

Back to the story..
My boat arrives on the beach in front of what is now the Hotel Yaramar in the year A.D. 25, early morning in the Summer. The Roman world is full of chroniclers and so, with my instant language brain implant, I can find some useful information on what may be an important day in the history of our town.

Instead of heading for the tower where the action is, I head for the hill where the Bull would stand 2000 years later. The Rio Pajares was so wide that to continue along the beach I needed a boatman and right on time, he appeared. A tall man, almost bald with an engaging manner that combined with a laconic sarcasm that was sort of, well, funny. As we crossed the river, he told me about the resident of the nearest buildings. The ‘Secretary’ is the richest and most important man in town, he lives in a grand villa just behind those tree’s and has a huge bathhouse. For the last few days dignitaries have been arriving from the big cities of Malaga, Sevilla and even Rome to bestow this great honour on Suel. The Secretary is extending his hospitality and the 50 guest suites in his villa are full with visitors bedecked in the grandest toga’s lined with jewels followed by officials, servants and guards.

He goes on to tell me that his business as a ferryman is suffering because today the Romans are opening the redeveloped road with new wooden bridges across each of the town’s rivers. This road will link the whole of the South Eastern corner of the Roman Empire (although half of it falls into the sea every decade or so, but today they are happy). He proceeds to tell me more local gossip, the one about using the bath house for Romans to breed with local women and create a new race, but it seemed a bit far-fetched.

My guide seemed to be an intelligent man with a strong local knowledge, he seemed strangely familiar which you will later discover. When he asked if I needed a guide on my visit, I instantly agreed.

We headed for the hill to get a view of the area from where the bull stands today. As roads and railways had not yet made the front face of the hill vertical we were able to climb to the top from the front. At the top, the sight was breathtaking. The beaches were a little further back than they are now, the mouth of the rivers wider and deep enough for water to flow. Most of the line from the top of the beach to about the level of the modern train line, was a swamp with tall reeds growing in it. My guide showed me where parts of the swamp had been drained and turned into farmland. He was against this, reasoning that the farmland would become stable and built on, thousands of people would live there and we would have lost a good swamp and disturb the wildlife. This he explained, was typical of the troubles that these Romans will bring to this land. In all of my conversations he repeatedly asked the question, “what have the Romans done for us?”

Looking down from this great height at the beaches, fishing boats with oars and small sails lined the top of the beach, many were starting out on their mornings fishing to get food for the celebrations tonight. He pointed to the south bank of the Rio Pajares and mentioned he had an appointment there tonight.

Looking across the land with the morning sun shining on it, I could see the castle site with one tower and a number of buildings nearby. White painted homes made of rock or wood lined the river banks. The river beside the castle has a port and the sea entrance 500 metres wide. It housed a flotilla of small ships that had bought dignitaries for the celebrations. The modern railway was positioned where it is, because it is at the top of the flat land, west of the track and the land rises on a rock bed and the east was a swamp. For this reason, the new Roman road ran along this line with ‘strip development’ of small wood and stone houses where people could live on solid ground rather than marshes. My guide told me that since the Romans arrived people have come from everywhere to live in Suel. As my eyes ran back along the road, I came to our current position, looked down and saw the most amazing villa below my feet. All that survives in the modern day are the bathhouses; a road is driven through the rest, and where now sits an empty field is a huge mansion with at least twenty buildings behind to service it, house, servants and troops.

The entire hill behind me and everywhere I could see, was filled with deep green vines. My guide pointed to the white scars in the hill, the material facts are here, they extract marble from those mountains and make wine from the grapes. They carry it down these rivers and the Secretary’s men collect the taxes on everything that moves. Bronze, grain and some tin from the interior mostly go through the castle. This is where the expensive goods are and doubtless why the secretary has this palace here.

As we stood gazing at the wonder of it all, we saw some boats leave the river in front of us to sail, or row the flat sea, to take the dignitaries to the Castle. Another large group followed the new road and over the new wooden bridges which led to the Castle.

My guide suggested that we leave them on the main road and follow the beach to the castle. He found a small boat and we crossed the Rio Pajares down river from the palace of the Secretary.

The morning sun was shining at us and my guide suggested that we call into the bar just past the Rio Pajares, funny enough it is about where @Hutchys bar is now. We were let in with a special knock at the door. The landlord, Sam, a foreigner from somewhere, let us in, his first clients of the day, he knew my guide and it all seemed very comfortable. It was a stone building, with cracked walls decorated with hanging white and patterned blankets. He said we looked thirsty, and suggested a drink. red or white says he, red says my guide, from the Sirah grape from our local hills, none of that imported stuff for us.

As we talked and the wine slipped back, he told me about life under Roman rule. It was a process of industrialisation, prior to their presence, it was subsistence farming, enough for people to eat and share some. The people were drumming, dancing and dreaming, then Rome arrived, things were written down, records kept, productivity increased, wealth extracted and long working days became the norm. Resistance is met with unspeakable brutality and very few privileges or opportunities exist for the non latin speaker. Sam bought us lunch, the wine was constantly refreshed and my guide continued to tell me stories of life in Roman Suel. At some time, I remembered that I had intended to be at the ceremony beside the Castle and reminded my guide that we were late.

He looked at me and said “do you honestly think it worth hearing more politicians make more speeches about how much more they are doing and how we, the people, are so lucky because we do the work and they take the money. Take today’s festivities if you will, we have become a ‘Municipum’ of Rome. It means that the residents of Suel are allowed to pay taxes to Rome, in exchange for protection. What I really want to know is, he repeated to me for the umpteenth time, ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?”

All of these long and intricate explanations had not mixed well and, after a siesta, my guide woke me up with a fresh cup of wine and the stories continued, most had an anti Roman theme. It continued through the afternoon and the same question was asked again and again, “what have the Romans ever done for us?” Toward the evening, 2 other men were let in the bar and sat either side of him at a long table covered in cloth. The Landlord responded to a certain knock at the door as the bar filled with local farmers and fishermen dressed in cloaks with headscare held by a yellow braid. When they all sat or stood on the other side of the table my guide called a meeting to order. Realising that if the Romans arrived we could all be gruesomely executed, I sat nervously realising the importance of this meeting. Realising I could get in trouble with the Time Lords, I used some recording equipment. You can see my recording here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djZkTnJnLR0

Stay tuned for more adventures through history with Dr Quien

Follow the rest of the website to find out more about Fuengirola before you get here.

And finally if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola Revisited.

The Italian Connection

My plan today is to get to the origin of the ‘Italian Takeover’ of Spain.  My research tells me that this goes back before Piza Houses, before Spain signed the treaty of ‘Rome’ in 1985, before the Church in Rome organised armies to expel the Moors from 710 to 1492, and even before Roman armies backed the Byzantine in 586.  The root of Spain being run by the capital of Italy was in 220 B.C. when the expanding Roman empire began a process that would eventually take the whole Iberian Peninsula.

So today I travelled in my boat from the position in front of the Yaramar.  The fields and hills are green, the land further back has been farmed and each of the 5 rivers has some settlement.  The Rio Real is a huge inlet that goes in as far as the position of the current Palacio de la Paz at the end of the Feria Ground.  Further in there are pathways and I follow these to the tower where the Castle would soon be built.    

In a long hall beside the tower a meeting is taking place between the tribal elders of Sylas and the Italian gentlemen representing the newly installed power in Malaga.  A contubernium or eight Legionaries accompanied them and a centuria of one hundred more waited outside the town accompanied by two hundred armed foriegn conscript soldiers responsible for logistics and keeping the Legionaries armour shining. 

In the great hall about a hundred or so locals had come to hear the ‘news that would affect their future’.  Of course they had heard the rumours from passing sailors, the invasion 2 years earlier, the battles where untrained farmers were sent to face the world’s mightiest army.  They knew that the fighting had ended long before they got to Malaga which had been adopted as their main port, they had heard stories from refugees of the way they had dealt with opposition.    

The chief Italian diplomat addressed the translator.  

Let’s not waste time, he said, we got an offer that you can’t refuse, so listen carefully or you could spend the rest of your lives rowing a galley?  

We are from a place called Rome which is becoming the largest empire the world has yet seen.  As part of our territorial expansion we have realised the strategic value of the Iberian Peninsula and are willing to let all of its inhabitants stay alive, in return for committed allegiance to Rome.  

“Your particular location is suited to our strategic plans.  We aim to create a road along the coast that will carry armies and goods to and from our country.  We will be sailing the Coastal route and the mouth of the river will be rebuilt as a port.   We have discovered marble in these hills, it’s our favourite building material and will be making a port on the 4th river down from here.  We will also build a finca for the trade secretary to collect money on our behalf on all products and especially before the marble leaves the river.  And, because it sounds cool Italian and trendy, we’re gonna call it Suel.  As our 2 great countries become 1, this town of yours will bear fruit for thousands of years, the Font upon which our Castle will be built will be known throughout the world for thousands of years.” 

Following a few more kind words, I decided I had heard enough and left, the rest, as they say,’ is history’, which I hope you will revisit with me in this column over the coming year….. 

When I arrived back in my time travelling boat at the front of Hotel Yaramar Playa, someone looked at me, like he recognised me and said, buenas tardes, I greeted him cautiously and thought, how would he know about a tardis? 

—————————–

Follow the rest of the website to find out more about Fuengirola before you got h ere.  

And finally if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola Revisited

Hecataeus of Miletus

Did you ever wonder who was the first person known to have written about Fuengirola and did you stay awake in geography lessons at school? If yes to both read on.  Because this week Dr Quien has set his time travel coordinates to around 500 BC to meet Hecataus of Melita, the first known Greek historian, the father of modern geography and the first person known to have written about the location of Fuengirola.   

“Welcome to my report from Syalis, my time traveling signature white boat with a blue cover has remained on the beach at Los Boliches and traveled back in time to around 500 B.C.  Two things I should mention about my time travel technology, is that I have the augmented electronic abilities that allow me to speak in any language, like an advanced version of the ‘translate’ app on your phone.  The relevance of this to my role as a fake news reporter is that I am able to interview people from everywhere and anytime, which I will do occasionally through this series.  

My interview today is none other than Hecataeus of Melita, a serious historical character, the first known Greek historian and the ‘father’ of modern geography.  If history and geography bore you, don’t go, you’re not alone, but my man Hecataus is fun, and (to keep you awake)  we are going to learn a little about the meaning of some obscure 1980’s music. 

Having arrived in Syalis around 500, B.C. I walked the beach and crossed the rivers until I got to the location of the current castle where a single lookout tower built by the Phoenicians a couple of hundred years before still stood.   Hecataeus of Melita was on his journey and when I asked him for an interview, he invited me for a drink.  The night was a whirl as we drank copious amounts of the local white wine and ate wild boar with a range of vegetables in the old Phoenician quarter of town.   The Phoenicians left seventy five years ago, the whole of this part of Spain is under local rule with the protection of the Carthagens from Tunis in North Africa; the current dominant power in the Mediterranean.  Whilst the huge Carthagen trading ships and military escorts travel between the trading ports of Malaga and Cadiz, they have little need for the port of Syalis and mostly sail past it.  The infrastructure of the Phoenician town remains in use and the local tribes have built more wooden huts.  The town is not as colourful and industrious as it was; they still worship multiple deities and are a mix of cultures and races.  Cats are still in town and some wild dogs can be heard howling outside.      

As the night progressed, under the influence of the amazing local wine, Hecataeus explained the world to me and how it centered around the Carthagen sea.  He explained how they knew for certain the world was a flat disk because the North Star never moved.  Everything has an order and every person is ordained to play a role.  He told how his wealthy family had educated him to use the Greek alphabet that had been handed down to the Phoenicians and how he was writing a book of his journey.  He explained enthusiastically how the word Geo- is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘earth, ground or land’.  Another Greek word graph which means ‘to write’.  His plan was to write about his journeys and describe locations in relation to the ground that they occupy, from this he would make his new and exciting science of Geo-graphy that will be taught in academies across the entire Mediterranean.  While receiving possibly the first geography lesson in Spain and hearing about Egypt, Persia, Syria and places I didn’t know existed, we drank about 6 bottles of wine.  When it was all said, we agreed to get some rest and the next day he would walk along the river with me while I interviewed him for my news report.  

The next morning we both grossly overslept. It had been raining heavily and it was late afternoon when we left.  Neither of us were in fit condition for an interview, but he had to leave for The Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) so this is our last opportunity.  It had been raining and the river was in full flow.  We walked along the castle side of the river, past villas that had been converted to tribal huts.  Stones were rearranged by the tribal communities who lived beside the river.  Hecataeus did not speak much for the first hour of our walk, and gave short replies to my questions.  After a few kilometres we found a place to cross the freezing cold river and at the other side he emerged full of life and would not stop talking until we got back.  He told me everything, the secrets of the world, the location of treasures and the deepest wisdom of life.  It was very interesting, but due to my headache and his booming voice and the sound of the flowing river I could not really hear him properly.  He told me of another book he was writing about Greek Mythology.  The first lines of the book would be “I write what I deem true; for the stories of the Greeks are manifold and seem to me ridiculous.” He was particularly aiming his wroth at families who believed themselves descended from the gods.  

Much of what he talked about seemed abstract and about his opinions on the world in general.  As this was not the theme I had come to interview him about, when we were walking back along the North side of the river, I asked him his opinions on this location.  He enlightened me, he said, no one has yet understood the potential of this palace, look at that mountain and the huge south facing hills with soil, the water font at the base of the castle, underground springs, 5 rivers, flat planes with good soil, a natural harbour and shallow water for fish to breed.  He then explained another greek word, geo-politics, which results in the nice places like this becoming the property of larger more powerful ‘empires’.  As he said this, a bolt of lightning flashed across the sea, the early evening sky lit up, we exchanged looks that said without saying, ‘that was strange’.   He described the location as being strategic in the sea routes, it could support an army and had lookout points across the whole western coast of the world.  And that whilst it was only on a sea route now, the new invention of roads for armies, horses and carriages are being built all over the world and would one day make this an even more important location.  He went on, that in a world ruled by violence, strategic points would always be owned only by those who can defend them.  More lightning, darkness setting in and rain accompanied his chilling prophecy.  But then, his frown turned to a smile and he said, don’t worry, between the times of crises that a sick world will bring to this beautiful location, this special place will prosper for many thousands of years into the future; it really is an ideal location.  

We arrived back level with the tower (possibly the north east tower of the current Castle), below it the ragged hill and a boat on the river. As the boat drew closer we saw a hooded old man at the rudder, and then the lightning flashed.

When the Ferryman asked for a coin, Hecataeus refused to pay and with a dramatic gesture said, we will fix the price and I will pay when you get me to the other side.  As the rain came down a wild dog howled, Hecataeus became hesitant and ponderous.  He then asked me to translate a question to the ferryman; he wanted to know if the ferryman’s name was Charon, and if he were the son of Erebus and Nyx.  The ferryman assured him he was not, ‘tell him don’t worry Sir, we get a lot of Greeks on this crossing, I understand’.  In the rolling mist he got onboard, and said now there will be no turning back.  They set sail, I waved and watched him disembark safely and pay the Ferryman when they arrived on the other side.  As I walked back along the beach to my boat, crossing 2 rivers on the way, I set my brain sensor to find the most appropriate music, it came up with something from the 1980’s and jacked the volume….

To complete the story, you may like to do the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qg2T9qQZ8A

If you want to know more about Hecataeus of Melita, there is more on Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecataeus_of_Miletus

If you want to know more about Dr Quien and his amazing mission to travel through the past of the location of Fuengirola, you can find the introduction and previous instalments here

And if you are super interested in the Phonecian and Carthegian period, the Fuengirola Historian Dr Juan Antonio Martín Ruiz has written extensively on this subject;

https://universidadviu.academia.edu/JuanAntonioMart%C3%ADnRuiz

And finally if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola Revisited.

The Height Of Phoneciean Civilization

Today we have a shocking report from our time-travelling correspondent Dr. Quien from the Midsummer celebrations around 100 years after the Phoenician founding of Syalis.
Good morning and welcome to the year 2600 B.C. on the Summer equinox that you celebrate on the 21st June. On the site of the ‘modern’ castle, there is a tower with foundations built into the rock, which I climbed to get a better view of the celebrations.

As I look out to sea, to my left the site of the modern town center is a marsh and the town’s other 4 rivers meet the sea with much wider mouths and the beach is back about 100 meters from the current shoreline. The Rio Real is a large inlet that covers all of the modern-day feria ground. The Rio Fuengirola is five hundred metres wide with a harbour wall built on both sides. There are around twenty large ships in the bay and many smaller fishing and supply vessels, the largest ships can carry up to four hundred tons. Behind me, the river is dredged to a level below the sea and flows inland for at least 3 kilometres. The river is quiet today, all the boats are at anchor and the usually busy quays are deserted.

To my right, I see the town of around five hundred long, square stone homes decorated with red stones. This is the height of summer and the size of the town has been increased by visitors with tents, awnings and coverings of every style and colour.

The town flows from the site of the castle and down to the site of the current IPV Palace, back along the current road and up the hill. The grandest houses line the river and many of the nearby hills had had their tops flattened to provide homes or viewing points. The biggest shock is the ‘salad bowl’ of colour, stones, houses, clothes, tents and people in the widest display with every hue of the rainbow. There are cats and dogs, well-fed and docile, guarding the houses and prowling the streets. A stage had been erected on the site of the current Mare Nostrum stage (strangely enough) and a crowd of over a thousand men, women and children gathered around it.

The event started with a speech…
“You’ve never had it so good”, shouted the Phoenician Mayor. “Bronze and copper are mined from across this land and carried here to Sylias to be shipped to our great capitals of Tyre and Sidon. Our endless supply of labour has cleared the rivers and made the land fit to grow food. The rivers now run and irrigate the land, the mountainsides are full of our grapes, the flat land yields crops and food comes from all of the peninsula to this spot…” He spoke for about half an hour, taking personal credit for most of the things that went right in the town while his voice was occasionally drowned by cheering.

After a break, and as the sun was going down the stage was set for a religious service with an altar at the center. My suspicions should have been aroused when I saw the ceramic vases around the edges of the altar and the shackles at each corner. The service began at sundown with the usual evocations to the multiple Gods of places, people and things while the atmosphere thickened with a thousand people chanting and with the smoke of incense.

There were some people in a cage beside the stage, I had innocently thought this was to get a better view, how wrong I was. It was when an assistant priest brought one of these people to the altar that I realised that something much darker was occurring. Before it got any darker, I decided I should leave, this is not something I wanted to see. With everyone else’s attention transfixed, I climbed down the tower, walked to my time travelling boat waiting 2 kilometers up the beach. The white boat with a blue canvas was waiting, I climbed in, set the coordinates for 21st June 2021 and went to sleep in one of the vast cabins. This has to be a lesson, that the past is not always ‘nice’ and like any of the horrific events set in this place since then, they will be safer viewed from a greater historical distance. A beer on the beach in modern Fuengirola has never seemed like a better prospect.