The Mauri people were the Berber tribes in Roman Mauretania (what is now Morocco and Algeria). The name “moor” was used to describe all Arab, Muslim, and Berber people. In the 8th century, Northern Africa was dominantly Arab and civilizations of this region sought to expand and civilize and convert other nations to the Islamic religion. In the year 711, an invasion of approximately 7,000 Moorish troops led by General Tariq ibn Ziyad conquered Spain and the entire Iberian Peninsula, which eventually led to miscegenation in Portugal, Spain, and other areas, and the acceptance of Islam.
Spain began to thrive on the developments the Moors brought such as reduced taxes, African sciences, 17 universities, democratized education, founded medical schools, air conditioning, heating water flow through pipe systems, and urbanized roads with sidewalks and street lighting. The Moors also brought cultural changes like replacing golden dishes with crystal ones, set the meal standard for ending meals with dessert, and altered fashion depending on the season.
A religious center called (“caliphate”) was formed in Cordoba. Numerous scholars traveled there to study mathematics, astronomy, agriculture, and arts. Some of these advancements are what Europe is well-known for today, but it’s less commonly known that these influences come from Africans and are not original to Europeans. As Europe began to flourish and identify by its Arabic name, Al-Andalus and Western African empires (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai) would participate in trade with Moorish Spain.
The Moors were tolerant of Christian and Jewish people who resided in the Spanish region, but those who did not convert to Islam were given higher tax rates, which influenced the large conversion of the religion in Spain. However, a civil war erupted in 976 after the death of Al-Hakam II between those who believed his 11-year-old son, Hisham II al-hakam, should be caliph and those who believed Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, the former caliph’s hayib (court official and close advisor), should be caliph.
Subh (the caliph’s mother) and Al-Mansur requested Almoravids from North Africa to surround and protect the caliph from Christians, but when an invasion was set on the Christian north, a war occurred within Cordoba which caused the separation of the caliphate into small taifas (kingdoms).
Wars between the Muslim Moors and Christians were continuous from the years 718 to 1492. However, the Muslim empire was nearing its end as the Christian Spaniards from northern Spain began winning battles. By 1236, the Moors had lost of the Iberian Peninsula to the Christians and by 1468, the marriage between Ferdinand and Isabella unite the two Spanish regions Castile and Aragon to form one Spain. This unification strengthened the forces that opposed the Moors, which lead to their defeat when Spain conquered the last Muslim territory in Granada and banned all Jewish and Muslim people from Spain.
As a result, many of the Moors converted to Christianity to remain in the Sierra Nevada (now known as Alpujarras) and Granada. Other Moorish people departed to Africa. After expelling the Moorish and Jewish people, Ferdinand and Isabella funded the voyage of exploration for Christopher Columbus.