Thomas Weber - Photography

Language:
english spanish arabic sefardi


Three cultures created Al-Andalus.

I like to pay respect by demonstrating
my website in their languages.

español Spanish
arabisch Arabian
sefardi Sefardí / Ladino

Welcome

Three cultures created Al-Andalus ... Why do I pay respect? What has this got to do with today and with my photography?

Taking photos should always be a process of understanding. To interpret what you encounter is based on knowledge, a prepared mind, and this includes the history of the subject. Such a preparation helps to respect the culture and its expressions, so that is what you see.

Is there anything more fascinating on earth than the Al-Hambra of Granada and its’ palaces appearing to us like a miracle of the tales of the 1001 nights? Yet, this castle offers only a vague remembrance of an epoch passed by long ago.

Originally, Al-Andalus did not only cover Andalusia of today, but almost the whole Iberian Peninsula. The Arabs entered it in 711, only some 100 years after Islam had been proclaimed. Within months they brought the region under control.

How did they achieve that? Well, the Muslims were regarded as the winners of those times: with incredible pace they had conquered the eastern hemisphere of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, they also incorporated their knowledge and revitalized the heritage of the antique period.

A lot of Christians cooperated and, with some pressure, converted. This was fuelled by the state-backed dominance of the byzantine-roman church, which imposed their rules. Further, the close relationship of the rites of oriental Early Christianity with the Islam helped people to convert.

Right from the beginning the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula demonstrated a special situation of cooperation. The Arabs were backed by the Sephardim - the Jewish population. The Sephardim’s experiences with the Christians of the Visigothic kingdom motivated them to hand over vital information about the internal political conflicts of the realm of the Gothics. They participated in the conquest with military assistance, opened the gates of some cities, like the capital Toledo and probably offered them monetary aid. Just imagine Israel and the Muslim states cooperating politically and with combined military action ... unthinkable today!

In those times the Muslims were quite tolerant with Jews and Christians. The prophet Mohammed had been very aware of the close relationship amongst the Abrahamic faiths. But their tolerance should not be misunderstood with Laissez-faire. Of course the Muslims pressured the others to convert or at least to follow the Arabian way of life. The latter was so fascinating that the religion lost some of its role as a vital personal identification. So Al-Andalus was on the way to become a modern society.

Once the last surviving offspring of the Umayyads, Abd-ar-Rahman fled to Spain in 756, the most splendid period of Al-Andalus started, leading to the separation from the rest of the Muslim world, which was demonstrated finally by the proclamation of the caliphate of Cordoba. The libraries of Cordoba and Sevilla had been recommended in those days as the best source of science and the scholars came from all over Europe, regardless of their faith. But the Umayyads were remembered by following Muslim generations as "the rotten branch of the holy tree of the Islam".

Some 250 years later, intruding Berbers from northern Africa of radical Islamic belief not only offered military assistance to defend against the Christian kingdoms of the northern peninsula, but destroyed the concept of this unique liberal society of those times.

Al-Andalus could not compete with the rigor of the Castile kingdom. Designed by the French clergy, it developed to be the first modern state of territorial type: one central government, one enclosed area, one common language, one religion or ideology and a secret service – the holy inquisition - controlling the people to keep up to the doctrine. This and the developments on the Muslim side caused the unique and relatively peaceful coexistence to come to an end by a progressively developing radicalism of both sides.

Well, what is going on today? Actually, the lack of tolerance hinders photography, especially "street photography". Legal conflicts hamper photography of today. Al-Andalus might offer us a remembrance of a culture passed and help us to develop the idea of mutual respect again.

Bibliography

Colton-Sonnenberg, Ana: Convivencia in Al-Andalus: Vorbild oder Mythos? Paderborn, 2007.

Martinez Sanz, José L.: Al-Ándalus, Los Árabes en España. Madrid, 2007.

Menocal, María Rosa: The ornament of the world, how Muslims Jews and Christians created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. Boston, New York, London, 2002.

© Thomas Weber 2010 - 2017