A Fascinating Holiday in the Old Moorish Town of

Álora

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The Ruins of Bobastro and the Life of Omar Ben Hafsun

One of the most unusual archaeological sites not just in the province of Málaga but in all of Spain is Bobastro (quote) located some ten kilometres from Alora in the area known as Mesas de Villaverde. This archaeological site contains the remains of various structures—the ruins of the Alcázar, a Muslim necropolis and most importantly the Mozarabic church, which was virtually carved from the rock—that were erected in the ninth century and that for a time served as a refuge for the Muladi rebel Omar Ben Hafsun, who prepared the revolt against the Caliphate of Córdoba from this place.

           


The interest of the Mozarabic church of Bobastro lies in the fact that it is, so far, the only example of architecture that can be defined as purely Mozarabic, since it is a temple that was built by the Christian community during the period of Muslim rule in the territory of the Caliphate. Traces remain from the earliest structure of the church, which was carved from red sandstone. It is built on a basilica floor plan and parts of its three naves, separated by horseshoe arches, have been preserved, as has the sanctuary. The latter has three apses, the two lateral ones being rectangular and the central apse in the shape of a horseshoe. This temple faces perfectly east and has a length of some 17 metres and a width of a little over 10 metres. These dimensions may seem small, but considering that it is a structure built by boring holes in the rock it is of incalculable value.

            


The Muladi chieftain Omar Ben Hafsun established himself along with a group of loyal followers in Bobastro in 880 AD where he plotted to overthrow the Caliphate of Córdova. His activities came to be a matter of great concern to the Caliphate as he conquered large tracts of the area but he was eventually defeated in the Battle of Poley in May 891. He then took refuge in the almost impregnable fortress of Bobastro, from which he continued to fight for many years until he died in 917. Although his sons took up their father’s cause the uprising came to an end with the capture of Bobastro by Abd al-Rahman III in 928.

If you go to visit you should also carry on up the road for a kilometer or so. There's a very pleasant walk round the reservoir with stunning views over El Chorro, another ruin at he end of the road (not much to see but I like to think all the herbs growing wide originate from the monastery herb garden) and one of the quirkiest bars you will ever come across