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Common Terms

Here's a list of some commonly used terms in the Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, and on this website.

Al-Andalus Name given by Arabs to the “island” visible from North Africa, possibly in reference to the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that briefly occupied the Iberian peninsula in the early 5th century. The size of Al-Andalus varied over time, as territory was lost to Christian forces.
Albaicín Spanish term for a portion of the old Muslim city opposite the Alhambra in Granada, which features narrow cobblestone streets, teterías (cafes), and handicrafts. It remains popular with tourists.
Andalucía/Andalusia Name for the modern-day administrative province in southern Spain, which retains a distinctive character and culture associated with the time of Muslim rule.
Caliph The title of the person who heads up a dominion under the Islamic form of government, as a successor to the Prophet Muhammad. The term is a transliterated version of the Arabic word for "successor" or "representative." They included Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman
Caliphate The office or dominion of a caliph, that represents the political unity and leadership of the Muslims. From the time of Prophet Muhammad's death in 632 CE until 1924, the Umayyad, Abbasid, and finally Ottoman (sultans of Turkey) Dynasties held successive
Damasquinos Spanish term for jewelry and other articles made of gold and black metal, referring to the Syrian city of Damascus, from where the Umayyads had come to establish their rule in Iberia.
Dhimmi Arabic term that means "covenant of protection," referring to special status given to non-Muslims under Islamic law, whereby they are given certain legal protections and obligations in exchange for a poll tax collected annually.
Iberia Name of the geographic peninsula, which juts out from Europe in a southwesterly direction. Comprised of Spain and Portugal.
Judería Spanish term for the Jewish quarter in Córdoba, featuring white-washed, tile-roofed patio homes typical of the region.
Mazapan Marzipan, a pastry made with sugar, eggs and almonds for which Toledo is known, which was introduced to Al-Andalus by Persians immigrants.
Moriscos Spanish term, meaning “little Moors,” describing new Christian converts from Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries under the shadow of the Inquisition. Many Moriscos were crypto-Muslims.
Moors Term commonly but inaccurately used to describe the Muslim rulers and inhabitants of Iberia in the Medieval era. “Moor” refers to people from the Roman province of Mauritania (i.e. North Africa), thus “outsiders.” In fact, most Andalusi Muslims were indigenous converts of mixed Arab, Berber, Spanish, and Slavic extraction.
Islamic Descriptive term referring to the art, architecture, literature, or other cultural expression of Andalusi Muslims.
Mozarabs Spanish term possibly from the Arabic must’arab, meaning “to Arabize.” Used to identify Christians living under Muslim rule.
Mudejars Spanish term deriving from the Arabic mudajjin, meaning “those staying behind.” Used to identify Muslims living openly as Muslims under Christian rule from the 11th to the 17th centuries, until final expulsion by 1614.
Muwallad Arabic term -- meaning "the native born" -- for the new generation of Muslims in Al-Andalus, who were the product of Hispani-Roman women marrying into Arab and Amazigh (Berber) families.
Spain Modern nation with constitution proclaimed in 1812, forming majority of the Iberian peninsula. Initially unified under Ferdinand and Isabella upon conquest of Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492.

Quick Reference

Al-Majreet Arabic for Madrid, meaning "the water channel"
Amir Also spelled emir. Ruler, chief, or commander in Islamic countries
Amirate Also spelled emirate. The state or jurisdiction of an amir.
Cristiano Spanish term for a Christian and speaker of Romance
Gharnatah Arabic for Granada
Ishbiliyah Arabic for Seville
Meseta Spanish for high plains
Moro Spanish term for Arab, Berber, or muwallad of any appearance
Qadi Judge
Qurtubah Arabic for Córdoba
Suq Arabic for market
Taifas Petty Kingdoms
Teterías Spanish for cafes
Tulaytulah Toledo
'Ud Musical stringed instrument
Wazir Minister

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DISCLAIMER: This purpose of this website is to provide supplemental information to the Cities of Light film and is not intended as a scholarly or academic resource. For scholars' sources, see the Recommended Readings section on this site. Articles reprinted from other sources reflect the views and opinions of the authors, and may not necessarily mirror those of UPF.