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May 22, 2018 | Ramadan 8, 1439
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IslamiCity > Travel > 2008 Summer Program to Spain

Toledo is located roughly in the center of the Iberian peninsula, 42 miles southwest of Madrid. It is situated on a large hill and is surrounded on three sides by the Tagus river, creating a natural fortress. As a result of its isolated position, Toledo retains a quaint medieval quality, with narrow cobblestone streets and various handicraft shops. Toledo is still known for the metalwork produced by expert craftsmen in a style that clearly reflects Islamic origins. In fact, the works of gold and black metal are referred to as damasquinos, referring to the Syrian city of Damascus, from whence the Umayyads had come to establish their rule in Iberia.

The city was the capital of the Visigoths, who ruled the territory until the Muslim conquest of 711. It remained one of the most important cities of al-Andalus during the height of Muslim power. However, its surrender to Christian forces in 1085, when al-Andalus existed as an agglomeration of muluk al-tawa'if (petty kingdoms), was a fatal blow for the Muslims. Alarmed, the remaining leaders of the petty kingdoms consented to calling the Murabitun (Almoravids) from North Africa for assistance against the Christian powers in the north, thereby preserving a balance of power for another few centuries.

During the 12th century, the Christian ruler Alfonso established a translation center in Toledo, where Arabic works of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, botany, and other fields were rendered into Latin. Toledo became one of the major points of intellectual transmission from Islamic civilization to Europe, sowing the seeds for its Renaissance.

One of the few remaining masjids from the Islamic period is located in Toledo. We will visit masjid Bib Mardum, a small square structure which had been converted into a church after Toledo fell to the Christians. Today it stands as an archeological site. The building reflects designs characteristic of structures built by Muslims in the 10th century.

The Cathedral of Toledo is one of the largest in the world. It stands on the site of the former jami' masjid of Toledo, as it was a common practice of the Christian rulers to replace congregational masjids with a cathedrals, and smaller masjids with churches. The cathdral contains a chapel, designed in the Moorish style, that was used by the Mozarabs, Christians who had adopted the Arabic culture while living under Muslim rule, and who continued in that style even after the city had changed hands.

We will also visit an important Jewish synagogue that had been converted into a church and convent. It is called the Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca.

We will walk through the narrow streets of the city as we visit these various sites, have lunch in one of the plazas, and conclude our tour with a walk across the famous Moorish bridge that crosses the Tagus.

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