The Upper Rock may be the arguable focal point of any Gibraltar holiday, but here at Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), we couldn’t fail to shed some more light on one of its most dominant features – the Moorish Castle. People who see the medieval fortification now can’t fail to be impressed by its various buildings, gates and fortified walls, but might not be aware that the original castle complex was even more monumental, stretching all the way down to Casemates Square at the north end of Main Street.
The feature that visitors tend to see now, in the tourist brochures as well as once they arrive in this part of the territory from their Gibraltar accommodation, is the 11th century ‘Tower of Homage’. This part of the complex is so clearly visible from far around for several very good reasons; it is a striking construction and had an important strategic role. Only in 2010, for example, was HM Prison of Gibraltar relocated from part of the castle.
You might think that Gibraltar’s present period of British rule has been long lived – having began in the early 18th century – but it doesn’t even compare to the 710 years for which the Moors were in control, from 711 to 1309 and then again from 1350 to 1462. It is that period of which the present Moorish Castle is a precious remnant, having been constructed by the Marinid dynasty, which gives it a certain uniqueness in the Iberian Peninsula.
Although it is impossible to ignore the massive Gate House with its cupola roof, many of those taking their holidays in Gibraltar will inevitably be drawn to the Tower of Homage, which was rebuilt during the second, early 14th century period of Moorish occupation. That was because, after Spain briefly reoccupied Gibraltar from 1309 to 1333, it was nearly destroyed as the Moors reconquered the territory. There is no higher tower of the Islamic period to be found in the Iberian Peninsula than the current Tower of Homage, while the Qasbah of the tower is the area’s largest.
The Moorish Castle certainly has a tumultuous history, from the continuous war between Muslims and Christians that lasted for almost 800 years, to hundreds of people finding safety inside it when Gibraltar was attacked by Turkish pirates in 1540. In 1704, it was where Admiral Rooke hoisted the British flag after capturing the Rock, with rule by his compatriots remaining uninterrupted to this day.
In most recent times, the Moorish Castle has become a major tourist attraction,even featuring on the reverse of the current £5 Gibraltar banknotes. But for so many people booking Gibraltar hotels after perusing the website of Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), the structure just has to be experienced ‘in the flesh’ – and they’re unlikely to be disappointed by what they find.