In the year 711 CE an Islamic army of Arabs and Berbers crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to invade the Iberian Peninsula. Within just a decade these Muslim forces from North Africa, collectively termed Moors, held sway over most of modern-day Spain and Portugal. Taking power both through violent conquest and by persuading local Visigothic chieftains to swear fealty to them, the Moors established a European stronghold. Though its northern border shifted over the course of the following eight centuries, this distinct region of Islamic Iberia–cut off from Africa by the Mediterranean Sea and separated from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenee mountains–was called al-Andalus in Arabic, perhaps translating as “the land of the Vandals,” though this is uncertain.
The eight centuries of Muslim rule in Iberia can be divided into several phases. After an initial period of conquest, Cordoba emerged as the political and cultural center of a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, with its capital in Damascus. But after
Finally, the Emirate of Granada, controlled by the Nasrid dynasty, the last bastion of Islamic Iberia, which held out centuries longer by diplomatically siding with the kingdom of Castile against other Muslim rulers.
The effort by Christian forces in Spain to recapture al-Andalus is known as “The Reconquista.” Though Christian rulers sought to expel the Moors from Iberia from the time they first arrived in the eighth century, an organized program only took shape in the fifteenth century. The last Muslim kingdom, at Granada, was conquered by Catholic armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492, and this year is treated as the end of Islamic rule in Iberia.
The term mudejar is used to describe the continuing Moorish culture in the Iberian peninsula after 1492.