Anusha Ghaffar: Vuelta España 2022

Photo By Jena Nassar (CC by 4.0)

Anusha Ghaffar is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing her degree in Nutritional Sciences. She is a first generation student and her future goal is to be on Optometrist, and she will be attending Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry starting fall of 2022. Anusha is in the Honors College, and participated in the Spain study abroad program, as she loves to travel and broaden her mindset about the world.

Ironic Admiration

Photos By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

By Anusha Ghaffar of FIU at Spain in 2022.

Spain’s history has the tendency of repetition and theme. This theme being kicking out the minorities yet stealing their work. Traveling throughout Spain gave firsthand evidence, as the history felt like a repeating tape.

Spanish Reconquista is the answer to this repetition of history, although it may be bold to call it history as the aspects are remaining of it to this day. Reconquista began in the 700s when Spain and Portugal decided they wanted to kick the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula named Al-Andalus and spread Christianity. The Reconquista ended after 800 years, when Granada had been surrendering in 1492 by Boabdil, the Sultan of Granada, and head of the Nasrid Dynasty. This had commenced the ending of a modern society of coexistence of various religions working together to create a society of coexistence (“Reconquista”).

The Moorish rule allowed differences to exist together, creating a union rather than the separation that was evident after their rule. The conquest created a civilization that divided one another through mental barriers of differences and tried to repress those who fall out of line of their one true religion of Christianity (“Reconquista”).

The end of the Moorish rule was the end of the Golden Age. This was when libraries, colleges, public baths were developed, along with various literature, architecture, and poetry. This was also an age of tolerance between religions, and there was peace between Muslims, Jews, and Christians which seems unheard of following the Reconquista and inquisition history of Spain staining periods like the golden age (“Religions – Islam: Muslim Spain (711-1492)”).

Madrid’s name stems from the word Magerit, which means “land rich in water” in Arabic. Madrid was in the Moorish rule until 1083 when Alfonso VI took over the city. This underdeveloped city became the capital of Spain in 1561. (“Madrid”).

Sunset at Sol. Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

The city of Sol is one of the most touristy city in Spain, containing Puerta de Sol which is the most famous central squares in Madrid. This city was outpouring with tourists, filled with international name brands across the streets and also food chain corporations. This is not that common outside of Sol, as outside, there are more local brands. Sol does not define the rest of Madrid and Spain, it feels like an American city with an intense heat wave overlooking it. It is a gentrified part of Spain, designed to attract tourists, although it is ironic because it is more like their own home than Spain.

The Palacio Real is the largest palace in Europe. It used to be the old Alacazar, which was a Moorish palace but was replaced by a Christian Palace but was then burnt down in 1734. The Cathedral of Segovia had prevalent Moorish designs engraved in its walls. The Alcazar de Segovia used to be a Moorish fortress turned into a castle where Queen Isabella herself lived.

Palacio Real.
Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

All these major historic architecture and tourist attraction has one thing in common; they used to be owned by Muslims. In history it is common to take over a land and gentrify it to the liking of the ruler, but Spain had the tendency of admiration of the property yet removing the ones who created it. The Alcazar de Segovia is a prime example of this, as the entire insides were completely Moorish designs and Queen Isabella clearly admired the designs. There was a painting inside the castle where there was a man killing a Muslim looking man inside the palace. This was very ironic as the whole castle was Islamic art, yet the hatred of Muslims is never overlooked. Queen Isabella got the people who inspired this art pushed out and tortured for believing in the religion. It is mind boggling of how her admiration of the art does not stem some consideration or sympathy to the people who once ruled the society and made Spain how it is to this day.

Toledo was the capital was the Moorish kingdom until 1058 to King Alfonso. This unique city is known to be the most representative of Spain’s culture. Santa Maria la Blanca was a synagogue that was built with mudejar design but was then converted to a church. Walking in, it was amazing to see three prevalent religions aligned like that, as it was constantly repeated how rare it is to see the three religions coexist. This reflected what society can be if it is looked at with an open mind, understanding, and admiration. This synagogue represents an extremely rare collision (“Toledo”). The Toledo Cathedral was built on top of a mosque with mudejar architecture. It is now easier to decipher the common theme and repetition of Spain’s history. Muslim culture and art turned into Christianity’s advantage while the Muslims were removed from their homes.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba.
Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Exploring Cordoba was a turning point for everyone. This city was a sad wake up call to the extent of Christian superiority in Spain. It was not until seeing the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba did many eyes open of the extent of the Inquisition and Reconquista. It was evident in everyone’s eyes and reaction. This Mosque-Cathedral used to be a mosque, but the Cathedral had “evidence” of remains that this was a church beforehand, which historians have disproved. The Qiblah in this mosque was South instead of Southeast to Mecca like normal mosques. The magnificent calligraphy in the darkness made the gold shine brighter and created a more dramatic look with the light shining from the dome on top. The arches and calligraphy were hidden in the darkness, standing next to sculptures of Jesus. It was very shuddering to see a mosque like this. The middle of a mosque stood the cathedral part standing out like a sore thumb. The higher walls and bright white illumination of the walls gave a very subtle message in a clear way. Christianity is higher and brighter than Islam. It was hard to look away from all the glamour that had been placed all the way to the high ceilings. The mosque portion was dull and dark, yet the calligraphy was still left. Why didn’t they just destroy the mosque? Although it is seen as disrespectful, the mosque ruminants would not be up right now if the Catholics did not keep it up. The Arabic calligraphy was still up because no one could see it regardless. It was all dark back then, and if one did go there, they would be a suspect of the inquisition. It is ironic how they kept the mosque to show how they are the better religion, because now it can also be seen as a prime example of the extent of Reconquista and how admiration of Muslim art was also a source of mockery in the way that it was stolen.

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Giralda Bell Tower
Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

The Cathedral of Sevilla was also a mosque beforehand. This was obvious with its mudejar design and the outside portion that used to be a washing area for Muslims to make Wudu, which is ablution to cleanse oneself with water. This is one of the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. The site was destroyed from a mosque and a church was built on top, leaving only the Giralda Belltower, formerly a minaret. This is another prime example of the theme of Spain, which was religion erasure. Each grand cathedral proved it after another. The Moorish design in the walls of the cathedral says a lot about the representation on Muslims in the country. Christopher Columbus’ ruminants were here, and it is satirical, as he discovered the America’s the day the Moorish empire fell in Granada. Here he was buried in a church that was a mosque that is designed with Islamic art.

The Alhambra
Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Granada was the last part of Moorish history before it was given to the Christians. The Alhambra, the red fort, was built by the Nasrid Dynasty and shows the Moorish and Andalusian culture and magnificent architecture to depict the history and grandeur of the Moorish empire and rule. The carved calligraphy and domes created a deep meaning in every room visited there. Every inch of the fort all entailed the idea that God is great and there is only one god. Every corner turned there was a subtle yet rippling reminder of the greatness of God, and there is no other building that can beautifully reflect the message being delivered. The beauty of the fort was hypnotizing, with the view of the different communities the fort overlooked. Generalife is the real life depiction of 2:25 from the Quran “..gardens, underneath which running waters flow..” The gardens were least to say beautiful, and if this was this alluring, then what will heaven look like? (“The Alhambra (Alhambra Palace Spain)”)

Park Guell
Photo By Anusha Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Modernisme is to Catalonia as Mudejar is to Muslims. Modernisme is a type of art that is apart of Catalonian identity. This form of art is prevalent in one of the most famous tourist attractions in Spain: La Sagrada Familia. Park Guell has broken up pieces of glass to create beautiful glass mosaics overlooking the city of Barcelona. The art shown throughout Barcelona gives the city its own sense of identity, with the architecture chanting the presence of the Catalonians, who still want independence. Being under Spain, it is very refreshing to see how architecture can yield the origins of what makes Spain unique. It’s through the suppressions of other cultures that bring out the beauty and potential inside. It may not be the ethical way to have great art, but Spain loves to repeat its history and take credit disregarding consideration of where the credit belongs (“Modernisme”)

Self reflection:

 Being a Muslim in Spain has left me in emotional turmoil. The feelings spectrum ranges from admiration, to anger, to sadness, to pride. One of the first things I noticed was how there was pork in EVERYTHING. Eating was a challenge as the language barrier made it harder to ask for items without pork. This made me question why Spain had pork in everything. Was it due to the inquisition to prove that the Muslims and Jews who had supposedly converted to Christianity were fully converted? Or was it just because there were a lot of pigs everywhere? After researching, Pork is big part of Spanish heritage, but the consumption of pork became even more common during and after the Spanish inquisition.  The three options Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand gave was to convert to Catholicism, leave, or burn at the stake. To show that they were Catholics, people started to hang pork legs outside their house. Also, to prove they converted many were watched while eating pork (“Conversos and Moriscos: Tyranny of Food. 2016”).

Photos By Anusha Ghaffar and Jena Nassar (CC by 4.0)

Throughout the trip, I got close to the whole class very fast. It started with curiosity to know where I was from and my religion which had been constantly mentioned throughout the trip. Although everyone was from a different ethnic background than me, they had no hesitation in learning about my culture and ask me questions about Islam. My whole life living as a minority, no one really cared to ask about my religion and culture and why I do things the way I do. This group made me feel included and helped me gain a sense of pride of my background. Their open mindedness helped clear their confusion about groups they had no real perspectives on, and I find it beautiful that I helped them do it. We concluded that we have way more in common culturally and religiously than it may ever seem and our roots with immigrant backgrounds give even more relatability. This diverse group is an example of coexisting, admiration, understanding, and sympathy. The mental barriers of difference were nonexistent here. I learned a lot about myself throughout this trip because of them, and the joy gained from explaining my roots was indescribable. Learning this history left me in awe in how amazing Muslims were and are and was refreshing seeing our work. The class also taught me that with support and motivation, things that seem like they cannot be done can be done and worth it at the end. Every hike I went on was more than worth it. It taught me to keep pushing, because getting out of your comfort zone will lead to growth and satisfaction at the end.

Yes, I learned a lot of history on this trip, but I cannot thank Professor Bailly enough for the major life lessons and perspectives he has taught me. He knows what he is doing and doing a stellar job at it, and I cannot thank him enough for this experience.


“The Alhambra (Alhambra Palace Spain).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy,,secured%20this%20region%20in%201237.

“Conversos and Moriscos: Tyranny of Food. 2016.” Spain Then and Now – Spain Then and Now. An Overview of the History, Literature, Architecture, Art and Culture of Spain.,

“Madrid.” Bailly Lectures, 12 June 2022,

“Modernisme.” Dosde,

“Reconquista.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

“Religions – Islam: Muslim Spain (711-1492).” BBC, BBC, 4 Sept. 2009,

“Toledo.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

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