Saturday, April 13, 2013



The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for centuries, most notably by the Roman and Ottoman Empires.  To this day, you can see many leftovers in Spanish cities, especially in the autonomous community of Andalusia, the name of which comes from the Arabic Al-Andalus.


This Roman aqueduct is right by my house!
Moors maintained a presence on the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492.  That's 781 years.  Comparably, Spain has only been "Spanish" as we know it for 521 years, which is very strange to think about.  It's been asked if the Reconquista, or the Reconquest (when Catholics led by Ferdinand and Isabel expelled the Arabs from Spain), was actually a reconquest, or if it was just a conquest.

I believe these columns were supposedly
placed here by Hercules himself.  (Hercules
founded many cities in Spain, including
Sevilla and Barcelona, according to legend.)
Traveling through Spain, you'll find a lot of architectural leftovers from Rome and Moorish occupation.  In Sevilla, for example, there are several Roman columns.  My street even has the ruins of an old aqueduct :)

A patio in the Alcázar.  These archways are a
signature element of Islamic architecture.
As for Moorish influence, it's everywhere.  Courtyards, rounded archways, and tiles all have their origins in Arabic architecture.

The Alcázar, for example, was originally a Moorish fort, converted into a royal palace.  Though there are certain Gothic elements, most of it is Islamic design.

Sevilla's most famous site, the Cathedral, was actually originally a mosque.  The Giralda served as a minaret from which someone would issue the call to prayer.  It was converted into a Cathedral, yet it still has lots of Islamic architecture.

The Cathedral in Sevilla.


While Spanish is a romance language that has Latin roots, its filled with words that come from Arabic.  Some of these include:

Andalucía - from Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the region.
Ojalá - I hope, from law šhaʾ allāh "God willing".
Alcázar - palace, from al-qasr
Zumo - juice, from zum.  Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country that uses "zumo" for juice.

And hundreds more!


When writers build worlds, they often draw from real cultures and civilizations.  Stereotypical fantasy worlds are usually based on medieval Northern Europe (the Holy Roman Empire is probably closest in comparison); and when they name characters and places, they often pick a language to act as the "root language."

Why is this a good idea?  So that the made-up words sound as though they belong to the same family, the same culture.  It helps to make the world believable, and that's extremely important :)  So as you create world, make like Spain and let other civilizations influence you!

P.S.  I'd love to read a fantasy in which the world is based on North Africa or Middle East, so if you know of any, please let me know!


  1. Great post. Thanks.

    I agree that there needs to be familiarity within the unfamiliar. Mmmm - kissing - in Spain - with all those dark, handsome men ... :)

  2. beautiful place!