As he meanders through the spectacular Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, tour guide Yasin Maymir hones in on a section of ornate patterning on the interior walls.
“Arabic letters, Arabic phrases. There are more than 10,000 all around Alhambra,” he proudly says of the inscriptions.
Maymir continues through perfectly manicured gardens and grandiose rooms, occasionally stopping to speak of Islamic philosophies and architectural techniques incorporated into the design.
His fascination is obvious. Yet he believes the finer details of this history may be unfamiliar to many Spaniards.
“In Spain, in the schools,” Maymir says, “they would never teach you about the (country’s) Islamic history.”
While the Spanish government has taken steps to enable school students to learn about the Islamic faith in recent years, Maymir — whose Italian mother and Cuban father were converts to Islam and moved to Granada because of its rich Islamic past — says he began to understand this other side of his country’s history by studying the secrets of the Alhambra.
With its exquisite marble columns and elaborate horse-shoe arched windows, the Alhambra is one of the most notable surviving examples of the Islamic influence on Spain.
Visitors to Granada, meanwhile, can still wander through the former Arabic and Jewish quarters located in the shadow of the building.
Islamic forces, which came to be known as the Moors, invaded Spain from North Africa in 711.
They rapidly conquered the Iberian peninsula, pushing out the ruling Visigoths and laying the foundations for centuries of Muslim rule.
Known as Al Andalus, the territory they captured stretched as far as Spain’s north-east coast at its peak.