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Muslim Iberia
In the 8th century, nearly all the Iberian Peninsula was quickly conquered (711–718) by mainly Berber Muslims (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Islamic Umayyad Empire. Only three small areas in the mountains of northern Spain managed to cling to their independence, Asturias, Navarra and Aragon.

Interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, a Muslim mosque until the Recon quest, after which it became a Christian cathedral Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognized as "peoples of the book", and were free to practice their religion, but faced some discriminations.

Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace, starting with the aristocracy, as it offered an escape from the limitations and humiliations of their shimmy status. By the 11th century Muslims were believed to have outnumbered Christians in Al-Andalus.

The Muslim community in Spain was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa had provided the bulk of the armies and clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.

Cordoba, Muslim Spain's capital, was viewed as the richest and most sophisticated city of medieval Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a major part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe.

Spain's Romanized cultures interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, giving Spain a distinctive culture. Outside the cities, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms. The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling empires of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some initial successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.


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