Marbella is an upmarket city in Andalusia, Spain, by the
Mediterranean, situated in the region of Malaga, beneath
the Sierra Blanca. In 2000 the city had 98,823 inhabitants,
in 2004, 116,234.
Marbella is an important beach resort of the Costa del
Sol. The town is famous for being a playground for the
famous and super-rich. Marbella is internationally
recognised as a favourite destination for extremely
wealthy tourists from Northern Europe, in particular the
UK and France and also to wealthy Arabs. The area around
Marbella is particularly popular with those who like Golf.
It is easy to reach other places, like Malaga and
Algeciras, by bus. The area is also served by the A7 auto
via, and the closest airport is at Malaga.
Archaeological excavations have been made in the mountains
around Marbella, which point at human habitation in
Palaeolithic and Neolithic times. There are also remains
of Phoenician and later Carthaginensian settlements in the
area of Rio Real. In Roman times, the city was called
During Islamic rule, Muslims built a castle in this city,
and they surrounded it by walls. The name Marbella, which
is derived from Marbil-la, dates from this Islamic era. In
1485, the Spaniards reconquered the city, and during the
centuries that followed, the city grew.
In the 1940s, Marbella was a small village with only 900
inhabitants but this changed when Prince Max Egon zu
Hohenlohe-Langenburg and his heir Alfonso of Hohenlohe
experienced a problem with their Rolls-Royce in the area.
This first encounter with Marbella so impressed Alonso
that he decided to buy land commercially, marketing the
area as a tourist destination. In 1954 he opened the Hotel
Marbella Club which, in spite of its name, was far from
being a conventional tall and impersonal building but
rather was a resort with traditional low houses among
He soon convinced other noble European families to move to
Marbella and enjoy discreet luxury. Alfonso de Mora y
Aragón, a Spanish socialite and brother to the queen Queen
Fabiola were also a frequent vacationer.
In 1974 the Prince Fahd arrived at the city after having
broken the bank of the Casino of Monte Carlo. Until his
death in 2005 he was a frequent and profitable guest of
Marbella, where his retinue of over thousand people
spending petrol-dollars was welcome, including the
then-anonymous Osama bin Laden.
In the Eighties, Marbella continued to be a destination
for the jet set, with the most recognizable face being
that of Gunilla von Bismarck. However, problems arose in
1987 when both Melody Nakachian, daughter of a weapons
struggler and the Korean princess and singer Kimera were
kidnapped, putting the city in the focus of the media.
In 1991 the builder and president of Atlántico Madrid,
Jesus Gil y Gil was elected by wide majority for mayor of
Marbella for his own party, the Independent Liberal Group
(GIL in Spanish), promising to fight petty crime and the
declining prestige associated with the region. Amongst
other things, he used, as an international spokesman for
the city, actor Sean Connery who later ended this
relationship after his image was used for electoral
purpose by Gil.
The city also experimented with extensive building
activity under the administration of Gil, with critics
stating that this construction was often performed without
regard for the existing urban plan and thus new plans were
stopped by the Andalusia government.
Something of a maverick, Gil despised town-hall
formalities instead ruling from his office at the Club
Financiero. Criticism was levelled at Gil by the major
parties of Spain (PSOE and People's Party) but this did
not convince enough voters to oust him and Spanish
celebrities continued to spend summers there.
Additional criticism be cried the presence of alleged
criminals from the Russian mafia in the city.
Gil's GIL extended to other Costa del Sol towns like
Estepona and across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish
African cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
This period brought an appraisal of the city but also
investigations of corruption began. Eventually, Jesus Gil
was forced to resign in 2002 after being jailed for
diverting public funds for Atlántico. He was succeeded by
Julian Munoz, a former waiter then well-known for being
romantically engaged with singer Isabel Pantoja with more
than one hundred trials for corruption hanging on. Munoz
was overthrown by his own party which elected as new mayor
Marisol Yagüe, a former secretary.
Muñoz and Gil took part in a scandalous debate on
television where both accused each other of having robbed
public funds. The situation exploded in March 2006, when
Yagüe was also jailed when the city council was near
According to unsubstantiated testimony, Muñoz and Yagüe
were puppets in the hands of Antonio Roca, a councilman
who got the job after failing in private business and
gathering substantial wealth while working as a public
While Yagüe was in jail, the city council was run by Tomas Reñones, a
former Atlántico Madrid football player, who ended up in
jail as well.
On April 8, 2006, the Spanish government decided to
suspend the council, the first time such a course of
action was taken in Spanish democracy