Andalusía lies on an axis between Europe and Africa and as a meeting point between the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The region possesses a very wide-ranging type of terrain, from the fertile river plains to arid dessert to high mountains.
The Rio Guadalquivir is Andalucía's longest river, flowing throughout the region before it enters the Atlantic Ocean. The valley of the Guadalquivir is the most fertile area in Andalusia and used to be navigable from the Atlantic as far upstream as Córdoba city, and is today still navigable up to Seville city. Virtually all of Andalucía's rivers are dammed at least once along their course, providing the region with vital water supplies, as well as hydro-electric power and large reservoirs.
It is thanks to this irrigation system that crops such as wheat, cotton and sunflowers are grown on the plains as well as asparagus, cotton, vineyards and olive groves. The olive is the most abundant crop in Andalusia and produces more olive oil annually than the whole of Italy. 150,000 hectares of almond trees in total add a special charm to the province. Conditions are right for the successful culture of citrus fruit, brought in originally by the Moors and now abide all over Andalusia not only as an important commercial business but also to decorate patios and gardens.
In Andalusia, 14% of land is as dehesa, a fenced area dedicated to animal grazing, and in this region that especially means the black pig which feeds on acorns and provides the well-known dried ham, jamón. Near Cordoba, there are large swathes of dehesa in the Sierra Morena.
Desertification, caused in part by loss of vegetation due to drought, is a big problem in Andalucia, with almost half the land area of Malaga province under threat. Solutions to this extensive problem are being sought, with many tree-planting schemes across the region. The very dry Almería province, which contains extensive semi-desert areas, bear a close enough resemblance to the Arizona landscape to have been used as the location for Western films.
Marshes and wetlands along the coast and especially in the Guadalquivir delta, are a crucial stop over for migrating birds.
Mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada national park with summits up to 3000m provide skiers with Europe’s southern-most ski resorts.
Salt marshes as a natural source of sea salt. Forest areas on the Mediterranean side include cork and oak. The shorelines of the Atlantic and Mediterranean are ideal for fishing as are the rivers and reservoir.
Nearly a fifth of Andalusia is protected, the largest proportion of an autonomous region in Spain, reflecting the un-spoilt nature of its countryside and the high ecological importance of its territory.
A BIT OF HISTORY
It is thanks to the River Guadalquivir and the fertile lands that pre-historic settlements were drawn here. This expanded in the Bronze age and then with the arrival of Phoenicians and Greeks, as an important mining and commercial centre.
Córdoba thrived under Roman rule as the capital of Hispania Ulterior with a number of monumental buildings and as a commercial and cultural hub. Vestiges remain such as the temple and recently discovered amphitheatre. The Visigoth invasion, however, brought about the stagnation of the city.
In the 8th C. an Arab contingent arrived on the coast which was to radically change the course of the western world. The Muslims and Christians lived in harmony, allowed to build the Great Mosque within the city walls. The 10thC saw Cordoba proclaimed as the Capital of the independent Caliphate, thus creating a schism with Damascus. Due to rival factions struggling for power, the Caliphate collapsed in 1013 creating an interim Taifa kingdom.
However as of 1236 a Christian army headed by Fernando III of Castille resettled the city with churches and Christians and mosques were converted to churches. Hard times followed with a Civil war and the Black Death in the mid 14thC.
A century later the Reyes Católicos, Isabella de Castilla and Fernando de Aragon, captured the kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold and ordered the expulsion of the Jewish population.
Although Felipe II tried to put Córdoba back on the map at the end of the 16thC. with the building of the Royal Stables and the Gate of the Bridge, the Borbon rule that followed led to the decline of the city.
Córdoba suffered further as the Napoleonic armies occupied the city, although on a positive side, they completely overhauled the city’s urban design.
It was not until the mid 20thC. that Córdoba began to recover some of its lost splendour and importance. The population grew, a university was founded, new building projects began and then the city finally came to terms with its historical legacy. One of the city’s proudest moments was the declaration of the city as World Heritage Site.