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Andalus: Unlocking The Secrets Of Moorish Spain [Paperback]

Jason Webster
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: £9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

17 Jun 2013

As Islam and the West prepare to clash once again, Jason Webster embarks on a quest to discover Spain's hidden Moorish legacy and lift the lid on a country once forged by both Muslims and Christians. He meets Zine, a young illegal immigrant from Morocco, a twenty-first century Moor, lured over with the promise of a job but exploited as a slave labourer on a fruit farm. Jason's life is threatened as he investigates the agricultural gulag, Zine rescues him, and the unlikely pair of writer and desperado take off on a rollercoaster ride through Andalucía.

While Jason unveils the neglected Arab ancestry of modern Spain - apparent in its food, language, people and culture - Zine sets out on his own parallel quest, a one-man peace mission to resolve Muslim-Christian tensions by proving irresistible to Spanish señoritas.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (17 Jun 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0552779571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552779579
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Jason Webster is a highly acclaimed Anglo-American author and authority on Spain whose work ranges from biography to travel, crime fiction and history.

His books have sold in over a dozen countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, Japan and China, and have been nominated both for the Guardian First Book Award and the Crime Writers' Association New Blood Dagger Award. He has been favourably compared with writers such as Bruce Chatwin (The Daily Mail), Gerald Brenan (El País) and Ernest Hemingway (Sunday Telegraph).

Webster has written extensively for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, Sunday Times, The Observer, Conde Nast Traveller and The New Statesman and has presented and appeared in several television and radio documentaries on Spain.

Webster was born near San Francisco and brought up in the UK, Germany and Italy. After finishing a degree in Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Oxford, he worked as an editor at the BBC World Service for several years before becoming a full-time writer and moving to Spain. He is married to the flamenco dancer Salud and they have two sons. They currently divide their time between Valencia and the UK.

Product Description


Engaging and stimulating ... it's a measure of his achievement ... that he's managed to unlock several of the secrets of Moorish Spain without disturbing the enigma that lies at its heart. Sunday Telegraph Fast-paced and exciting ... the intrinsic interest and, indeed, topicality of this book are obvious. Robert Irwin, Independent Gripping and original ... no less unputdownable than its predecessor, but in many ways richer in texture and more mature. Webster is a totally engaging travelling companion - sensitive, observant, compassionate, witty and reflective ... His impassioned and committed manner of combining history with travel anecdote makes Al Andalus come alive. Literary Review Webster imparts, with much verve, a lot of tumultuous Andalusian history ... Essential reading. Daily Mail Mesmerising ... Given the current spotlight on Spain's fraught history with Islam, his book could not be more timely. Observer --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Book Description

After the success of DUENDE, Jason Webster, one of the most exciting young travel writers today, continues his search for the essence of Spain, this time on a journey into the secrets of Moorish Spain.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was ill-abed when I read this book, pretty much straight through in one go. It is ideal for that sort of situation because Jason Webster is no slouch with a sentence. He can and does write interestingly.

The problem with this book is that he does not have anything original or even particularly interesting to say about the residual influences of mediaeval Moorish culture on current Spanish life.

He repeatedly uses the 'example' of 'hola!' being derived from 'Allah'. Well, 'hello', which seems clearly derived from the same root, is given in the Oxford Concise as derived from the identical word 'hola' in French, being a conjunction of 'ho!'[hey!] and la ['there!']. I'm as inclined to believe this version as the Allah one, perhaps more so as the use in French cannot be influenced by Arabic 'Allah'.

There was another example of mis-attribution to Arabic culture of something concerned with navigation and seafaring, which I happened to know was certainly wrong [being a bit of an old salt, m'self] but I'm sorry to say that as I write, I just can't remember what it was [I mentioned I was ill at the time, you recall], so until I find it and add it to a comment following this review, you'll have to take my word for it. Suffice to say that Webster has been pretty weak with the ground-work and research required to make his attributions soundly based and believable. The result is paper-thin evidentially and thus entirely untrustworthy as a proposition

Jason Webster can tell a story well. His personal narrative in his book 'Duende' proves this.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating search for traces of the Moors 23 Jun 2005
By Fíal
I glanced at this book, which was on display in the English-language section of a Frankfurt bookstore, and ended up buying it and reading it in a day, it was so absorbing. I've always thought Spain was a country of hidden history-- I once met a man whose Spanish-Jewish family had kept their religion alive for centuries while pretending to be ordinary Catholics to avoid persecution. Spain also has Visigothic, pre-Roman and Moorish roots, and was at the core of the Roman empire.
Jason Webster, who speaks Arabic and Spanish and has a Spanish wife, starts off on his journey around Spain with the idea that 800 years of Moorish identity must have left many traces in Spain beyond the obvious ones of architecture and language. For many years this was suppressed; the Moors had always been the enemy, the other. After the Reconquest in 1492, they were first forced to convert and then expelled from Spain.
Webster sees Moorish Spain as an idyllic place where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived happily together in tolerance, bringing knowledge and sophistication to benighted Europe. This has not been the view of most Spaniards over the centuries, but he makes a good argument for it in the book. A scholar of Moorish Spain would not learn much from this book (but would still be amused by the travelogue) but most of us have a lot to remember about how much the Moors gave us: sugar, cotton, paper, oranges, and of course the crucial zero.
The second thread in the book happened accidentally. While secretly interviewing slave laborers on a farm near Valencia, Spain, the writer is rescued from violent farmers by an illegal Moroccan immigrant named Zine. Jason feels an obligation to Zine and ends up taking him with him around Spain, trying to find Zine a job.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moorish legacy in Spain 12 May 2008
The sub-heading of this book is Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain and is a follow-up of Webster's first book DUENDE: a journey in search of flamenco which became an acclaimed big seller. Having studied Arabic in Oxford, Webster lived for several years in Italy and Egypt then went to Spain to learn to play the flamenco guitar; he now lives in Valencia with his Spanish wife

Like many Hispanophiles, he's had a long-lasting fascination with the Moorish past of this country, whether trigered by the sublime Alhambra in Granada, the dramatic and beautiful Great Mosque in Cordoba or the surprising number of Arabic root words in the Spanish language. Gibraltar which the Spanish insist is theirs could realistically be claimed by Morocco or other North African countries - after all, it's named after a Moor - jabal Tariq - the mountain of Tariq, the first Arab to conquer Spain.

For eight centuries Christians, Muslims and Jews lived and worked side by side. It was a period of great cultural and artistic blossoming. The Moors in Spain had the first universities, the first paper factories and the first street lighting in the whole of Europe. The Arabs learned paper-making from the Chinese artisans on capturing Samarkand. Indeed, the Moors first crossed the Strait to Spain in the Dark Ages, at about the same time as Bede was writing his History. At the time Spain was under Visigothic rule, the German tribes having moved in and taken over as the Roman Empire collapsed.

`Moor' was the term used to describe Muslims in Spain - Arabs, Berbers, Syrians, Persians and eventually Spaniards; it originated from the Latin maurus, which had been used to refer to North Africans.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read & interesting
This book is a follow-on from "Duende". It is not top quality literature. The joy of this readable tome is that is is written by a man who has studied Arabic, Spanish and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Voiciclive
5.0 out of 5 stars Read before you go!
This book is essential reading for anyone planning a holiday in Andalucia. If you want to get the best out of your visit you need to understand the psyche of spain. Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2011 by A. J. MEARS
2.0 out of 5 stars If you want to learn anything about Spain, look elsewhere.
I was given this book as a present and, after reading some aloud, was begged to put it down by my Spanish friends. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2011 by Benito
5.0 out of 5 stars Andalus
Great read!!! This is one of my all time favourites. I've bought a few more to give as gifts to friends. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2011 by sw
3.0 out of 5 stars Fact or Fiction?
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Webster's first book, "Duende", I had high expectations for this offering. Read more
Published on 11 Nov 2010 by Essex Shopaholic
4.0 out of 5 stars A Taste of Moorish Spain
I enjoyed this book. Knowing little about the subject, and having read the author's book about modern Spain's attitude to the Civil War, I thought this would be a good... Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2008 by J. Grundy
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak
I'm currently reading this book and I had hoped to find it a fascinating read about the Moorish legacy to Spain. Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2007 by F. Quinn
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
Having lived in Spain for years and having a Spanish background, I can't help but feel that the author is a bit carried away by the romanticism of Moorish Spain. Read more
Published on 14 Aug 2007 by Tamara
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
Like the author I too share a fascination of Spains's often neglected Islamic past, and this book brilliantly brings to light the strong influence the Moors had on Spainish... Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2007 by Mr. S. McMahon
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read about a complex, timely subject
This book tells about the author's travels around Spain trying to uncover remants of the country's past - not just the usual things like the Alhambra, but less known things like... Read more
Published on 27 Dec 2006 by Jennifer
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