Although Almeria existed further back; in 955 AD it was ‘founded’ by Calipha Abd-al-Rahmin III, to act as the principal port on his Mediterranean defences. He named the town Al-Mari’yah; meaning watchtower in Arabic, as watchtowers were the main means of defence on the coastline; the watchtowers of Andalucia are now a major tourist attraction in the area. Al-Mari’yah later became Almeria, and is the name of the province as well as its main city.
After the Alhambra in Granada; the Alcazaba of Almería is the second largest Muslim fortress in Andalucia.
In 1147 a force of Catalan, Pisan, French and Genoese Christians, led by Alfonso VII, overran the Muslims to take control of Almeria. This was short-lived however, as in less than 10 years it once again fell into the hands of Muslim Emirs, until the 15th century, when it finally fell permanently to the Christians, and the Catholic royal family of Fernando and Isabel took control on 26th December 1489.
Almeria suffered greatly in the 16th century with several major earthquakes, and the 1568 War of Las Alcaparras, which ended with the remaining muslims being expelled from the area and scattering throughout the country. From the 16th to 18th centuries, Berber pirates were a great curse to Almeria, until iron mines were uncovered and companies from Britain and France moved in to revitalise the economy and return the prestige to Almeria.
Almeria suffered bombardment from the German navy during the Spanish civil war; finally surrendering in 1939, and becoming the final city of Andalucia to fall to the forces of Franco. Agriculture was the saviour of the City’s economy, thanks to huge plastic greenhouses, along with the steady rise in tourism.
Tourism and agriculture continue to be the mainstay of the economy in the region, helped along in recent years by the filming of the television series “Game of Thrones”, which takes place in great part in and around Almeria.
The area was also the setting for many of the famous ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, thanks to the arid landscape in the Tabernas desert. The region of Almeria was also the choice of David Lean for his unforgettable “Lawrence of Arabia” and was the setting for many other great Hollywood movies.
Almeria is famous for having the driest climate in Europe and the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend it as the healthiest, with an average 320 sunny days annually, and 3,000 hours of sunshine, with only 26 days’ rain. Uniquely in Europe; Almeria has never registered a sub-zero temperature, with the lowest ever recorded at 0.2 degrees C, or 32.4 F in Feb 1935.
Almeria continues to attract tourists from all parts of the world, for its climate, history, culture, and of course the beaches.