The invention of al-Andalus: Discovering the past and creating the present in Granada's Islamic tourism sites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In a 2008 survey by the Pew Research Centre, 52% of Spaniards confessed to having negative views of Muslims. Yet, one of the most profitable segments of Spain's tourism industry is built on marketing the concept of convivencia, the supposedly harmonious coexistence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the medieval Iberian Peninsula. This article examines Granada's tourism industry as a site for mapping Spain's contradictory relationship with the Islamic world and with its own Islamic past. Granada is a privileged site for this examination: the former Nas{dot below}rid capital not only boasts the most famous of Andalusi travel destinations, the Alhambra, but also hosts a large population of Moroccan immigrants and of Spanish converts to Islam. Building on the polysemy of the word 'invention' - which can mean both 'discovery' and 'creation' - this article investigates three different inventions of al-Andalus in Granada's tourism industry. First, I explore the nineteenth-century Romantic 're-discovery' of Andalucía's 'Oriental' past. Second, I analyse one of the most visible tourist initiatives in contemporary Granada related to the promotion of the Andalusi past: the Legado Andalusí Foundation. My analysis demonstrates how the work of the Legado Andalusí Foundation has been shaped by the Romantic 'discovery' of al-Andalus, as well as by Andalusian nationalist thought and by the discourse of Spanish colonialism in Morocco. In the concluding section, I consider the debates surrounding Islam and Moroccan immigration in Granada's Albayzín neighbourhood, a 'traditional' Arab area where the Islamic Community in Spain (Comunidad Islámica en España) recently inaugurated the first mosque to be built in Granada since 1492.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-55
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of North African Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Granada
  • Legado Andalusí
  • Morocco
  • al-Andalus
  • convivencia
  • invention of tradition
  • tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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