Authentically Al-Andalus

Elegant Moorish arch in the exterior wall of the Cathedral in Seville, Andalucia.

Detail of arabesque carving.



Looking onto the courtyard of ‘los naranjos’ (oranges) on the north side of the Cathedral.

Spain has always featured strongly in my life. As a child my family made the trip from the lush green hills of Donegal to the hot, terracotta coloured earth of Spain every year for holidays. Later, as a student in Seville, walking through the labyrinth of narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses, breathing in the sweet sent of orange blossoms that filled the air, I knew my heart was lost to Andalucía.

Witnessing the exotic ceremonies and traditions played out along those narrow streets during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville or ‘Feria de  Abril de Sevilla’ (The Seville April Fair) instilled a thirst in me to find out more about this ancient and varied culture.


In 711, an Arab army crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, beginning a period whereby most of the Iberian Peninsula fell under the rule of the Damascus based Umayyad caliph. The region became known as al-Andalus.

In Andalucía the influence of Arab culture is very prevalent, especially in the food and architecture. Even the smell of Azahar (orange blossom) that fills the air was carried by the Arabs into Africa and Spain.


The pre-existing Giralda Tower from the Moorish period, once the minaret of a mosque, was incorporated into the Catholic cathedral in Seville.

Gate of the Mesquita, Cordoba.

A very unique culinary and architectural culture grew over the centuries in Andalucía. It reflected the cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism of those who came from all over the Muslim world, as well as the Christian and Jewish communities that existed there.

Extravagant gateway to the Feria de Seville, newly designed each year and covered in thousands of tiny lightbulbs.

Foreign Bear Studio made a trip earlier in the year to explore the Mudéjar architecture of Andalucía. Mudéjar denotes a style of Iberian architecture and decoration strongly influenced by Moorish craftsmanship.

The rich cultural influence of the Moors could be seen in the arabesque carvings, in the blue and white tiles that adorned so many interiors and in the beautifully carved fountains standing amidst courtyards filled with orange trees.

As well as some of the most famous surviving examples that we visited, The Mezquita in Córdoba (784-987, in four phases) and the Giralda in Seville (1184) we also wanted to see how contemporary architects incorporated elements of Mudéjar architecture into their buildings.

Walls of the Mesquita in Cordoba.


We have posted a few images from our trip from the Palacio Del Bailio in Cordoba where we got to stay and absorb what can be achieved when old meets new in interiors. We always hope to incorporate some of what we see into our designs, even if it is just in a detail.

One hall of the Palicio Del Bailio with internal moorish window looking into the library.

Doorway to library

Interior of library at Palicio Del Bailio with intricately carved walls.

Highly painted carved ceiling at library of Palicio Del Bailio

Understated pool area within the courtyard of the Palacio Del Bailio.

The pool area situated within the orange tree filled courtyard of the Palicio Del Bailio, the Moorish influences are still very prevalent.

Re-visiting a few old haunts in Seville

Many a night was spent here in the Alameda de Hercules area of Seville back in the day!

After enjoying some hot chocolate and Churros (friend dough pastry) typical of this region of Spain. The Churros are the same as the north African fritters today. The mixing of cultures in modern-day Spain is again obvious on the streets.


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