If you want to see Morocco without actually risking life and limb, go to Tarifa – the coast of North Africa and the Rif mountains are clearly visible from this the most southerly of towns in mainland Spain!

Seriously though, Tarifa is an interesting place to visit with many features that reflect its historic past. Its geographic location has played a big part in its history- it is the southernmost town of Europe and only 8 miles from North Africa – so it has been pretty much open to all manner of civilisations since the dawn of time. Tarifa got its name from a Berber called Tarif ibn Malik and, in the 10th century, under the rule of Abd-al-Rahman III, it became an important town. Its history goes much further back than that, however – archaeological discoveries have included Bronze Age burial sites. Later, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians all settled in the area but it was the Romans who actually founded Tarifa in the 1st century.

And then the Moors came – in AD 710 a Muslim expeditionary force crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and, led by their leader Tarif ibn Malik, they took Tarifa. It was a trial run for the full-scale invasion of Spain a year later. Several centuries of Moorish rule followed before Sancho IV of Castile captured the town from the Moslems in 1292. Since the Christian Reconquest, Tarifa has been a border town, initially with the Kingdom of Granada and later it had Berber pirates to contend with. In the 18th century it was a military enclave in the face of the English occupation of Gibraltar.

Much of Tarifa exhibits a distinctly Moorish character with its narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses. Entry into the old quarter is through a particularly fine archway – the Puerta de Jerez. There are a number of interesting religious buildings in the town – like the Gothic-Mudéjar Chapel of Santiago;the Convent of San Francisco, and the churches of Santa María and San Mateo but the most important building is Castillo de Guzman. This 10th-century medieval fortress is known as the Castle of Guzmán the Good. It was named after Alfonso Pérez Guzmán who in no way would have won the ‘Father of the Year’ award – apparently, he threw down his dagger to besieging Moorish forces for them to execute his son who had been held hostage. He did this rather than surrender the city to the marauding Arabs.

So the town has a fair bit of history but it is worth a visit for its sandy beaches -there are over 20 miles of them! However, Tarifa is rather windy – it is the windiest place in Europe, which makes it ideal for windsurfers and, for most of the year, the long sandy beaches and Atlantic rollers are a riot of coloured sails.

extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from 
some pics:

Robert Bovington


About Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington is an English writer of travel books. These include “Spanish Matters” and “Spanish Impressions” Robert Bovington was born in Brighton, East Sussex, the son of Leonard and Audrey Bovington. He is the first-born and has eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters. Having worked for many years in both the telecommunications industry and the teaching profession, Robert wanted to take on new challenges. He and Diane decided to relocate to Spain and, in 2003, the couple moved to Roquetas de Mar in sunny Andalucía. However, lazing on the beach was not Robert's idea of fun - he wanted to explore his new homeland. It didn't stop there! He was so impressed with Spain, its countryside, its historic cities and its culture that it inspired him to write about his experiences. Robert Bovington has been married to Diane for over thirty years. They have no children. However, Robert’s short marriage to Helene resulted in twin daughters Carole and Sheila. The author is also a grandfather and great grandfather. Robert met Diane when both belonged to the Crescent Operatic Society. Music is one of the author’s great passions. At primary school he sang in a choir in a concert of Bach and Handel. Another of his interests is football and for many years he supported Brighton & Hove Albion home and away. His favourite premiership team is Arsenal. Other interests include information technology, writing and ten-pin bowling.
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