Almost eight centuries of Muslim presence in Salobreña has left its mark. The influence can be seen in many of the town’s urban areas, but its most significant landmark is the Arab Castle.
Salobrena was conquered by Muslim troops in the year 713 and, exactly two hundred years later, Abd al Rahman carried out military raids along Granada’s coastline in order to suppress the rebellion of the Mozarabs.
Salobreña was one of the populations to fall under Muslim rule, and had its first governor, Said Abdal Awarit, in 942. This small city had become the head of a vast territory -historical references dating from the 12th century make note of the area’s ecological wealth, with an abundance of banana trees, sugar cane, and groves of holm oaks. Muhammad al Salawbini, a well known scholar and founder of the School of Philology in Seville, was born in Salobreña in 1166.
During the era of the kingdom of Granada (which was founded by Ibn al Ahmar), Salobreña became one of the region’s most important coastal towns. There are significant historical references to its fortress, its magnificent mosque, as well as its other buildings.
Although the existence of a fortification had been known since the 10th century, references to the fortress itself are not made until the 13th century.
But Salobreña’s great fortress was definitely the seat of power – not only of its urban area, but also a wider district that included the surrounding fertile plain (with its sugar cane, rice, and banana trees), the mountanious region (for breeding stock and terrace cultivation), and the sea – which was, of course, the main trade route for the hugely important fishing industry.
The 14th and 15th centuries constituted its era of splendour; the town’s strategic castlefortress became a summer residence for the Granada monarchs, and was also used on various occasions as a prison where dethroned sultans were held.
Several Nasrid sultans are said to have been imprisoned here: Yusuf III, Muhamad VIII, Muhammad IX (aka the left handed king), Abu Nasad, and according to various sources, Muley Hacen, the father of Boabdil, last sultan of Granada.
Although the layout is in keeping with others built during the Nasrid period, the Arab castle of Salobreña is a combination of both Muslim and Christian architectural practices. The inner area comprises the former Nasrid fortified palace, with the outer areas (which were built by the Christians at the end of the 15th century) serving as military defence structures.
The end of the Muslim occupation witnessed a deterioration in the structure of the castle; due in part to the repeated battering of the walls in the many sieges it was subjected to. To make matters worse, the earthquake which occurred in January 1494, destroyed towers and other parts of the fortified walls. Much of it was subsequently rebuilt in order for it to continue to function as a lookout post over land and water – but it never regained its former splendour.
The garrison was made up of a variable number of soldiers who were answerable to the governor or deputy governor. The governors were soldiers themselves (one of them was even a Frenchman, Don Juan Vicente Duclos, who died in July 1757) but, from the 18th century onwards, they most probably all lived in the town – rather than in the castle, which would now have been mainly used as a storehouse for the gunpowder and weapons that were entrusted to the guards.
Due to its strategic location along the Coast of Granada, refurbishments were planned throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, with the governments of the day looking to adapt and fortify Salobreña castle for modern military uses. The last renovations were carried out here during the 1950s.
Throughout the year, the castle gardens are in bloom, and (from the towers and battlements 110 metres above sea level) there are outstanding views of the plain, coastline and mountains. All these features make the castle one of the most visited landmarks on the coast and, as night falls, the floodlit castle is one of the most beautiful monuments in Andalusia.