During the Arab invasion of Morocco, there was a great general known as Gibril Tarik. The African Tarik, now governor of Mauritania, entered into friendly relations with Count Julian, governor of Ceuta who was on very bad terms with his master, Roderic, the King of Spain. Count Julian urged the African Tarik to invade Spain.
In 711 A.D., General Tarik, accompanied by 100 horses and 400 African soldiers, crossed over into Spain on an exploratory mission. Tarik's small army ravaged several Spanish towns and returned to Africa laden with spoils. Later that same year, Tarik took an army of 7000 Africans, crossing from Africa to Gilbraltar (named after him), defeating King Roderic and conquering most of the Iberian Peninsula. Thus began the Moorish domination of Spain, which was not fully ended until 1492.
The Moors built magnificent cities in Spain. Cordoba, in the tenth century was much like a modern metropolis. The streets were paved, and there were sidewalks for pedestrians. At night it was said that one could travel for ten miles by the light of lamps along a continuous strip of buildings. This was several hundred years before there was a paved street in Paris or a street lamp in London. The population of the city was over one million. There were 200,000 homes, 800 public schools, a number of colleges and universities, and many royal places surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The Tanneries of Cordoba and Morocco City were the best in the world. Cordoba was the most wonderful city of the tenth century. It was served by 4,000 public markets and 5,000 mills. Public baths numbered in the hundreds. This amenity was present at a time when cleanliness in Christian Europe was regarded as a sin.
The mineral wealth of the land was not disregarded. Copper, gold, tin, silver, lead, iron, quicksilver, and alum were extensively mined. The sword blades of Toledo were the best in Europe, and the factories in Murcia turned out the finest of brass and iron instruments.
Education was universal in Moorish Spain, available to the most humble, while 99% of Christian Europe was illiterateónot even the kings could read or write. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, public libraries did not exist in Christian Europe, while Moorish Spain had more than seventy, of which the one in Cordoba contained over six hundred thousand manuscripts. There were more than seventeen great universities in Moorish Spain, while Christian Europe had only two universities of any value.
Scientific progress in astronomy, chemistry, geography, mathematics, physics, and philosophy flourished in Moorish Spain. Scholars, artist and scientists formed learning societies, while scientific congresses were organized to promote research and to facilitate the spread of knowledge. A brisk intellectual life flourished in all Islamic dominated societies.
The moors also introduce the manufacture of gunpowder into Europe, which their enemies later adopted, using this explosive to drive them back to Africa.