The City of Dreams

The city of dreams

al-Andalus and the period of the taifas

After the fall of Córdoba, in AD 1013, when General al-Wahdi surrendered to Sulayman and his Berber soldiers, the destruction of Córdoba began. The city was sacked and plundered; the citizens were massacred, the libraries and universities disappeared and sixty eminent scholars were murdered in one day. Sulayman took on the title of caliph and became Sulayman II, but he didn’t rule for long. His policy of giving concessions to his Berber, Arab and slave troops reduced his caliphate authority. His was a reign of terror, killing and looting and the Berbers treated Córdoba as a city under occupation. Sulayman’s generals were given provincial governorships as rewards, and in 1016, just three years after he became caliph, Sulayman was deposed and murdered by one of them, the governor of Cueta. Ali ibn Hammud set himself up as caliph of Córdoba from 1016 until his death in 1018, but although he didn’t live long enough to enjoy his power, his son inherited his title and the rule of the Hammudid dynasty had begun. 

In The City of Dreams trilogy, the country is no longer held together by one strong ruler as it had been for the previous two hundred and seventy-five years. The Golden Age of Moorish Spain was over; Córdoba was no longer the cultural capital of the western world, and the country which had been a strong, united state was now in disarray. Al-Andalus had split into a number of warring princedoms, which were referred to as ‘taifas.’ Some were ruled by ex-slaves, others by ex-soldiers who set themselves up as emirs.
​Málaga was one such taifa, but with a difference; it was ruled by a caliph and not an emir. When Yahya I inherited the title of caliph from his father Ali ibn Hammud, he found he was no longer welcome in Córdoba, so he moved his court to Málaga and declared the city to be an independent taifa. However he soon found himself at war with his neighbours, in particular the taifa of Seville, whose ruler Abbad I was ruthless in his drive for power.

In The City of Dreams trilogy, I try to make sense of this very turbulent, and poorly recorded period of Spanish history, from the perspective of what happened in Málaga. As you can see from the maps, during a fairly short period of time some of the weaker taifas were soon defeated and
swallowed up by the more powerful ones, particularly Seville, Badajoz and Toledo.


Ali ibn Hammud al-Nasir caliph of Córdoba 1016 -1018 AD

His eldest son:
Yahya ibn Ali ibn Hammud al-Mutali, caliph of Córdoba 1021-1023 and 1025-1026 and caliph of Málaga 1026-1035 (Yahya I)

His second son:
Idris ibn Ali al-Mutaayyad caliph of Málaga 1035-1039 (Idris I)

Eldest son of Yahya I and Fatima:
Hasan ibn Yahya ibn Ali caliph of Málaga 1040-1042

Second son of Yahya I and Fatima:
Idris ibn Yahya ibn Ali (Ben Yahya) caliph of Málaga 1042 -47 (Idris II)

Sons of Idris I:
Muhammad ibn Idris ibn Ali ruler of al-Jazira
Yahya ibn Idris (Yahya II)

n Book One of the The City of Dreams trilogy, we meet once more the family whose fortunes we followed in the al-Andalus series. Having made a miraculous escape from the besieged city of Córdoba, Makoud, now a middle-aged man, decides to head for Málaga with his family, looking to make a new life for themselves. ​So this is the turbulent city where Makoud and his family find themselves. At first life is good. Makoud opens his own apothecary shop and his sons find work. But when the caliph dies and rumours suggest that he has been poisoned, Makoud becomes worried that he may have sold the poison to the assassin. His eldest son decides to investigate the caliph’s death and soon finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue, lies and murder.
The Pirate is the second book in The City of Dreams trilogy. This fast moving and exciting historical novel takes the reader into the medieval world of the merchants and seafarers who sailed along the western coast of the Mediterranean, and the pirates who terrorised them. Early one morning, the ambitious pirate captain, al-Awar, makes a lightning raid on the shipyard in Málaga and kidnaps Bakr, a master shipbuilder, and two of his workmen. Before anyone can do anything about it, they have disappeared. No-one has any idea why the pirates have taken them or where they have gone, but everyone agrees that only one of two fates await them: death or slavery.
When the young Moorish prince wakes to the filth and stench of his new home, at first he can’t understand what’s happened to him. Where is he? Gradually he remembers what Hasan has done to him, but the question remains, why? His brother is the new khalifa of Málaga but instead of welcoming Ben-Yahya, with open arms, he has him thrown into prison. He can only guess what Hasan is plotting, but one thing he does know is that no-one comes out of these dungeons alive.This unsettled period in the history of Moorish Spain becomes even more turbulent as intrigues and treachery within the royal household threaten the stability of the city. Salma and her family arrive in Málaga, hoping to follow their dreams and make new lives for themselves, but soon discover that life in the city is not all they had hoped; she and her husband share a secret, which if discovered could mean they would face exile or even death. The Prisoner is a fast moving story of adventure and romance set in the exotic and vibrant 11th century city of Málaga.