del 24-jul-2024 al 31-jul-2024

Moors and Christians in Villajoyosa: A naval battle at dawn

Abahana Villas - Typical dress of the Moorish band in Villajoyosa.
Abahana Villas - Typical dress of the Moorish band in Villajoyosa.

How would you like to experience a naval battle and a Moorish landing on the beach? Well, make a note in your diary of the Villajoyosa Moors and Christians Festival, declared a festival of International Tourist Interest, with over 250 years of history behind it.

This celebration recreates the 1538 battle when Berber pirates landed on the beach and attacked the town. In a matter of hours the fearlessly brave inhabitants managed to repel the invasion.

Several Moorish ships under the direction of Zallé Arraez tried to pillage the city, but the town's inhabitants fought valiantly and succeeded in repelling the attack. The townspeople attributed the victory to the intercession of Saint Marta and she may indeed have played a part as luck was on the Christians' side: a flood destroyed the enemy ships as they sat anchored at the mouth of the river.

Modern day Villajoyosa puts on a show worthy of a real Hollywood-style production. The festival begins with a parade of the Moors and Christians, in hugely impressive costumes and make up. Year after year residents outdo themselves with imaginative and superbly executed costumes, with amazing details. On the nights of 25 and 26 July, bands and troupes of musicians parade round the village, dancing to the music and revelling in the party atmosphere.

In the early hours of 28 July festival-goers both young and old begin to congregate on the beach. The air is thick with excitement, almost as if the battle were about to begin for real. On the shore, the Christian troops prepare their defence artillery, mainly arquebuses (17th century firearms) and cannons; further away out at sea more than 30 Moorish ships approach, forming a threatening line on the horizon.

The highlight is when the Moors land on the beach. After a fierce battle, the armies reach the foot of the castle before the Berber pirates conquer it. But hope is not lost amongst the Christian armies: that very afternoon they storm the walls and demand surrender from those inside. The Moors stand firm and a second battle ensues, one which they will ultimately lose, being symbolically driven into the sea.

As this is a typically Alicante festival, the entire spectacle is set to a backdrop of lights, fireworks, sound, drums, and crossfire between the two armies, all at dawn on a summer morning on the Levant. Without doubt an experience not to be missed.

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