THE SWORD OF ALI ATAR
The Ali-Atar sword is a design in honour of the figure who gives his name to the sword. The figure Ali Atar is surrounded by history and legend. The details relating to him are very minimal and partial. Most of these stem from legendary tales which have been passed on by word of mouth, which has resulted in the true vision having been altered over time.
The adventures of Ibrahim Ali-al-Atar armed with his loyal sword are staged on the lands of Andalusia, focusing specifically on the area surrounding Granada. As the legend goes, Ali Atar was attributed different roles: general, trader, sheriff, keeper and butler.
Ali Atar statue armed with his sword in the city of Loja (Granada - Spain)
It seems certain that Ali Atar began his journey as a modest spice vendor who gradually, thanks to his military achievements with his skilled use of the sword, rose in both power and position. His position as Keeper of the Andalusian city of Loja seems certain, as this is confirmed by the tale written in the manuscript of Don Guzmán de Berlanga1, a knight from Castile. Don Guzmán recounts, in an interrupted way, the events which took place between 1480 and 1565 AD. In one of his stories, he writes about an important historical event, which was the capture of the city of Loja situated in the west of what is now the province of Granada. Loja was a medieval border city, and as such, was an exceptional spectator of the capture of the lands of Granada by the Catholic Kings at the end of the 15th century. It was in 1486 that this Islamic city capitulated to the Catholic army led by King Fernando of Aragon. The battle was hard, as both sides were prepared for anything, however, the superiority of the Christian army soon became clear, and they managed to easily crush the Muslim army.
Alcazaba of Loja, city of Aliatar
At this time, the Nazari kingdom of Granada was a land thrown into confusion by the persistent internal fighting which had penetrated its way into the Islamic power which inhabited the Iberian Peninsula. Boabdil, the last king of Granada, had seized the throne from his father, who the Christians called Muley Hacén, a name which derives from the name for the highest peak on the Iberian Peninsula. The tradition goes that the monarch Mulay Hasan, tired of civilization, ordered for his body to be buried on the point of earth closest to the sky, and this was how the summit of Granada was given the name Mulhacén.
Boabdil, favoured for his support of the Abencerrages, an important lineage of the Granada nobility, and support for its mother Aixa, the indignant mother of Muley Hacén, succeeded in confronting his own father and his uncle Al Zagal. Around 1482 Boabdil was proclaimed king of Granada, and from day one he had to dedicate most of his efforts to defending the kingdom from Christian attacks.
Mulhacén mountain in Sierra Nevada
Coming back to the story of D. Guzmán de Berlanga on the capture of the city of Loja, it indicates how Ali Atar, acting as Royal Butler was invited to a hearing the Christian leaders in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful solution to the imminent confrontation. The meeting was held in one of the rooms of the simple fortress which crowned the city of Loja. The room had a mysterious atmosphere, an effect which was contributed to by the lattices decorated with floral motifs which covered the openings. It opened to the outside through large arches through which the valley and bend of the river could be made out, presumably the river Genil, which the Arabs called Sinnil (“the thousand Niles”) in reference to the multiple tributaries of the river Genil in similarity to the numerous sources which supplied the River Nile in Egypt.
Those who attended the meeting included both representatives of King Fernando and the Arab Sultan Boabdil, however, the negotiations didn’t end in success, as proven by the capture by force of the city. Swords and sabres came face to face on the battlefield with results that were somewhat lacking for the Muslim troops. For the Christian King Fernando, the conquest of Loja meant the opening of the western border which guaranteed his pass to the capture of the capital, Granada.
Recreation of the surrender of Granada by Boabdil
The link between Ali Atar and Boabdil was not only friendly but also family. Boabdil, after returning from the battlefield where he used the sword to defend his kingdom, fell for a beautiful young woman called Morayma who turned out to be the daughter of Ali Atar. Boadbil married her and as the legend goes, Morayma was the only woman he loved in his life.
The date when Ibrahim Aliatar died is placed in the year 1483 AD. There are traditions which state that Ali-Atar died during the battle of Lucena brandishing his sword in defence of his father-in-law Boabdil, whilst other stories place the death of Ali-Atar on his return to the city of Loja after the battle. Whenever it was, the battle succeeded in concentrating more than seven million men from the Arab infantry and cavalry with the objective of taking down the defences of Lucena. This city, located a few tens of kilometres to the north of Loja, was under Christian control, after having been conquered around the year 1240 in this era by the monarch Fernando III. However, the Christian army managed to overcome the Muslim one to achieve victory and capture Boabdil.
Statue commemorating the love story of Boabdil and Morayma located in Granada
Another of the legends related to Aliatar, which has remained in popular memory and which has fortunately reached us, is that of “El vado del moro” (The Moorish ford). This story tells of how Don Pedro Gómez de Aguilar, a brave noble and knight, was captured by a group of Muslim soldiers led by the general Ali Atar. With a strike of the sword the Arab soldiers managed to make Don Pedro leave his dwelling in the town of Cabra, to take him prisoner. The Christian noble accompanied Ali Atar in his return to the city of Loja. At a specific time in the journey, Don Pedro took advantage of the absentmindedness of the Arab soldiers to rush towards Ali Atar. Both fell from the horse and went round the lower hillside, a brief confrontation of swords began until Don Pedro managed to get hold of the Aliatar sword and quietened the Arab.
The sword of Ali Atar
There, on that bend covered by high bushes, they hid for quite some time avoiding being discovered by the Moorish troop who had gone out in search of their lost general. Meanwhile the count of Cabra, who had heard word of the kidnapping, came to the aid of Don Pedro Gómez de Aguilar. The two Christian nobles along with Ali Atar as a prisoner, embarked on an escape towards Cabra, a city which offered the protection necessary against the Arab troops who were coming after them.
During their anxious escape, they came across a sharp rise in the river Cabra which prevented them from crossing. The nerves of the Christian soldiers started to wear thin, with the threatening Arab procession close on their heels, armed with fierce sabres. However, the solution to the problem of the Christian nobles came in the hands of the person they least expected: Ali Atar. The Arab general indicated a path to them that was often used by him and his soldiers to cross the river. Thanks to this assistance the Christian soldiers managed to escape the Muslim clutches. Ali Atar won the favour and friendship of the Christian nobles who would always be in his debt.
Ali Atar has passed through history as a legendary Arab leader who tirelessly fought to defend Granada