Early in the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa to the Iberian peninsula. The man chosen to lead them was General Tarik ibn Ziyad. In 711, the bold Tarik, in command of an army of 10,000 men, crossed the straits and disembarked near a rock promontory which from that day since has borne his name--Djabal Tarik (`Tarik's Mountain'), or Gibraltar. In August 711, Tarik won paramount victory over the opposing European army. On the eve of the battle, Tarik is alleged to have roused his troops with the following words:
"My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye fly? Follow your general; I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the prostrate king of the Romans."
Wasting no time to relish his victory, Tarik pushed on with his dashing and seemingly tireless Moorish cavalry to the Spanish city of Toledo. Within a month's time, General Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated European dominance of the Iberian peninsula. Musa ibn Nusayr, Arab governor of North Africa, joined Tarik in Spain and helped complete the conquest of Iberia with an army of 18,000 men. The two commanders met in Talavera, where the Moors were given the task of subduing the northwest of Spain. With vigor and speed they set about their mission, and within three months they had swept the entire territory north of the Ebro River as far as the Pyrenees Mountains and annexed the turbulent Basque country.
In the aftermath of these brilliant struggles, thousands of Moors flooded into the Iberian peninsula. So eager were they to come that some are said to have floated over on tree-trunks. Tarik himself, at the conclusion of his illustrious military career, retired to the distant East, we are informed, to spread the teachings of Islam
After the invasion of 711 came other waves of Moors even darker. It was this occupation of Portugal which accounts for the fact that even noble families had absorbed the blood of the Moor.
From that time onwards, racial mixing in Portugal, as in Spain, and elsewhere in Europe which came under the influence of Moors, took place on a large scale. That is why historians claim that "Portugal is in reality a Negroid land," and that when Napoleon explained that "Africa begins at the Pyrenees," he meant every word that he uttered.
Even the world-famed shrine in Portugal, Fatima, where Catholic pilgrims from all over the world go in search of miracle cures for their afflictions, owes its origin to the Moors. The story goes that a Portuguese nobleman was so saddened by the death of his wife, a young Moorish beauty whom he had married after her conversion to the Christian faith, that he gave up his title and fortune and entered a monastery. His wife was buried on a high plateau called Sierra de Aire. It is from there that the name of Fatima is derived.
The Moors ruled and occupied Lisbon and the rest of the country until well into the twelfth century. They were finally defeated and driven out by the forces of King Alfonso Henriques, who was aided by English and Flemish crusaders. The scene of this battle was the Castelo de Sao Jorge or, in English, the Castle of St. George. Today, it still stands, overlooking the city of "Lashbuna"--as the Moors named Lisbon.