To fully enjoy what to see in Tarifa, it is important to know something about its history. Thus, in the vicinity is the Cueva del Moro. This is the most southern Palaeolithic sanctuary in Europe. In the cave there are engravings of horses that are about twenty thousand years old. Later there was a Carthaginian settlement in the town, of which traces have been found. The nearby Ensenada de Valdevaqueros hosted the Roman town of Mellaria. Its current name is somewhat more striking: Casas de Porro.
Visigoths and Muslims
It is likely that the town was occupied by the Visigoths. Epigraphic inscriptions in the subsoil of the fortress, from the 7th century, would confirm the hypothesis. Be that as it may, during 710 the Muslims made their appearance. The Muslim commander Tarif Abu Zara would call Al Yazirat Tarif to the Island of Las Palomas. Currently linked to the continent by a road, it is the southernmost place in the Iberian Peninsula. One year later the invaders built a medina that gave birth to the current town.
It was not until the 10th century that the active fishing port was fortified. Thus, the caliph Abderramán III finished the walls in 960. Seventy years later, Tarifa depended on the Taifa of Algeciras and soon after that it became part of the Taifa of Seville. However, after the Battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212) the Almoravids were expelled. For this reason Tarifa became dependent on Algeciras again from 1231.
Guzmán El Bueno
In 1273, the King of Granada handed over this stronghold and that of Algeciras to the Marinids. In exchange, he asked for their help against the Castilians. Sancho IV besieged the fortress during 1292. After winning, he entrusted his defence to Alonso Pérez Guzmán. The Moors soon planned a counter-attack. In this way a siege took place during which Guzmán earned the nickname of El Bueno. Without giving up, in the autumn of 1340 they laid siege to Tarifa again until they were defeated at the Battle of Salado.
Monument to Guzmán el Bueno and, in the background, the Castle
In 1514, Charles I granted the Marquisate of Tarifa to Fadrique Enriquez V, Count of Los Molares. The nobleman would commit abuses against the interests of the neighbours. Therefore, in 1530, the villains asked the king for help to stop the marquis’ illegitimate actions. The conflict would end in 1596, when the Royal Chancery of Granada ruled in favour of the people.
An important location
Tarifa became a relevant position again from 1704, after the takeover of Gibraltar by the English. In October 1811, during the War of Independence, General Godinot’s French attacked the city and were repelled. The soldier returned to Seville where he committed suicide. Ten days later, General Leval tried again to attack, even entering the fortress. However, everything ended up in retreat as well. The Spanish commander Francisco Oliver-Copons would be granted the title of Count of Tarifa in 1836.
In December 1939 the Defensive Plan for the Strait of Gibraltar was approved. Thanks to it all the surroundings of Tarifa were fortified. Today, the town is a mecca for water sports practitioners of board and sail.