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History of Sayalonga

Diputación de Málaga

History of Sayalonga

From an historic point of view, the origins of this village are a little unclear, although most experts agree that the Arabs were the architects, as no remains of any settlements have been found that outdate the Arab remains. What seems to be more clear is the Latin origin of its name: Saya-Longa, which means “long tunic”.

To the west of the village is the hill known as, Rábita de Sayalonga and nearby the settlement named, Batahis (Batarxis), which is nowadys uninhabited. The Rábita was a sanctuary or convent of “warrior monks” that was probably introduced by the Arabs from the 11th century on in order to defend the region. The settlement of Batahis dates back to the beginning of the 14th century according to the poet Alî Ibn Ahmd Ibn Muhammad Al-Hasnî, who was famous for his stories about the Holy City of the Mecca and about the two Arabic governors that ruled in Malaga. It seems that this poet may even have been born there.

When the Catholic Kings finally captured Vêlez-Málaga, the surrender of Sayalonga happened in very much the same way as the rest of the villages in the area. Not long after, the village was officially left to one side as far as the authorities were concerned, which caused the inhabitants to join in the Moorish uprising, and to be expelled along with them by the Christian troops. The battle of Frigiliana, in 1569, seems to have been the defining date for the defeat of their neighbouring village. The Lomo de Matormoros, which is located in the Camino de la Rábita, dates from this period as do the tombs of the Moors that have been found in the surrounding area

Felipe 2nd decreed a royal order in 1571 to confiscate all the Morîs belongings and properties and fro the¡m to be handed over to the older Christians who had come from different parts of Spain. These “new” settlers kept up the agricultural activity that had been going on in the village up to then, including the terrace farming methods. These can still be seen in Sayalonga today.

The urban layout is just as it is to be expected of a Arabic village of its size; narrow windy streets with white-washed houses. A stoll through the streets brings the visitor to the Iglesia de Santa Catalina, which is dated from the 16th century. It is especially interesting because of the unusual circular cemetry. There is a farily large hamlet known as es Corumbela apart form Sayalonga’s village centre, and there are sevearl country estates scattered all over the municipality where a lot of foreign residents have set up home over recent years.

The geographic location of Sayalonga has had a lot to do with what kind of activities have been done there from the very start. On one side is La Rábita, which is a rocky outcrop which the village sits on, while on the other is the Rîo Cêjula, which has been vital in the creation of a fertile land to cultivate. This river’s name has often been a bone of contention between the inhabitants from Sayalonga and those from the neighbouring Algarrobo. In fact, things have been so bad that each village refers to it as their river and uses the name that they choose. The agricultural activity is true to the Mediteranean area it is in; with the olive, the almond, and wine being the three most important crops. However, due to the very favourable climate, the local farmers have been able to grow some tropical fruit with great success as well, so now there are medlars, advocats, kiwi fruit, mangos and custard apples as well as the more traditional crops. In fact, over time these new ones are slowly overtaking the old ones in production, due to the demand on the open market.