World Facts Index > Spain > MarbellaProgress and time--two factors that change everything--have transformed this small maritime village of humble homes into a splendid tourist city that every year opens its doors to hundreds of thousands of visitors attracted by the wonderful climate (the average temperature is 19º Celsius), the warmth of the people, and the renowned parties and nightlife.
Historical District and Downtown Marbella
Marbella was called Salduba in the time of the Romans and re-named Marbil-la under the Muslim rule, and walking through the Historical District is like taking a small trip through the past, where the Arab roots and traces of Christianity come together. For example, the Iglesia de la Encarnación (Church of the Incarnation) was raised just a few metres from the Murallas (walls) of the Caliphs castle.
The streets wind through cobblestones, immaculate façades, and balconies decorated with flowerboxes full of geraniums and carnations. There are priceless tiny, typically-Andalusian squares and nooks and crannies, such as the Balcón de la Virgen (Balcony of the Virgin Mary), set in the window of an old white-washed house that today houses a restaurant.
The hub-bub of daily life--work, business, shopping, and the coming and goings of people--begins in the Avenida Ricardo Soriano and extends throughout the entire downtown area. But calm reigns again once you reach the Paseo Marítimo (promenade), where tranquility, the ocean breeze, hammocks, and tanned bodies are the star of the show.
José Banús was the promoter of all of New Andalusia and of course of the Marina that carries his name, which is one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean coast. There are 915 tying-in points on the two piers, Ribera and Benabolá. In the clear blue waters the most luxurious yachts in the world have anchored and slept: the Nabila of the magnate Adnan Kashoggi, the Príncipe Abdulazis, the Tritona, and the Shaf. The port has been declared a Center of International Tourist Interest and among its many honours has the Gold Medal for Merit in Tourism.
Shopping, having a coffee on one of the terraces, walking along the piers, and, of course, enjoying the nighttime atmosphere by dancing until dawn or drinking a cocktail while gazing at the star-covered bay are just some of the activities you have to choose from. And every year more visitors come, making it a must-see in the summer months for celebrities and people from the tabloid world, including photographers who snap their celebrity shots.
San Pedro de Alcántara
Originally it was named Cilniana or Silniana, and above the ruins of the ancient Roman settlement you'll find one of the most beautiful areas of the Costa del Sol that, at the turn of the century, had a population of 95 and today is home to more than 35,000. From its past, the area has conserved the most important archeological monuments in Marbella: the Bóvedas, the Basílica Vega del Mar and the Villa Romana de Río Verde.
According to legend the remains of San Pedro Alcántara were brought by sea to the shore of the beach here; hence the name. But the current city is a product--and a work of art--of the dream of the Marquis del Duero, who during the mid-19th century pledged his fortune--and his life--to building the most modern private agricultural colony in the country. The colony officially disappeared in 1944, but the original plan and configuration of its streets remains unchanged today, granting the urban landscape a touch of traditional flavour.
This area has wonderful beaches, like the Gualdamina, and an important hostelry infrastructure that has seen the biggest growth in its history in just the last three decades. However, the people here still haven't lost one bit of their warmth and genuine friendliness.
There isn't a village around that is more proud of its roots that Estepona, where despite the tourist boom of the last few years, inhabitants still maintain their simple grace and warm welcome for visitors perfectly intact.
The activities and life of the villagers are centered in the Historic District, where the official organizations, the Town Hall, the City Market, banks, etc, are located. There is a beautiful and well-cared-for waterfront promenade, as well as wonderful beaches with fine white sand. In the marinas and the fishing ports, full of terrace-restaurants and snack bars, you'll find the best fried fish in the bay.
The warmth of the climate, the beautiful vegetation, and the strategic location make this area the perfect place for the most prestigious golf courses, the Selwo Natural Park, and the Escuela de Arte Ecuestre de la Costa del Sol.
History of MarbellaAccording to historians, the town of Marbella was founded around 1600 BC by colonists of Roman origin who set off from the ancient mediterranean port of Tyre in the Near East. They called it 'Salduba' which means 'Salt City'. Archeological remains from that period have been found nearby, including the Villa Romana de Río Verde and the Bóvedas, in the area around San Pedro de Alcántara, along with the more recent early Christian basílica, dating from the 3rd century A.D.
Moors and Christians
Muslims arrived in this part of southern Spain in the first decade of the 6th century and they called the town 'Marbil-la'. They built a fortress here in the style of the Damascus califate and a defensive wall to protect their settlement from attack by Christian forces. The Muslim town finally fell into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs - who were carrying out the Christian reconquest of Spain - in 1485, when King Fernando received the keys directly from the defeated calif, Mohamed Abuenza. From then onwards the town has been called Marbella. The original Muslim design of the old town is still evident today.
The slow course of history
In the 16th century, following the Christian reconquest, Marbella started to grow again - but slowly - by developing the surrounding farmland for agricultural production. New houses and residential districts started to be built around the nucleus of the ruined Muslim town. But, even as late as the end of the 18th century there were only 820 buildings in total, and many of them were empty or falling down.
In 1725 the San Luis fort was constructed to protect the inhabitants of Marbella from Mediterranean pirate raids. The fort was later destroyed by the French during their retreat at the end of the Peninsular War (1808-14). All that remains of it is a tower, now to be found in the gardens belonging to the hotel El Fuerte.
In the 19th century Marbella started to grow more rapidly, expanding beyond the historic old town to areas alongside what is now the Parque Arroyo de la Represa. Public building works of the time included new bridges and roads. In this spirit of progress, modern machinery and new industries arrived. Private capital financed the creation of an iron foundry that employed over one thousand men who came from all over Andalucía to work here. People are often surprised to hear that the first blast furnaces in Spain were installed in this factory.
However, agriculture continued to be the mainstay of Marbellas economy throughout the 19th century. The Marqués de Dueros famous, experimental model farm dates from this period. It was the most important privately financed agricultural colony in Spain and was situated where Sampedrena is today.
In the middle of the 19th century Marbella received artificial light for the first time by means of a primitive reverberation system, but it had to wait until the end of the century for the arrival of electricity and light bulbs. From the early part of the 19th century a number of plans were made to build a modern fishing port, but they all came to nothing until the 1950s when the port we see today was finally completed.
The town eventually started to take its present shape after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). But, it was not until the mid 1940s that tourists started to come here in large numbers, after entrepreneurs like Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe initiated the construction of hotels and apartment complexes. Then the rich and famous flocked to the resort and praised Marbella by word of mouth all over the world. So, in the space of just 50 years, what was once a little fishing and farming village has been transformed into an international tourist hot-spot, thanks mainly to its magnificent climate and golf courses.
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