Sitting on the Mediterranean coast, in the south east of Spain, is another “uniprovincial” autonomy: Murcia. Located in the eastern part of the Cordillera Bética Mountains, or the Baetic System, where a variety of Mediterranean forests, shrubs and woodlands grow. Spain’s largest natural lake, El Mar Menor (The Small Sea) can also be found here. Its closeness to the Mediterranean Sea means its warm waters are relatively high in salt, making it easier to float and a popular spot for water sports. Then there are the area’s beaches, many of which are unspoiled and less populated than in other parts of Spain.
In AD 825, Abd ar-Rahman II was the emir of Córdoba and Murcia was known as “Madinat Mursiyah” (City of Murcia), which came from the Latin “Myrtea” or “Murtea”, from the Myrtle plant which is known to grow in the area. Muslim planners set about creating series of irrigation channels from the Segura River, turning the arid land, fertile. The arrival of Christian forces in 1243 brought the area under control of king Alfonso X of Castile and nearly 150 years later, construction began on the Cathedral of Murcia atop the remains of the former Arab palace. Finished in 1465, the building blends several architectural styles from Castilian Gothic, to Renaissance, to Spanish Baroque. In addition to it, there are sanctuaries, monasteries, and palaces to visit in this ancient capital.
The regional assembly is based in Murcias’s other major city: Cartagena. Its name derives from the Carthaginians, who settled the area in 228 BC and called it: Qart Hadasht (“New City”). Then came the Romans, who gave way to the Visigoths, followed by the Moors and Christians. Today, as it has been for much of this history, Carthagena is a vital naval base for the Spanish Navy (La Armada). It is also a city whose buildings span several architectural styles, from Baroque and Neo-Classical, to Modernist (Art Nouveau), to go with the archaeological sites.
The locals are called “Murciano(s)” and speak a dialect of Spanish by the same name. Its is similar to Andalusian, but less severe. One of the typical dishes is “Zarangollo, which is scrambled eggs (“huevos revueltos“) with thinly sliced vegetables. The zucchini or courgette is typical of the region. In fact, Murcian chefs are known to use all parts of the plant in their cooking. Seafood and fish also play an important role in the local diet and in the city of Murcia, “El Entierro de la Sardina” (Burial of the Sardine) is celebrated a week after its famed Easter processions.
Here’s a video in Spanish (but mostly music with pictures to help with comprehension) about the festival.
For the other autonomies