Recommended Reading

There is a wilderness of books about the Albayzín, Al-Andalus, Islamic tile work, the Sufis, and the literature of the period. For those who want a path forward, this brief list, chosen from hundreds of books, will give you a useful beginning. For those who want to carry on with a long expedition, see the complete bibliography.

On the Albayzín

The best single source is in Spanish, a three-volume work: El Albayzín en la historia, El Albayzín en la leyenda, las tradiciones y la literatura, and El Albayzín y sus monumentos. All three are by Miguel J. Carrascola Salas. The books are comprehensive, affectionate, and learned.

Albayzín, solar de reyes, by Gabriel Pozo Felguera, is a superb onevolume
summary that ranges over the centuries of this iconic barrio.

On Al-Andalus

The Legacy of Islamic Spain, edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi.
Incomparable. A series of wonderfully intelligent essays on the whole sweep of history in Medieval Spain. A breakthrough in historical writing.

The Arts of Intimacy, by Maria Rosa Menocal, Jerilynn Dodds, and Abigail Krasner Balbale.
A collaboration of three of the world’s leading scholars of Al-Andalus. Brilliant, meditative, deeply learned. With clear explanations of the beautiful art, architecture, culture, and literature of the period, and a searching investigation of the history. The book has superbly selected color illustrations and an invaluable bibliography with the authors’ commentary. A major achievement in writing about the period.

God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570–1215, by David Levering Lewis.
An elegantly written, recent, magisterial look at medieval Europe, which allows us, as no other book I know, to understand Al-Andalus in the context of European history.

A Vanished World, by Chris Lowney. A thoughtful examination of the period by an independent scholar. Useful, witty, capacious, and a
superb travel companion.

On Islamic Tile Work

Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach, by Keith Critchlow.
For an erudite examination of the sacred art of Islamic design and tile work, this is the book. A searching, patient journey into practical and mystical geometry.

Islamic Geometric Patterns, by Eric Broug.
The very best book for those who want to take compass and straightedge in hand and make for themselves some of the complex, lovely patterns of the tiles. Unmistakable, essential fun.

On the Sufis

The Sufis, by Idries Shah.
The seminal work of the times on the subject. This book, and many others by the same author, are available in English, Spanish, and other languages. They offer an authentic portal into the Sufi tradition. In them, a beautiful and useful tradition of storytelling is clarified, revived, and strengthened, and the stories offered have a generous spectrum of meaning. A complete list of the works of this author can be easily obtained online at, for example,

The Book of Wisdom, by Ibn ‘Ata Illah.
This beautiful translation by Victor Danner of a twelfth-century Cairene mystic is full of phrases and ideas that stay in the mind and provide material for sustained musing and helpful conversation.

On Literature

The Dream of the Poem, edited and translated by Peter Cole.
A recent, revelatory compendium of the Jewish poets of Al-Andalus. Essential for an understanding of the poetic landscape of the times, and an introduction to poets whose work is coming into prominence only now, in our times, principally because of the gifts of Professor Cole.

The Literature of Al-Andalus, edited by Maria Rosa Menocal.
A selection of essays on the writers of Al-Andalus, their forms, their influence, their experiments. Such a helpful book—musing, knowledgeable, clear.