Who was Morayma?

Morayma, the wife of Boabdil, the last King of Granada.

Ali Atar, a spice merchant and famous general, garnered the highest honors of the Nazari kingdom through his great exploits. His various titles include Mayor of Loja, Lord of Xagra, Premier Steward of the Alhambra, and Governor of the Kingdom of Granada. His loftiest aspirations came true when his daughter, Morayma, at the age of 15, married Boabdil, heir to the Alhamar throne. Although exceedingly rich, he lived a frugal life, dedicating his income to the defense of the kingdom.

“As an example of the patriotism and sacrifices made by this rich mayor,” said the historian, Lafuente Alcántara, “suffice it to say that both the jewellery and the dress worn by his daughter Morayma at her wedding were borrowed”.

A chronicler who attended the wedding banquet explained that the bride wore a black cloth petticoat and shawl, and a white headdress which almost covered her face.

“It’s a pity”, he said, “for her features are beautiful and seductive”.

A Muslim poet declared that Morayma had large and expressive eyes on an altogether admirable face and, he conjectured, “through the thick clothes you could guess at shoulders, arms, hips and waist of classically opulent proportions”.

Historians later referred to her as “tender Morayma” and as the ” suffering wife of Boabdil”. Fidel Fernández said that “few women have been as unfortunate as she”. A few days after the wedding, Muley Hacen jailed his son Boabdil and “brutally separated his young wife from him” by confining her to a carmen (grand house with a garden) near the Cuesta del Chapiz. After the battle of Lucena, where Ali Atar died and Boabdil was captured, Morayma and her son Ahmed, then just one year old, retired once again to the carmen, where she suffered “the long months of her husband’s captivity in Porcuna”.

Finally, the Castilians freed Boabdil, who agreed, among other conditions, to hand over his son as ransom. Ahmed, who had just turned two, wouldn´t be returned to his mother until Granada was surrendered to the Christians. By then he had turned nine, didn´t speak Arabic, followed the Christian religion and was known as “El Infantico” (The Young Prince), a nickname given to him by Queen Isabel. Twice Morayma returned alone to the carmen, and again once more with her husband while they awaited their exile in Andarax Manor, assigned to them by the Christians and located in the Alpujarra mountains.

“Now that you have no kingdom, take refuge in your wife’s bosom”, said Aixa Fátima to her son, but Morayma, “dethroned without ever experiencing the pleasures of the throne”, said one historian, could only offer Boabdil her unrelenting  devotion, which had taken root in the garden of the carmen, where she had been so unhappy apart from her husband. From this spot in the Albayzín, called Mirador de la Esperanza (The Lookout of Hope), Morayma spent long hours contemplating the palace of the Alhambra, that in which she was never queen.

They moved to Andarax and there they remained until the Castilians, reneging once again on their agreement, decided to expel them from Spain. This happened “after the heat of the summer of 1493 had subsided”. Thus, in October, Boabdil, his mother Fátima, his sister, and his sons, Ahmed and Yusef, together with a small retinue, embarked from the harbour at Adra toward Africa. Morayma “the only woman Boabdil was known to have loved”, said one chronicler, “the only being who could have made the suffering of his exile bearable”, died a few days before leaving the Alpujarras.

She was buried in the Mosque of  Mondújar, the cemetery to where the remains of the sultans Mohammad II, Yusef I, Yusef III, and Abu Saad had been moved from the Alhambra, as cited on page 28 of the Apeo Book (1577), the mosque´s official register. The body of Morayma was taken to Mondújar so that she could rest in peace with the Nazari  Kings. Boabdil ordered the relocation of certain items to the Alphaqui of Mondújar so that he could pray twice a week at Morayma`s tomb. He also paid the Ulemas a fee for the service of praying every day for his wife in the mosque (according to the lawsuit between the town´s church and Giomar de Acuña, heir to Pedro de Zafra, Major of Mondújar in 1500. The manuscript is kept in the general archives of the Archbishop of Granada).
“Soon after Boabdil had embarked for his exile in Morocco”, said Fidel Fernández, “the Christians confiscated the allowance allocated for Morayma`s prayers. These funds were used for the construction of a church to be established on the grounds of the mosque, which was demolished without objection.” This final injustice concluded the memory of Morayma, whose corpse had traveled in the utmost secrecy, through the sweltering valleys, from the prison in the Alpujarra (the old Cobdaa), through Alquería, to Mondújar.

Francisco Izquierdo, a poet from Granada