September 20, 2009 at 09:18 (fuengirola) (, , )

Located only 25 kilometres from the Malaga airport, Fuengirola is one of the main destinations for tourist from Spain and abroad when visiting the Costa del Sol. Being very accessible by road and railway combined with 8 kilometres of beaches has made Fuengirola a cosmopolitan town that has only grown from strength to strength.

Paradoxically although Fuengirola contains 8 kilometres of beach and is one of the prime tourist destinations on the Costa del Sol, the municipality area of Fuengirola only covers 10 square kilometres. This is explain by the fact that when Fuengirola separated from the municipality of Mijas, the town was little more than a fishing village.

No one could have foreseen the incredible growth that tourism brings. It has reached the stage where Fuengirola’s municipal boundaries have been overrun and part of the town’s development has taken place in Mijas, the municipality which shares the largest border with the town.

After the last census, Fuengirola had a registered population of slightly over 65,000 inhabitants of which 25% come from other out side of Spain. Most of this percentage is made up of Europeans (England, Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Sweden, etc…), while the remainder consists of people from Morocco and Argentina. As came be imagined during the main holiday seasons the population of towns like Fuengirola increases substantially due to all the tourists. With both tourists and foreign residents being such an important part of the fabric of Fuengirola, there are a range of programs, activities and groups for all peoples.

One well known spot worth visiting in the Fuengirola Zoo. Originally an old-fashioned collection of cramped cages, the Fuengirola zoo was modernized in 2001. The zoo specializes in captive breeding programs for endangered species, chimpanzee-group research and tropical-forest education.

Although Fuengirola is a comparatively developed resort it does also have a number of historical sites and open parks that welcome visitors. The old port is still used by the local Spanish fisherman. The Arab castle of Sohail, which was in disrepair, was renovated in 1995. In 2000 the interior of the castle was completely redone and the castle begun to host festivals and concerts throughout the summer. It is now one of the highlights of Fuengirola’s cultural and historical scene.

History of Fuengirola

Fuengirola can date its founding back to the Phoenician, Roman and Arab civilisations.

According to historical records, Fuengirola was originally founded by Phoenician colonisers, although due to its location there were probably existing native tribes in the area, prior to colonisation. From what records still exist; Fuengirola was referred to as Suel, a trading post dealing mainly in salted fish.

Several references can be found about Fuengirola, or in this case Suel in ancient Roman texts written by such notable individuals including the Roman historian, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder who wrote the famous Naturalis Historia and a later historian, Ptolemy.

Near the castle visitors can find an inscription on the pedestal of a statue that mentions Suel as being a Roman “municipium” or self-governing city.

Other artefacts of Rome’s effect on the area can be found which include the Roman baths which were discovered in 1961 and, close by, the remains of a Roman villa containing two sculptures, one of which is the well known “Venus of Fuengirola” now of exhibition at Fuengirola Cultural centre.

There are also a series of architectural components, likely originating from the Mijas quarry during the Roman era, were discovered in Los Boliches in 1984; these have now been to form a temple entrance, and can be seen on the sea front or Paseo Maritimo of Los Boliches in Fuengirola.

The foothills of the mountain range behind the town to the south are the site of an Arab castle, Castillo Sohail, which also includes remains of an early Iberian or Phoenician settlement that were mentioned above.

Unfortunately there are few records or relics of the Visigoth era, but this is not the case under Muslim rule. During the Caliphate of Abderraman III, the castle was enlarged. Furthermore, records from the era show that the Castillo Sohail was also the site of a truce signed between Enrique II and Nazarite Yusuf I in 1340, which lead to a resurgence in commerce between the kingdoms.

The fortress has now been restored and suitably adapted as an open-air auditorium. The Arabs changed the name from Suel to Sohail, the name of a star of the constellation Argos that, curiously and according to legend, could only be seen from the castle itself. Sohail (Fuengirola) became a relatively large settlement. The surrounding lands appear to have been used as pasture for horses and camels.

According to the historian Alonso de Palencia Fuengirola suffered a fire in the Middle Ages that led to the inhabitants fleeing to Mijas. Sohail became a mound of ruins, and even its name was changed to the Romanised Font-Jirola, after the spring arising at the foot of the castle.

In 1485, with only the fortress remaining, the territory was conquered by the Christian Monarchs. This was followed by an attempt to repopulate the site which duly failed and in 1511 Fuengirola was registered as uninhabited, apart from the fortress and a watchtower. The land itself was reallocated to Mijas.

After the Reconquista, the new stability around the Mediterranean, allowed a new urban settlement to develop, and by the 18th century had developed into a small village. It was during this period that the area gained its modern name. Supposedly the name Fuengirola derives its name from the vessels used by local Genovese sailors, the Girolas. Furthermore the area of Los Boliches gained its name from the small fish that these sailors fished, the Boliche.

Except for piracy, Fuengirola remained a peaceful village until 1810. During the Peninsular Wars (Napoleonic Era), on the 5th of October 1810 during the Battle of Fuengirola approximately 200 Polish soldiers in the service of the Duchy of Warsaw, successfully defended the area from a mixed force of British and Spanish forces numbering approximately 3,000 soldiers under the command of Lord Blayney.

This was one of the rare instances where Polish soldiers fought against the forces of Great Britain. Furthermore, as another rare instance, it was one of the few decisive defeats that Britain suffered during the Peninsular War. This battle not only resulted in Lord Blayney’s French captivity for 4 years, but he also surrendered his sabre, which to this date is on Exhibition in the Czartoryski Museum in Cracow, Poland.

It was not until May 1841 that Fuengirola became a separate municipality from Mijas and the borders were drawn up, taking into account Fuengirola’s existing industries, fishing and agriculture.

It was only in the 1960s that Fuengirola entered a new phase, to become a leading tourist centre.

How to get to Fuengirola

The Coastal motorway (A-7; N-340) links the town of Fuengirola with the rest of the Costa del Sol. So whether you are coming from Marbella or Malaga, the town cannot be missed. It is also possible to get here by train (commuter line) from Malaga, Torremolinos and Benalmadena or from the airport.

Tourist Information

Post Office
Telephone: 952 474 384

Tourist Office
Telephone: 952 467 457

Bus Station
Telephone: 952 475 066

Train Station
Telephone: 952 128 080

Fuengirola Zoo
Telephone: 952 666 301

Policia Local
Emergencies Telephone: 092
General Enquiries: 952 589 324

Fire Brigade
Emergencies Telephone: 952 461 046
General Enquiries: 952 460 38

Source: Article taken with permission from Andrew Belles. Original article can be found here, Fuengirola Information


1 Comment

  1. Costa del Sol property said,

    Your welcome!


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