IF THE TERM “Moor” seems familiar but confusing, there’s a reason: Though the term can be found throughout literature, art, and history books, it does not actually describe a specific ethnicity or race. Instead, the concept of Moors has been used to describe alternatively the reign of Muslims in Spain, Europeans of African descent, and others for centuries.
Derived from the Latin word “Maurus,” the term was originally used to describe Berbers and other people from the ancient Roman province of Mauretania in what is now North Africa. Over time, it was increasingly applied to Muslims living in Europe. Beginning in the Renaissance, “Moor” and “blackamoor” were also used to describe any person with dark skin.
In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.