Andalucia is an autonomous community of Spain. It is the most populous and the second largest, in terms of land area, of the seventeen autonomous communities of the Kingdom of Spain. Its capital and largest city is Seville. The region is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and Almería.
Andalucia is located south of the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha; west of the autonomous community of Murcia and the Mediterranean Sea; east of Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean; and north of the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Spain from Morocco, and the Atlantic Ocean. The small British overseas territory of Gibraltar shares a three-quarter-mile land border with the Andalusian province of Cádiz at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Tartessos, home of the once-powerful Tartessian civilization, was founded in Andalucia in pre-Roman times. The Phoenicians colonized several areas on the Andalucian coast during the latter part of the second millennium BC. The most important settlement was Cadiz (Gdr or Gdz in Hebrew) around 1100 BC.
With the fall of the Phoenician cities, Carthage became the dominant sea power of the western Mediterranean and the most important trading partner for the Semitic towns along the Andalusian coast. Between the first and second Carthaginian wars, Carthage extended its control beyond Andalusia to include all of Iberia except the Basquelands. Andalusia was the major staging ground for the war versus Rome led by the Barkid Hannibal. The Romans defeated the Carthaginians and conquered Andalusia, the region being renamed Baetica.
The Vandals moved briefly through the region during the 5th century AD before settling in North Africa, after which the region fell into the hands of the Kingdom of the Visigoths who had to face the Byzantine interests in the region.The Umayyad Caliphate conquest of the Iberian peninsula in 711-718 marked the collapse of Visigothic rule. Andalusian culture was deeply influenced by over half a millennium of Muslim rule during the Middle Ages. Córdoba became the largest and richest city in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. The Moors established universities in Andalusia, and cultivated scholarship, bringing together the greatest achievements of all of the civilizations they had encountered. During that period Moorish and Jewish scholars played a major part in reviving and contributing to Western astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and mathematics.
Under the Muslims, the name "Al-Andalus" was applied to a much larger area than the present Spanish region, and at some periods it referred to nearly the entire Iberian peninsula; it survived, however, as the name of the area where Muslim rule and culture persisted the longest.
With the fall of Seville in 1248 most of Andalusia came under Castilian control, leaving only the emirate of Granada under Muslim rule until it too was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The largest Arabic-speaking population was in Andalusia, which also received Moors from other regions who were driven south by the Reconquista, and although many either converted or left later, they gave the region its distinctive character till this day.
Andalusia is known for its Moorish and Moorish influenced architecture. Notable examples include the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Córdoba, the Torre del Oro and Giralda towers. Other architectural styles include Mozarabic, such as the Reales Alcázares in Seville, and the Alcazaba in Málaga. Archaeological ruins include Medina Azahara, near Córdoba, and the Roman city of Itálica, near Seville, and at Palos de la Frontera, in the province of Huelva, the Andalusian port from which Columbus's expedition of discovery was launched.
The Spanish language spoken in the Americas is largely descended from the Andalusian dialect of Spanish, although the Spanish spoken at the Canary Islands resembles more the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean. This is due to the role played by Seville as the gateway to Spain's American territories during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The provinces of New Andalusia in the Rio de la Plata and Guyana were named for this region.
Andalusia is traditionally an agricultural area, but the service sector (particularly tourism, retail sales, and transportation) now predominates. The construction sector, now growing very quickly, also makes an important contribution to the region's economic fabric. The industrial sector is less developed than in other regions in Spain. As of early 2008, the regional economy is experiencing sustained growth.
Adapted from Wikipedia