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Alcalá de Guadaíra: The fortress on the River Aira
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Alcalá de Guadaíra: The fortress on the River Aira

The current town dates back to the Tartessians, who called it Irippo, although the current name derives from the Arabic Al Kalat Wad Aira

Tony Bryant

Alcalá de Guadaíra

Friday, 15 September 2023

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The earliest settlements in the area around what is now Alcalá de Guadaíra, a town not far from Seville, date to prehistoric times, as confirmed by the discovery of Chalcolithic dolmens at the archaeological site of El Gandul. However, the origins of the current town can be traced back to the Tartessians, who called the settlement Irippo.

Some historians claim that the first part of this name, 'Ir', signifies 'rushing river', in reference to the name of the Aira river , later called Guadaíra, and therefore Irippo meant 'the city of the river' in Tartessian.

The Greeks called the town Hienipa, meaning 'underground water', and this name was later converted by the Romans to Ordo Hinipense.

The town achieved importance during the Muslim era because it was located on the river and was part of the defensive belt of Isbiliya (Seville). The inhabitants, whose main income was agriculture, used the river to transport the wheat they cultivated to Seville.

The Arabs named it Al Kalat Wad Aira - the fortress of the River Aira - in reference to the importance of the 12th-century Almohad castle, and it is from this name that the current toponym derives.

The town was taken from the Moors by King Fernando III in 1244. Under the Christians the town lost its economic prosperity, and only regained it in the 20th century, when agriculture was mechanised. Some of the watermills built during the Moorish era can still be found in the area, and because the town once provided most of Seville's bread, it became known as Alcalá de los Panaderos (Alcalá of the bakers).

In 2001, the town hall approved adding the accent to the word Guadaira to make it Guadaíra. This was based on the pronunciation of the word by the locals. This became official on 23 April 2003.

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