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Statue of Ibn al-Baytar next to Bil Bil castle in Benalmádena. SUR
Who was Ibn al-Baytar and why is he so important for Benalmádena?
History

Who was Ibn al-Baytar and why is he so important for Benalmádena?

Believed to have introduced the lemon tree to Spain, he has been recognised with a sculpture, a school and a park, but historians are asking for more

Lorena Cádiz

Benalmádena

Monday, 29 April 2024, 16:33

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Benalmádena is continuing to highlight its connection to Ibn al-Baytar, considered one of the greatest scientists of al-Andalus and the most celebrated botanists of the Islamic golden age.

Ibn al-Baytar, in Arabic 'son of the veterinarian', was born in 1190 and became a “botanical savant”, a scientist of “first magnitude”, who focused his work on the medicinal properties of plants and whose knowledge is today recognised worldwide. He systematically recorded the discoveries he made during the Middle Ages and he created the first encyclopaedia of Islamic medicine.

Al-Baytar, who is also said to have introduced the lemon tree to Spain, was born in the province of Malaga, and to date, all the studies carried out indicate that his birthplace was Benalmádena, something which the town hall has defended for many years.

It is for this reason that one of the municipality's schools bears his name. It was at the IES Al Baytar that the recent science fair was held, in which the Andalusian botanist was once again the protagonist.

The town hall is also currently constructing a new park that bears his name and which will become the new green lung of the town.

Islamic world

“No one has ever recognised the birth of al-Baytar anywhere other than Benalmádena,” said the researcher and student of local history, Rafael Gamero, who in turn cites publications made by Doctor Kettani, who, among many other things, was rector of the Averroes International Islamic University of Córdoba, and who also states that the botanist's birth was in Benalmádena.

“At that time, Benalmádena stood out thanks to this figure throughout the Islamic world, which was then in full bloom,” explains Gamero

The researcher also points out that al-Baytar moved to Seville, where he studied pharmacology, and from there, to Damascus, where he died in 1248, possibly from a heart attack. Scholars claim that he left Al-Andalus driven by religious fanaticism between Christians and Muslims.

In 1982, the presentation of a book about al-Baytar was held at Castillo El Bil Bil, while a sculpture designed by artist Reed Armstrong was installed on the promenade next to the castle.

However, Gamero believes that this location is misleading: “This sculpture should be moved to Benalmádena Pueblo, which is where the Muslims lived and where he surely had his residence. History must be brought closer to its place.”

This has been reiterated by several experts, including Sebastián Souvirón, an academic of the School of Fine Arts, who suggested that al-Baytar be named ‘hijo favorito’ (favourite son).

Connection in the Axarquía

Rafael Gamero has included data from the biography of Ibn al-Baytar in his third volume of Historias de Benalmádena (stories of Benalmádena). The presence of a mural of the botanist in El Borge (La Axarquía) led him to make inquiries about the town's connection to him. The link seems to be related to the lemon tree, since data suggests that al-Baytar was the one who introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits to the Axarquía.

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