Pre-human Fuengirola. / THERESA HENRY

Setting the stage

On 2 February 2022 the municipality of Fuengirola will be 180 years old. This series reviews the rich history of the location, from prehistory to the founding of the modern municipality

PATRICK H. MEEHAN

For thousands of years, people have chosen the location of Fuengirola as an ideal place to live, defend, develop and prosper. A spectacular history has been played on this stage, and this is the story of why the actors chose this ideal and strategic location.

The story begins hundreds of millions of years ago when opposing tectonic plates pushed into existence a range of mountains that included the Sierra de Mijas. Sea levels rose to the tops of the Sierra and fell again until it was a land bridge to Africa that was refilled over the last five million years.

A lower, three-kilometre plain had separated our location from the sea until twelve to ten thousand years ago at the end of the last ice age. The melted ice caused water levels to rise by a hundred metres to approximately today's shoreline, forming the bay that is now Fuengirola. The submerged plain in front of the beach provided the optimum depth for light and oxygen to grow marine plants, thus creating a perfect fish breeding ground.

Between these mountains and the shoreline, an area of flat land was fed by millions of years of mountain waste, creating rich soil ready for agriculture. From gaps in the mountains five rivers carried fresh water so that human, animal and plant life could flourish. Beside the main river entrance, a steep hill would prove ideal for building fortifications close to a headland with visibility of the entire coast from Nerja to Gibraltar.

In a world that would value warmth, water, food, travel, trade and protection, this location was paradise, an ideal location for the Garden of Eden. Situated halfway between two other ideal locations at Marbella and Malaga, it was ready to control or serve trade and travellers between them.

We will never know who first occupied this bay and surrounding hills as populations moved between weather extremes in the north or south.

It will have provided an ideal location for hunter gatherers who became settled pastoralists from eight thousand years ago; we can only speculate.

The stage was set and as the actors emerged it was clear, at least since the first age of shipbuilding, that this location would be inhabited by those who could defend it. The sea brings fresh actors, they may be friends or enemies, traders or invaders, the curtain of history lifts and a great drama begins.

  • Patrick H. Meehan is a 20-year resident of Fuengirola and author of Fuengirola Revisited, a unique book that tells the story of the location through the ages. Feedback can be sent to info@fuengirolarevisited.com For more information visit www.fuengirolarevisited.com or follow @fuengirolarevisited on Facebook.