The Sohail castle located in the municipality of Fuengirola on a promontory next to the coastline. In its surroundings there are Phoenician, Punic and Roman remains. The fortress, which in its Arabic origin dates from the 10th century, has undergone numerous modifications to this day. At present it is a key tourist spot for Fuengirola, where in addition to highlighting its historical and cultural heritage, different events such as parties and concerts are held.
Sohail Castle is located at the mouth of the Fuengirola river, located on a hill 38 meters high above sea level. The good geographical and climatic conditions of the place allowed human settlement, and it is precisely in this space where the oldest remains known to date in the history of Fuengirola have been located, since its antiquity dates back to the colonization of the Phoenicians in the 6th century BC.C. and to the later Carthaginian and Roman presence, the settlement being then known by the name of “Suel”. These remains are found near the beach, where you can see some salting pools dating from the first centuries of Roman rule, and which continued in use during the 4th and 5th centuries AD. as shown by the remains of walls from this time that rise above the previous pools. Throughout this long stage, the settlement lived off fishing, salting fish and making garum, a very popular sauce during the Roman Empire.
With the Arab invasion of the 8th century, the settlement was renamed “Suhayl”, an Arab adaptation of Suel, and economic activities related to fishing continued. It was already in the 10th century with the Caliph Abderramán III, when a first enclave was created on the hill, probably a beacon tower of which practically nothing is known, which served to defend the area from Christian and Norman attacks, which had already wreaked havoc in the area. However, we will have to wait for the 12th century with the Almoravids to see a fortress built with the characteristics of a ribat, which is both a fortress and a place of prayer dedicated to the holy war. From here the access of the river to the interior was controlled and it served as a point of control and surveillance on the road between Malaga and Marbella. During this stage, the castle had inside houses for soldiers, rooms for travelers, merchants, and probably a small mosque for prayer.
On August 7th in the year 1485 (Saint Cayetano’s day), the Christian troops take the fortress from the Muslims and it will be from this moment when the castle undergoes several modifications in its structure that will bring it closer to its current form. During this stage, at the end of the 15th century and the 16th and 17th centuries, it will serve as a fortification and control point against the attacks of Berber pirates and other rival European nations. However, we will have to wait for the 18th century with the English occupation of Gibraltar, when the defense of the coast will have to be reorganized, as the rock becomes a smuggling site. In the year 1730 it was remodeled to house a cavalry squad and was remodeled with a large interior patio so that the population could take refuge in case of attack, and around which soldiers’ homes, warehouses, a church and the warden’s house were distributed. In this remodeling, numerous materials are used with medium-sized stones for the lower parameter and mortar and brick wall for the rest of the construction.
Already in the early nineteenth century and in the context of the Napoleonic wars, the battle of Fuengirola (October 14 and 15, in teh year 1810) took place, a battle framed within the Spanish war of independence against the Napoleonic Empire. In this battle the allied forces of the Spanish and the British face the French and a Polish garrison, the Spanish-British coalition being defeated. As a consequence of this confrontation, the fortress loses one of its towers and part of the walls. Late in the 19th century and with the loss of its military and defensive capacity, the castle was put up for auction and passed into private hands, which brought considerable deterioration, since when it was abandoned, the locals dismantled all the elements that could serve for constructions, such as tiles, stones, wood, among others, many of them used in the buildings that were being erected on the other side of the river and that would give rise to the current nucleus of Fuengirola, which reaches the rank of independent municipality of Mijas in 1841.
The deterioration of the Sohail castle will not stop until the second half of the 20th century, in which the tourism boom allowed its restoration, use and enhancement for the citizens of Fuengirola and national and international tourists. Both in its interior and in its surroundings, all kinds of events are held, such as medieval markets, beer festivals and numerous shows and musical events with artists of great international renown, such as the events of the Mare Nostrum.
At present, excavation and archaeological documentation are being carried out at the Phoenician and Roman sites around the castle with the idea of highlighting and making known the important cultural, artistic and historical heritage of the area, and even, the idea of creating an interpretation center.
Don’t forget to visit Sohail Castle on your next visit to Fuengirola.
For more information about Fuengirola City: visit the City Council page