Fuengirola (/fʊˌɛnhiˈrɒlə/ fuu-EN-hee-ROL-ə; Spanish: [fweŋxiˈɾola]), in ancient times known as Suel and then Suhayl, is a large town and municipality on the Costa del Sol in the province of Málaga in the autonomous community of Andalusia in southern Spain. It is located on the central coast of the province and integrated into the region of the Costa del Sol and the Commonwealth of Municipalities of the Costa del Sol Occidental.
It is a major tourist resort, with more than 8 km of beaches and a medieval Moorish fortress. In common with much of this coast, it has been the subject of considerable urban development.
The area has a subtropical Mediterranean climate, with annual average temperatures of 18 °C and average summer temperatures of over 30 °C
The town has its origins in Phoenician, Roman, and Arab civilisations.
The foothills of the mountain range behind the town to the south are the site of Sohail Castle, which contains remains of an early Phoenician settlement, later occupied by the Romans, which became a town known in antiquity as Suel. Suel was identified by the Roman historian Pomponius Mela as one of the towns of the coast, and was cited by Pliny in the 1st century AD as a fortified town or oppidum. A later historian, Ptolemy, identified it during the 2nd century as being located in the region of the bastulo-penos or Phoenicians.
The inscription on the pedestal of a statue found near the castle mentions Suel as being a Roman "municipium". A funeral urn found in the same area has an inscription containing the word "Suelitana". Roman baths were discovered in 1961 and, close by, the remains of a Roman villa containing two sculptures, one of which is known as the "Venus of Fuengirola", exhibited in the town's museum. A series of architectural components, probably transported from the Mijas quarry during the Roman era, were discovered in Los Boliches in 1984; these have now been mounted to form a temple entrance, and are on the promenade at Los Boliches.
The castle was built by Abd-ar-Rahman III in the mid-10th century. The city of Suel ceased to be mentioned at the beginning of the Middle Ages. After several centuries, the name of the settlement changed from Suel to Suhayl, which became the name of the castle and surroundings during the Moorish era. Suhayl became a fairly large settlement, which included farmland and small villages. Most of the surrounding area seems to have been used as pasture for the Moorish rulers' camels. Writer and scholar Al-Suhayli ("the man from Suhayl") lived there from 1114 to 1185, and later became known as one of the seven saints of Marrakesh, where he was buried.
In the early Middle Ages the town was set on fire and its inhabitants fled to Mijas. Suhayl became a mound of ruins, and even its name was changed to the Romanised Font-Jirola, after the spring arising at the foot of the castle, according to historian Alonso de Palencia.
In 1485, when only the fortress remained, the settlement, along with the rest of the Kingdom of Granada, fell into the hands of the Christian Monarchs in the final phase of the Reconquista (reconquest). An attempt to repopulate the site with 30 people failed, and in 1511 it was registered as uninhabited, apart from the fortress and a watchtower. Land originally set aside for Fuengirola was reallocated to Mijas.
In the 17th century, once the threat from Turkish and Moroccan pirates had disappeared, a new urban settlement developed; at the beginning of the 18th century, an inn was opened near the beach, offering accommodation to travellers, muleteers and seafarers. A few huts were built nearby, forming a small village.
The Battle of Fuengirola took place in the area during the Peninsular War, on October 15, 1810, when approximately 200 Polish soldiers of the Duchy of Warsaw defeated a mixed British-Spanish force numbering some 3,000 soldiers under Lord Blayney.
In May 1841, Fuengirola was administratively detached from Mijas; at the time its inhabitants were mainly engaged in fishing, agriculture and trading with ships that dropped anchor in the bay. For over a century, fishing and agriculture remained the main activities.
Eduardo Manuel Mendes Necho