Powerful Muslim Woman Pirate Queen

Anna – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian where, I your host, Anna Komnene will guide you through some remarkable history with the aid of our extremely educated staff.  With us we have Pine Leaf Woman, Cleopatra and Matilda of Tuscany. We have an excellent topic for you today. We’re discussing two powerful Muslim women.

Here is Sayyida al Hurra, a Muslim woman pirate queen. You have to be a whole lot of awesome to be a Muslim woman pirate queen.

Here is Sayyida al Hurra, a Muslim woman pirate queen. You have to be a whole lot of awesome to be a Muslim woman pirate queen.

Pine Leaf Woman – I was invited here by Zach. Where is he?

Anna – I think he’s off finishing one of his silly novels. Don’t worry about him.

Cloepatra – My schedule says that there’s Gaspar and Olga are supposed to be here. I so long to see Gaspar. He took me to dinner last week, but alas, he has not written me since. Have you seen him?

Anna – Haven’t seen him. This is girl’s night.  Anyway, let’s get busy.  The first woman of today’s discussion is a Muslim woman who was a queen and a pirate. Her name was Sayyida al Hurra.  That’s not her name. We don’t actually know her real name. It’s a title that means “Noble Lady.” Hurra is a title that means “queen” and she was the last woman to bare this title. She was a queen that ruled in her own right and also a very successful pirate.

Pine – She was born in 1485 and lived in Granada with her parents.  When she was seven, the Spanish finally finished their “Reconquista” and conquered Granada, the last Islamic hold out in Spain. Her and her family fled to Morocco where they took over leadership.  I guess kicking out the Muslims from Spain cleared Spain’s schedule for coming to America and stealing our land. They’re busy guys.

Matilda – Hey, I had to deal with pushy Germans all my life. So, Sayyida al Hurra found herself in Morocco and her father betrothed her to one of his friends who was thirty years older than her. Her new husband was an important man and was allowed to take over an old city that had been destroyed years before. They got permission from the Sultan of Morocco to rebuild the city and use it to house the refugees from Spain. Sayyida remembered this defeat by the Christians and never forgot.

Tetouan was a port city that she would later use to great effect.

Tetouan was a port city that she would later use to great effect.

Anna – As her husband got busy ruling the city, he made her his chief wife and also adviser. She was included in the running of the government and she learned everything she could from this. Now at this time the Muslim girls were educated and queens were not unheard of.  So when her husband died, she took over. She became a very powerful ruler on her own. She made treaties with the Spanish and traded with them and made her city rich.  But one thing was peculiar. She seemed to hold a special hatred for the Spanish. Now…

(Gaspar Correia enters the room.)

Gaspar – Hey! What are you ladies up to. (Sees Cleopatra.) Oh, hey, Cleo. I was just about to write you so it’s lucky I ran into you!

Cleopatra – We were just discussing our hatred for the Portuguese.

Gaspar – Hey, don’t be like that. I just didn’t want to seem clingy.

Cleopatra – I like clingy.

Anna – (clears throat) So…anyway. Gaspar, now that you’re here, maybe you can tell us a little about the Reconquista.

Gaspar – It was a terrible war. We added the Spanish with our werewolf shock troops. We sent the wild berzerking wolfmen out first to soften up the enemy’s front line while the Spanish troops moved in with flintlocks and pikes.

Anna - Gaspar, that's not a werewolf, that's a shaved bear. Gaspar - What? No...it's a werewolf from mankind's nightmares.

Anna – Gaspar, that’s not a werewolf, that’s a shaved bear.
Gaspar – What? No…it’s a werewolf from mankind’s nightmares.

Cleopatra – We’ll talk later, Gaspar, over a lobster dinner. Back to Sayyida. Now that she was in charge of tetouan she began to plot her revenge. She started using the money she got from trading with Spain to buy ships and hire crews. She slowly built up her fleet and when she was ready, she launched her fleet of corsairs. Her ships became the scourge of the western Mediterranean.  She even paired up and fist bumped Barbarossa, the most fearsome Pirate in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Spanish couldn't go anywhere without facing these gangsters of the sea.

The Spanish couldn’t go anywhere without facing these gangsters of the sea.

Pine – This wasn’t just about getting money either. Sayyida considered it a war against her arch enemy, the Spanish Christians. They took her home and she was going to make them pay. It was a slow burn, undeclared Jihad. She became so famous that the king of Morocco married her, but he had to go to her city and marry her there. It was the first and only time a king of Morocco had to leave his city to get married. Yes, this lady was a tough woman that fought for what she wanted. I admire her.

Gaspar – I think you do more than admire, Pine Leaf Woman.

Cleopatra – She was my kind of woman. Me and her would have made a great team. We could have beaten those Romans and ruled North Africa without anyone else.

Matilda – I try to stay away from the ocean. I like to stay on land, thank you very much.  But still, I’d invite her over any time. We’ll watch Brides Maids, eat ice cream and I’d take her shooting.

Anna – Maybe we’ll have her on as a guest panelist some times.

Gaspar – Well, that’s it for today. I was going to go have hot pockets with Caesar, but lobster with Cleopatra sounds much more inviting. We’ll see you all next time.

Don't forget to check out Zach's post apocalyptic book, "Sins of Prometheus." Available on Amazon.com

Don’t forget to check out Zach’s post apocalyptic book, “Sins of Prometheus.” Available on Amazon.com






4 comments on “Powerful Muslim Woman Pirate Queen

  1. I always love these discussions but this one seemed a little… short. I would have appreciated a little more about the actual damage she inflicted, the length of her piracy campaign and exactly what was the outcome of it. I can’t imagine the Spanish just sat and took it, what was their response?

  2. Jake says:

    al Hurra must have been at least moderately successful in her campaign, because the pirate groups she ran with would become known as the Barbary Pirates and were still on the upswing when she vanished. They were terrifying, and not just after shiny things: capturing slaves for sale to the Ottoman Empire was where the real money was.

    Spain didn’t exactly sit back and take it, but their response was… Well, they negotiated with the pirates and paid ransoms. All the same to the pirates, of course: if Madrid can make a better offer than Constantinople, then sure, a buck’s a buck.

    Spain was on the upswing as well, as this was about the time when Conquistador operations were in high gear – Hernan Cortes was apparently almost exactly the same age as al Hurra – so Spain had cash to work with. When al Hurra vanished, the Spanish Armada was forty years in the future, though, and Spanish sailors at the time kind of sucked. On top of that, the Spanish Empire was tussling directly with the Ottomans for control of the Mediterranean, and dealing with the viper’s nest that was Renaissance Europe. They might not have had many effective options.

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