Tarifa in Andalusia, Spain is a small town in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, on the southernmost coast of Spain. The town is located on the Costa de la Luz (“coast of light“) and across the Straits of Gibraltar facing Morocco.
At exactly 36 degrees latitude, it is the southernmost point of the European continent, situated south of both African capital cities of Tunis and Algiers.
The municipality includes Punta de Tarifa, the southernmost point in continental Europe. There are several villages which depend economically on Tarifa in the municipality, including Tahivilla, Facinas, and Bolonia
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It used to be thought that Tarifa was once the site of the Roman settlement of Julia Transducta (also known as Julia Joza, or just Transducta). However, that settlement is now thought to have been where Algeciras now stands, while Tarifa may have been the site of the settlement of Mellaria. Tarifa was given its present name after the attack of Tarif ibn Malik in 710, a Berber military commander of Musa bin Nusayr.
The village of Bolonia near Tarifa was also populated in Roman times (called Baelo Claudia). Roman ruins still exist near the village today.
After the Islamic conquest of southern Spain, the city was fortified starting from the 10th century. Later Tarifa was held by the taifa of Algeciras (1031) and by that of Seville (1057), and subsequently by the Almoravids. After the latter’s fall, it lived a short period under another taifa of Algeciras (1231), until becoming part of the Kingdom of Granada. In 1292 it was conquered by Sancho IV of Castile, and two years later it resisted a siege by North African Islamic troops. The town resisted another siege in 1340 from Moroccan troops, eventually leading to the Battle of Río Salado.
In 1514 it become the seat of marquisate including also Bornos, Espera and Alcalá de los Gazules. In the course of the Peninsular War, Tarifa was besieged by French troops on 20 December 1810, and again on 18 October 1811. In both of these cases the town was defended by British troops from Gibraltar as the Spanish and British were allies against the French. In 1811 there were 3,000 defending troops with 1,200 of those British including Colonel Charles Holloway who as commanding Royal Engineer made improvements to Taerif’a defences. On 19 December the town was attacked again by General Laval who bomarded the town over Christmas to the point where surrender was demanded on the 30 December. Both the British and Spanish commanders refused to comply and their defiance was rewarded by rain that started the next day. By 5 January the attacking force realised that their powder was wet and their guns were bogged down in mud, and retreated.