Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Ibiza

ibiza mediterranean  island in Spain

Ibiza is a tiny Mediterranean Island that sits off the south east coast of Spain and makes up part of the Balearic Islands. The laid back locals are known as Ibicencos and the official language is a dialect of Catalan, Eivissenc, but Spanish is also widely used. It has a hedonistic reputation as party capital of the world. DJ´s, clubbers and holiday makers from around the globe flock here each summer to enjoy Balearic beats, pristine beaches and the warm, crystal clear Mediterranean sea.

The “superclubs” for which Ibiza is famous, are only a recent addition to the island. Look beyond them and you will find an interesting and colourful history, spectacular scenery and a unique community of people living there. As well as five UNESCO Word Heritage Sites.

Here are ten things that you probably didn’t know about Ibiza.

Podenco Ibicenco

Ibiza has its very own breed of dog, the Ibiza Hound (podenco Ibicenco). They are thought to be related to a very primitive dog breed from ancient Egypt, the now extinct Teseme. This dog was depicted as the god Anubis or Jackle Head in Egyptian art and mythology.

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Podencos are very elegant and highly intelligent, similar in build to the Greyhound. They have an aloof, wild temperament and can be difficult to domesticate. They are extraordinary escape artists that can clear a two meter fence in one effortless, graceful leap! The locals still keep them in packs and use them to hunt rabbits. They are very proud of their hounds and have honoured them with a huge monument in the city of Ibiza.

Ibiza Claims To Be the Home Of Christopher Columbus

Upon entering the port town of San Antonio, drivers on the roundabout are greeted by a huge egg monument. In the hollowed out centre of the egg sits the Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus´ fleet that voyaged to the Americas in 1492.

The historians and local government of Ibiza are all convinced that the island was his birthplace. The Christopher Columbus Museum in Ibiza Town contains documents and artefacts that can apparently prove this. There is also a Christopher Columbus of Ibiza Association who are constantly researching and are determined to prove that Columbus was Ibicenc.

The birthplace of Columbus is heavily disputed amongst historians. Traditionally he was thought to be Italian however, more recently, evidence is implying that this may not be the case. Samples of his handwriting that have been analysed are suggesting that Columbus may well have been Spanish or more specifically Catalan.

Mythical Island

Ibiza has its very own God, Bes and Goddess, Tanit. Both of them are still commonly recognised and paid tribute to all over the island. You can find their names everywhere, on hotels, bars, restaurants, even driving schools have been named after them.

Bes is a short, stout, goblin like ancient Egyptian God. He is associated with war, protection and also, very fitting for Ibiza, singing, dancing, music and good times. He came here with the Phoenicians in around 650BC and they named the island after him, “iboism¨ the island of Bes.

Tanit was brought to Ibiza by the Carthagens in around 550BC. She was their protector, Goddess of war sex and fertility. A strong, hard lady that you wouldn’t want to mess with. Though the island was named after Bes, it was Tanit who was more widely worshipped here, she even had her own temple. Discovered in 1907, Es Culleram, nestled in the hills, a natural cave that contained hundreds of statuettes of her bust as well as an alter and quite a lot of charred bones. People still pilgrimage here to leave offerings to Tanit, on the shrine inside.

On the south west coast of Ibiza, a majestic 400 meter high rock projects dramatically from the sea. This is the mystical rock called Es Vedra, shrouded in rumours and legends. It’s apparently a hotspot for UFO sightings, the birthplace of Tanit, third most magnetic point on earth, the lost city of Atlantis, featured in Homers Odyssey and home to a giant. All of which are disappointingly unproven but do provoke the curiosity as to why it has gained such legendary status.

White Gold

Long before the concept of tourism had been imagined, there was one source of income that Ibiza could always depend on, harvested from the surrounding sea in breathtakingly beautiful marshes. For many centuries the islands main export and income was salt, White gold.

It was the Phoenicians as far back as 600BC that constructed the salt marshes that are still being used today. In 1235AD, the Salinas salt marshes were producing 25000 tonnes of salt. The worldwide demand for salt was huge at this time because without refrigeration, salt was one of the only ways to preserve food.
In 1999 due to its outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity, Salinas was awarded the status of UNESCO world heritage status.

Stunningly Beautiful Nature

Considering the tiny size of Ibiza, just 20 kilometres by 40, and the amount of tourists that pass through each year, it surprisingly manages to maintain a pristine and abundant countryside.

A short venture from any of the towns or resorts brings you into rolling, rustic Spanish countryside with pine clad hills and cultivated, terraces. The earth is arid and orange but so fertile that it support an array of tress such as olive, almond, fig, lemon, carob and an abundance of wild Green herbs. There are numerous walking and cycling paths to enjoy.

The immaculate and beautiful shores of Ibiza owe their thanks to a special sea grass, the Posidonia Oceanic. This sea grass plays a vital role in keeping the Mediterranean clean by acting as a filter system. Ibiza boasts the oldest and largest colony of this plant and it plays such an important role for the whole of the Mediterranean that it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.

The Hippie Trail

In the 1960s freethinkers and non-conformists from the western world began in droves to cast away their shackles of society and set out on a pilgrimage to the east. For many the destination was India. They were seeking spiritual inspiration and a new, peaceful way of living. The journeys were made overland and involved hitch hiking, Volkswagen Busses, Jeeps and motorbikes. Often travellers would take years to complete the trail, often becoming waylaid in exotic places along the way. Ibiza became one of those places.

It was in the early seventies that the “hairy ones” as noted by a local newspaper at that time, started to arrive in large numbers. They chose to settle here for many reasons, one being the abundance of cheap farm houses to rent, the climate and of course the isolated, untouched and beautiful countryside. They were warmly embraced by the locals and were even given their own space to set up market, selling their alluring trinkets and fabrics from the east, In 1973, Punta Arabi an Es Canar the first Hippy market of Ibiza was born and is still growing and thriving today.

The modern day hippy movement saw its decline with the arrival of the Super clubs and VIP culture in the late nineties. However it does still exist and the Hairy Ones can still be found living a peaceful life in the tranquil countryside in the north of the island.

Snake Invasion

Throughout the ages Ibiza held a reputation for being a safe island, free from any poisonous plants and animals such as snakes and scorpions. Until very recently Ibiza and small neighbouring island, Formentera remained the only two of sixty three Mediterranean Islands that were snake free. They ceased to hold this title in 2003 when the Horseshoe Whip snake was discovered in Ibiza. Theses serpents were almost certainly introduces as stowaways, hidden amongst the roots of old Olive Trees that were being imported for landscape gardening projects. Two other snakes have also been identified as new residents, the ladder Snake and the Montpellier Snake. All of the snakes are non-aggressive or venomous to humans.

Without any natural predators on the island, the snake community is thriving but unfortunately they are thriving on the islands lizard community. The Ibiza Wall Lizard provides around fifty percent of the snakes diet. The local government are trying desperately to alleviate the problem with a snake trapping scheme but so far, the snake numbers are increasing.

Diverse History

One of the downsides to being a tiny Island dotted conveniently along a trade route, is that almost every passer-by would try to rape, pillage, plunder and claim ownership. Ibiza has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Carthagens, Romans, Vandals, Moors, Vikings, Pirates, Catalonia and eventually Spain. Each empire has left its traces here that can still be seen today. The Moors introduced irrigation systems and Architecture, The Romans roads and Agricultural farming and the Phoenicians their salt marshes.

There are many historical features Scattered all over the island. Three of which hold UNESCO world heritage status: – Dalt Villa, a defence fortress and the Old Town of Ibiza for their fine examples of Roman, Arab and Spanish architecture. Each part improved upon by the victorious new occupants, and Sa Caleta, ancient ruins of a Phoenician settlement has provided a unique window of insight as to what life was for the Phoenicians of that era.

Walking through the villages and countryside of Ibiza will reveal architecture of defence. Churches are built like small fortress, equipped to contain the villagers for days at a time if they were under attack and Old farmhouses with meter thick walls and tiny windows, often surrounded by cactuses to keep the pirates out

Creative Culture

Before the arrival of the hippies in the 60´s, Ibiza had already become a safe haven for Avant garde artists and writers as early as the 1930´s. This was a time when war and fascism were rousing across Europe. Ibiza became a sanctuary and the locals embraced the birth of modern tourism.

Some of these early Bohemian visitors were in exile, including German Philosopher Walter Benjamin and Erwin Broner, painter and Architect. Examples of his architecture can be found on the island as well as a museum dedicated to his life and Works. In 1961, famous art forger Elmyr De Hory, portrayed in the Orson Wells documentary F for Fake, fled from the United States to Ibiza.

In the late sixties, Pink Floyd spent a summer on the island while the iconic movie More, for which they were providing the soundtrack, was being filmed. The movie contains a whole album of their music.

The Islands creative community has grown immensely over the years and is home to many artists, writers, musicians, designers, jewellery makers and other creatives. All drawing inspiration from the landscape and community around them.

Modern Tourism

Because of its location, Ibiza has always played host to passing visitors. However the rise of commercial tourism began in 1933 when the first hotel was opened. Twenty years later, tourism throughout Spain was blooming. People were flocking to enjoy cheap seaside holidays in the lazy hot climate and the locals were enjoying the financial benefits that came with this.

The sixties and seventies came with an influx of hippy tourists and then the eighties saw the rise of the super club, superstar DJs and party people. Ibiza always had a party scene, world famous nightclub Pacha was opened there in 1973. But by the time the nighties had arrived Ibiza was home to seven super clubs, including the world’s biggest, Privilege, which has a 10000 person capacity.

The beginning of the new millennium saw a rise in demand for luxury accommodation to support the growing number of VIP visitors to the island. Extravagant villas and luxury yachts began to infiltrate the landscape, making Ibiza now one of the most expensive places to stay in Spain.

Despite the rise in prices, Ibiza’s tourism is growing each year. In 2017 over three million people holidayed there, providing seventy five percent of the local income. This tiny island that depends on underground reservoirs and sea water distillation for its water supply, is being put under a lot of pressure. The government have introduce an Eco tax to tourists to be invested in sustainable tourism. It is a seasonal island which means that in the winter months the tourists depart and the island shuts down. Leaving, in peace the 15000 winter residents of locals and ex patriots.

Guest Author : Tanya Taylor
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