Murcia (Span. mōrˈthyä) [key], autonomous region and former Moorish kingdom (1990 pop. 1,062,066), 4,370 sq mi (11,321 sq km), SE Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the present province of Murcia. It became an autonomous region in 1982. The area has a generally rugged terrain, except along its coastal plain, and it is one of the hottest and driest regions of Europe, resembling N Africa in climate and vegetation. However, an irrigation system (dating from Moorish times) and several fertile valleys (especially that of the Segura River) permit the growing of large crops of citrus and other fruits, vegetables, almonds, olives, grains, and grapes. Hemp, esparto, and minerals (lead, silver, zinc) are exported. Sericulture was long a traditional occupation. There is some small-scale industry, including a petrochemical center, and coastal tourism is important. The region was settled by the Carthaginians, who founded there (3d cent. B.C.) the port of Cartago Nova (modern Cartagena). It was taken (8th cent. A.D.) by the Moors and emerged as an independent kingdom after the fall (11th cent.) of the caliphate of Córdoba. Later occupied by the Almoravids and Almohads, the kingdom of Murcia also included parts of the modern provinces of Alicante and Almería. In 1243 it became a vassal state of Castile, which in 1266 annexed it outright.
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