The history of Spain is full of wonderful historical figures, although women have always been hidden from history books, especially if they were not of Christian origin. Today we are going to talk about one of the two most famous and feared Spanish female pirates in history, who terrorized the Mediterranean Sea. One of my favorites is Sayyida Mandri.

Sayyida Mandri Al-Hurra would be the last woman in the Muslim world to hold the title of "al-hurra" ('the queen'). She was the absolute sovereign of an independent domain that she had built with the wealth obtained from the activity of piracy. Sayyida Mandri would also be the first and last great lady of Berber piracy.

The daughter of Muslim Spaniards, Mandri was born in Gibraltar during a very tumultuous time in Spain. Historical sources indicate that she was born in 1485, during the War of the Christian Conquest of Granada. Since she was the sister of a long line of siblings, her chances of inheriting any of her parents' legacy were almost impossible.

The same sources reveal that around the year 1500, when she was only fifteen years old, she was married to a septuagenarian named Ali al-Mandri, from whom she would take her surname. This was a powerful oligarch originally from the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, who had been exiled to North Africa after the Hispanic conquest of the city of Alhambra (1492). This was very common, since it confirms that after the Reconquista, the Muslim Spaniards had to go into exile to Tetouan, Ceuta, and Tangier. In fact, the Al Mandris owned large plots of land in Catalonia.

Sayyida's leadership skills were highlighted when her elderly husband fell ill from multiple poorly healed war wounds and from his exploits as a pirate at sea, where Sayyida accompanied him. Mr. al-Mandri had created a piracy empire from Catalonia to Ceuta, attacking non-Spanish merchant ships that frequented the coasts of the Strait of Gibraltar. With the progressive retirement of the old man, his wife assumed command of that economic empire.

Documentary sources reveal that when Sayyida assumed command, the kingdoms of Castile and Portugal had declared war on the Al-Mandri empire and its commercial and extortion practices. The Hispanic monarchy, through the figure of the Catholic Monarchs, was very concerned since they had just been unified and Muslim marriage endangered trade with other nearby kingdoms. However, her alleged affront seems like an open secret, as if the Spanish monarchy did not want to recognize that a young girl under twenty years old had become a problem that affected the royal family.

Clearly, Sayyida Mandri practiced privateering (piracy for hire) exclusively against rival merchant ships of the Catalan trade, which were rivals of the crown of Castile.

Sayyida Mandri broke all the schemes of her society and her time and established herself as a relentless pirate, a great intellectual, and an incontestable queen. With the immense profits obtained from piracy, he created his own state: the kingdom of Tetouan, which, during its existence (16th century), welcomed thousands of Hispanic Morisco refugees of peninsular origin and which always obtained the support of the Wattásid monarchs of Fez in Morocco, who considered the state of Mandri as a wall against the ambition of the Christian Catholic Queen on African soil.

Thus, the Catalan Muslim Sayyida Mandri was the last Arab queen and the great lady of piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, managing to make not only a multitude of pirates and sailors tremble but also the Spanish royal family of the time, who had reconquered a large part of the peninsular territory.