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archaeologic

Alicante (province)

Alicante in Spanish or Alacant (in Valencian) is a province of eastern Spain, in the southern part of the Valencian Community. It is bordered by the provinces of Murcia on the southwest, Albacete on the west, Valencia on the north, and the Mediterranean Sea on the east. The province is named after its capital, the city of Alicante.

Territory and resources

According to the 2007 census, Alicante ranks as the 5th most populous province in Spain, with 1,825,264 inhabitants, from which at least 350,000 are foreign, one of the highest ratios in Spain. Cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants in the province are Alicante (322,673 inhabitants), Elche (222,422), Torrevieja (94,006), Orihuela (80,468), Benidorm (69,058), Alcoy (60,700) and Elda (55,289).

From the 50 provinces of Spain, Alicante is the only one with three metropolitan areas -- Alicante-Elche, Elda-Petrer and Benidorm -- even though only one of these (Alicante-Elche) is ranked within the Spanish top ten metropolitan areas. It has an area of 5.816,5 km², and so it has a population density of 313.8 hab/km².

Geography and climate

The province is mountainous, specially to the north and west, whereas it is mostly flat to the south, in the Vega Baja del Segura area; the most elevated points in the province are Aitana (1,558 m), Puig Campana (1,410 m), Moncabrer (1,389 m), Carrascal de Alcoy (1,354 m), Maigmó (1,296 m), Sierra de Crevillente (835 m) and El Montgó (753 m). All of these peaks are a part of the Subbaetic Range.

The coast extends from Cabo de la Nao (Nao Cape) in the north to almost reaching the Mar Menor (Minor Sea) in the south. With regard to water sources, due to the dry rain regime there are no major rivers, but mostly ramblas (dry rivers which fill in with water when torrential rains occur).

The only remarkable streams are the Vinalopó, Serpis, and, specially, the river Segura. Other minor seasonal creeks (some completely dried out in summer) are Girona, Algar, Amadorio and Ebo.

There are remarkable saline wetlands and marshlands along the coast such El Fondó and the former wetlands and now salt evaporation ponds in Santa Pola and Torrevieja. All of them are key RAMSAR sites which make the Alicante province of high relevance for both migratory and resident seabirds and waterbirds.

Important coastal dunes are present in the Guardamar area which were planted with thousands of pine trees during the 19th century in order to protect the ville from the dunes advancing, which has created now an area of remarkable ecologic value.

The climate is strikingly diverse for such a reduced area. Three major areas can be cited

  • Most of the province belongs to a Semiarid climate. It roughly goes along the coastal plain from Vila Joiosa through the southernmost border (cities included here are, amongst others, Alicante, Elche, Orihuela and Torrevieja). Summers are very long, hot to very hot and very dry, winters are cool to mild and its most prominent feature is very scarce precipitation, typically below 300mm. per year and most likely to happen during spring and autumn. The reasons for this lack of precipitation is mostly the marked Rain shadow effect caused by hills to the west of the Alicante province (and, to a lesser degree, those in the northern part of the province which, in turn, enhance the inverse Orographic lift effect around Cabo de la Nao). Most of its few rainy days happen during Autumn and Spring.

The predominant vegetation in this part of the province is Matorral Scrublands including thyme, esparto, juniper and the like.

  • Proper Mediterranean climate is present in the northeastern areas around Cabo de la Nao, mostly to its North but also to its South, in diminishing grades until disappearing slightly north of Benidorm. It roughly goes along the coastal plain from the northern border of the province through the Benidorm area. The north slopes of the mountains in the Marina Alta have a remarkably wetter micro climate which allows to accumulate an average of up to 900mm. due to the Orographic lift phenomenon with most of the precipitation occurring in Autumn and Spring. The precipitation in this area is an average four times the one of the semiarid South, with this big precipitation gap occurring in a matter of just 100 km.

The vegetation of this part is an enriched version of the Matorral shrubland and also Mediterranean pine woods.

  • The Alicante province also has a mostly dry Mediterranean to Continental climate transition zone. These are the innermost part of the Province (for example Villena) and some closer to the sea but at a higher elevation (for example Alcoy). Here winters are cool to cold and a few days of snow are not unusual; summers are mild to hot and rains at about 500 mm average and slightly more evenly distributed through the year than in the previous mentioned areas. The innermost part of this domain is more quite dry while the mountainous part reach slightly higher precipitation figures which allow Kermes Oak woods to thrive, such as the one in La Carrasqueta or in the Mariola range, both near Alcoy.

Economy

The main industries in Alicante province are, in the primary sector, intensive agriculture, specially in the fertile Vega Baja del Segura, Camp d'Elx (Elche's countryside) and vineyards in the inner part of the province (Monforte, Novelda, Pinós), also near the coast in the Marina Alta area. Fishing is important all along the coast, with important fishing harbours such as Santa Pola, Calp or Denia.

Industry has been historically important in the textile sector around Alcoy. Footwear still remains as the flagship industrial sector of the province, which occurs in Elche, Elda, Petrer and Villena, both labour intensive footwear and, specially, textile are at a low ebb due to harsh competition from fast pace growing economies in Asia. The traditionally important toys industry around the Ibi and Onil area is another one competing internationally with those same areas.

A sector which has gained preeminence during the last 20 years is marble quarrying and processing, it happens mostly in the Novelda and Pinós area.

Still, what the province is known for is its massive tourism sector. The Costa Blanca generally mild and sunny weather attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from other European countries such as the UK, Germany, Belgium, Norway or France and also from other parts in Spain like Madrid. Thousands of families from other places own a second home in the Alicante province which they use for their vacation time.

Traditional subdivisions

Traditionally, the province of Alicante is divided into nine comarcas or comarques (in Valencian):

History and politics

The Iberians were the oldest documented people living in what today is the Alicante province. Belonging to these there are several archaeologic sites from which is specially known the one in La Serreta (near Alcoy) because the longest inscriptions remaining in the undeciphered Iberian language were found there.

Along the coast and contemporarily to the Iberians, the seafaring Phoenicians (in Guardamar) and Greeks (along the coastal section to the north of the Alicante city) settled stable trading colonies and interacted with the former (see Lady of Elche for the most renowned archeological piece of this period).

After a brief Carthaginian period, the Romans took over. Romanization in this part of Iberia was intense, the Via Augusta communicated this part of the Empire to the metropoli and so several cities thrived, from which the one known as Ilici Augusta (now Elche) even reached the status of colonia.

After a brief period of Visigothic ruling, the area was taken by Islamic armies and became a part of Al Andalus. From the 13th century, kings like Ferdinand III of Castile, James I of Aragon, Alfonso X of Castile, James II of Aragon reconquered the cities that Moors occupied. What today is the Alicante province was initially split between the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon by means of the Treaty of Almizra, however later on the whole territory became under the control of the Kingdom of Valencia, which was a component Kingdom of the Crown of Aragon.

For more details on the Medieval period, see Kingdom of Valencia.

Alicante contributes with 12 deputies in the Spanish Parliament and with 36 deputies in the Corts Valencianes, the regional Parliament of the Valencian Community.

See also

External links and notes

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