Andalusia, Córdoba and Spain’s Muslim History

“The Supreme Caliphate of Cordoba was set up in rivalry to the Abbasside dynasty of Baghdad and was so cultured, sophisticated broad-minded and fastidious a state that for a century southern Spain was the lodestar of Europe”  Jan Morris – ‘Spain’

Although the road was swinging encouragingly to the south it couldn’t keep us ahead of the cloud and by the time we reached the city of Córdoba it was beginning to overtake us.  It was still patchy as we parked the car but by the time we had set off for the centro historico its advance was relentless and it became quite gloomy, overcast and cold and we were all beginning to regret the lightweight clothing option that we had selected earlier.  It was lunchtime so we looked for somewhere warm to stop and eat and came across a restaurant with a reasonable menu del dai at only €10 and we enjoyed a pleasant if not an especially spectacular lunch.

Outside the weather had not improved and we were disappointed to find that one of the two principal attractions the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos was closed for the afternoon so we had to make do with the external views and move on to Córdoba’s Great Mosque, the Mezquita.  As well as being the second largest mosque in the world at the time of its construction this was the grandest and most beautiful mosque constructed by the Moors in Spain and it is situated amongst a lattice work of narrow streets, patios and plazas in the city’s old Jewish quarter.  After the Spanish Reconquest, it was transformed into a church, and some of the Islamic columns and arches were replaced by a basilica and today it is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and the main church of the diocese of Córdoba.

It was getting even colder and there was a spot of rain or two so we were pleased to buy admission tickets and go inside in the warm for a while.  That was all of us except Micky who ‘doesn’t do churches’ so he stayed outside and sheltered from the rain in a doorway.  He should have come inside because it was really spectacular with nearly a thousand columns of granite, jasper and marble supporting the roof and creating a dazzling visual effect.  When the Cathedral was constructed in the sixteenth century some of these pillars were removed which I suppose might be described as an act of vandalism but in actual fact, despite being a sort of cuckoo in the nest, the Baroque structure didn’t seem to be entirely out of place.

“To Cordoba belong all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight.”  –  Stanley Lane-Poole – The Moors in Spain

It took some time to walk through the Mezquita and see all of the highlights and when we left and returned to the courtyard it had thankfully stopped raining and although it was still quite cold the temperature had thankfully risen a degree or two.  We walked for a while down by the river and crossed half way on the Puente Romano, which is an elaborate bridge that still sits on original Roman foundations.  Because of the weather we didn’t really see Córdoba at its best and the grey skies took the edge of the visit and because of that we walked back to the car stopping briefly for a drink and a warm in a café and then  drove back to Carmona.

Once in the car there was a continual chorus from the back seat of ‘put the heater on’ and I had to agree that it was a bit chilly.  We took the direct route back along the Autovia which confirmed that there were no tolls and as we drove west the weather started to improve and by the time we arrived back at our hotel the sun was breaking through again.  We found a parking space; this time even further away from the hotel than before and when we got back Christine was pleased to see the scruffy dog was waiting for her.

I don’t like dogs and there was no reason for me to make an exception in this case but I did have to agree that this was a canny beast.  It was a street dog and it obviously knew how to look after itself and being a con-dog it could clearly assess the situation quite expertly and pick out the soft one in the group who was going to be taken in by its put on forlorn, down-trodden appearance that was all rather a clever act.  In our case this was Christine!

Across the square was a café bar called the Bar Plaza and later that evening, even though we hadn’t intended going inside, the owner spotted us in the street and sheperded us in through the doorway in a much practiced customer gathering round-up routine and before we had time to make our own decision he had taken drinks orders and provided us with menus and there seemed to be a sort of commitment to dine there.  Actually it was rather good and we ordered a range of dishes and shared them between us.  The menu had made an attempt at some English translations and we especially liked the Revuelto de la Casa that had been translated as ‘In a Mess (untidy) of the House’.

When we left the Bar Plaza it was raining again so went straight back to the hotel where we had a last drink in the lounge and a hand or two of cards before going to bed at about midnight feeling a bit uneasy about the weather prospects for the next day.

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El Cid and his Wife Ximena

El Cid and his sword La Tizona

El Cid and Saint James

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El Cid and the Castle of Belmonte

El Cid – The Film Fact and Fiction

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4 responses to “Andalusia, Córdoba and Spain’s Muslim History

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