Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Beautiful Cordoba

When we next find our much healthier traveler... the train is entering the depot in Cordoba. The days are very warm in this ancient city where there are still Roman ruins, reminders of the Visigoths and Moors and a mixture of all past cultures and conquerors.

This is the first stop in "Al-Andalus" (Arabic for the region of southern Spain) and the seat of the Moors empire in Spain. Small city by today's population, in
the 10th century it was the most populated city in the world. It was the vibrant center of education - medical, mathematics, astronomy - and the intellectual center of Europe.
It was a time of tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Christians. It excited me to be on the trail of what remains of the Moors' art and architecture.

You see, I've long been fascinated with the stylized representations of nature and the beautiful calligraphy at the height of the reign of the Moors in Spain. I took an art history class on Islamic Art and Architecture in college and vowed someday I'd visit the region in Spain and now... Wow! I had arrived!

My hotel was perfectly located to everything. It was in the "old" portion of the city- an easy walk to the Guadalquivir River, transportation, and the famous Cordoba Mosque. I had only 3 full days and nights with so much to do.

To get my bearings, a bought a ticket for the city tour bus and a ticket for the ruins of Madinat al Zahra. The bus was a wonderful idea. I saw so many areas and that gave me an overall feeling for the city. Next, was one of the goals on my list.

For the final in that art history class, I wrote about Madinat al Zahra( "beautiful town" in Arabic). This walled city was built by the caliph about 13 kilometers outside of Cordoba as the administrative, governmental and palace for the region and to rival the caliphates of Damascus and Baghdad. The gardens, buildings and location accomplished all that the caliph desired to display the power and richness of his kingdom and more. Sadly, it would be sacked and almost disappear within 80 years. Now, about 10% of the entire complex has been restored. 
A tour ticket to the site includes transportation to a low-build building where you find the theater featuring a 15-minute film with wonderful animations picturing how the city must have appeared. You see an ambassador and his aides entering on horseback completely in awe by the splendor of the gardens and buildings against the backdrop of the Sierra Morena mountains. Then, the scene dissolves and shows the viewer where it is in the restored area at the ruins. Very well done. With those images in mind, you board buses to go to the site. 







On my final day, I visited the famous Cordoba Mosque. Let me say that no photos or paintings can prepare you for its size and grandeur. I was so awestruck that even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. What magnificence! I kept thinking I was experiencing one of the wonders of the world. I shot photo after photo in the hope that somehow I could capture the scope of it. (Everyone who's seen it comments on the size. I read that at the city's zenith 20,000 worshippers prayed there!) 



When the Christians conquered Cordoba, they plopped a church in the middle of it. At least they had the good sense not to destroy and replace it. I'd like to think that they realized how extraordinary it was.




That evening, as I sat at an outdoor cafe enjoying my dinner, I realized that there was one more thing I wanted to do in Cordoba. I paid my bill and hurried to the river just in time to photograph the sun setting over the Guadalquiver River which passes through to
the next stop on my journey - Seville. Yet, saying good-bye to Cordoba wasn't easy. 







19 comments:

  1. You sound very enthusiastic about Cordoba. Hope you get to return soon. Lisa

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  2. Wow R! What a wonderful post. So well written it was almost like I was there with you. I can feel your excitement and joy! Mary

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    1. True enough... I do feel the excitement as I think back on it. R.

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  3. The huge mosque is beautiful. I see why you're so excited to have seen it in person. And that sunset over the river! I'm so happy for you that you finally got yourself ther to Spain.. sz

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    1. Thank you, SZ. Something in me feels as if the discoveries there are not over. OJALA! (Spanish word from the Arabic meaning, "With the help of God....")

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  4. Greetings what cool shots and insights
    till later have a great creative day - Peter

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    1. I'm still wandering around caught up in thoughts of Cordoba after writing this blog. Thanks, Peter!

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  5. I can't wait to see what you think of Seville. I would love to go there. Several years ago, I got a family tree from my father's side and I found out that around 1100-1300, our family name was Seville, and our background was from Spain. Odd. Never had heard that before. So it has ignited a small fire in me. Have fun, RA, wish I was there with you. Beautiful pics, btw. :o) britt

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    1. Hi Britt, I'm back home, but writing this blog has thrown me back into a reverie. Interesting that your family dates back to the time of the Moors in Spain. Wonder if your DNA would show Semitic roots.Might be fun to find out. R.

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    2. It's very interesting. I might also have a Castillian background, too. shrugs. I know that here in the US, we were here around 1625, (Mom's side) so one never knows.
      Anything is possible. br

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  6. I got your blog email and found it captivating, interesting
    and the photos amazing!!!!! I can't wait for the next one! Di

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    1. Yes, Cordoba was exceptional to me. Thanks, Di!

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  7. Beautifully done. You did a terrific job of describing and the pictures, just out of this world. Thank you! Luv ya, MAR

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  8. Beautiful!!! And sounds like an incredibly moving experience! Alley

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  9. Happy to know this bit of history but sad and yearning for what might have been. Thank you for sharing. Jean

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  10. This is incredible! To be a part of history! Dean

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  11. I just read your Cordoba piece and viewed the breathtaking pictures. Wow!!! Thank you so much for sharing your impressions and pictures. I'm reading Why nations fail...which takes a long view. You wonder about the big sweep of the world, where powerful nations rise then fall. So grand, so powerful, and then fall into the dust heap! It's got to be hard on the populations experiencing it. I think of our own powerful nation. Not as #1 as we once were, slipping down the charts, losing our edge. Strange how this happens. Who knew? Who would have guessed? And, you were there in Cordoba, viewing the aftermath 1000 years later!!! Even in 1000 years, these nations did not rise again to their past glory! Time to ponder. JH

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    1. In general, I'd agree with you. Countries experience a Golden Age and then never rise again. However, there is the continuum. Consider that the Moors led Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. R

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