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, inthe 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.
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 tothe next stop on my journey - Seville. Yet, saying good-bye to Cordoba wasn't easy.