Córdoba and Granada
21.03.2011 - 22.03.2011 18 °C
• Puente Romano (Roman Bridge)
• La Mezquita—the Mosque (“La Mezquita” the cathedral of Córdoba)
• Calle de las flores (Street of the flowers)
Today we left Sevilla for Córdoba; we only stayed in this city for a couple of hours then headed to Granada. Córdoba is also a city in Andalusia, southern Spain. In the Middle Ages it was capital of an Islamic caliphate. It has been estimated that in the 10th century and beginning of the 11th century, Córdoba was the most populous city in the world, and during these centuries became the intellectual center of Europe. The city is located on the banks of the Guadalquivir river (remember the river I saw in Sevilla?).
Our bus driver dropped us off at the other side of La Mezquita—our first tour, so we had to walk across the Roman Bridge. This bridge was built in 1st century B.C. crosses Guadalquivir River. Then we got to the other side and we were so ready to see the Mosque-Cathedral. The site was originally a pagan temple, then a Visigothic Christian church before the Umayyad Moors at first converted the building into a mosque and then built a new mosque on the site. After the Spanish Reconquista, it once again became a Roman Catholic Church, with a plateresque cathedral later inserted into the center of the large Moorish building. The original part was started in 785 and finished in 997. Usually a cathedral doesn’t have mihrab, but La Mezquita is the only one that has mihrab inside. The music chapel in this cathedral can hold 150 people, it’s carved by only one man working 11years nonstop. In the old time, people usually lived for 40 years, but this guy lived for 80 years and didn’t die until he finished this music chapel. The columns in la Mezquita are second-hand, they are salvaged Roman and Visigothic columns.
Roman Bridge and the Mosque cathedral
Then we walked through Calle de las Flores, it’s one of the most popular and tourist streets. The streets in Cordoba are usually very narrow and with tall building (considered “tall’ in the old days). This is because Cordoba is a southern city; it’s very hot in the summer. Narrow streets and tall building help lower temperature and form more shade. Every family has a patio and it is for illumination. The façade of house doesn’t really have anything so you can’t tell anything about the family that lives there. You have to enter; all the good stuff is inside.
Calle de las Flores
80% of the roman city wall in Cordoba has been destroyed. There used to be 20 city door but now there are only 4 left. Our tour guide said this is because in the 19th centry, there was a crazy idea existing in Europe—in order to progress, they have to abandon old things for new things.
• La Alhambra
Today is the day that we had to get up earlier than any other day of the trip. Talking about Granada, I’m sure everybody will think of La Alhambra. Granada is placed at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, Beiro, Darro and Genil, at an elevation of 738 meters above sea level yet only one hour from the Mediterranean coast. In the year of 711, people from North Africa (Moors) occupied large parts of the Iberian Peninsula establishing the Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain). Till 1492, Granada has been under the Moors for 800 years.
Our tour started in Generalife, a garden area attached to the Alhambra which became in place of recreation and rest of the Granadan Muslim kings when they wanted to flee the official life of the Palace. I feel that it is more like a summer residence. The plants in Generalife are in pots so people can move them according to how they want to decorate the garden.
After Generalife we entered Al-hambra, a Nasrid “Palace city” In Arabic Al-hambra means red. There are two reasons that why this city is named “red”. The soil of Al-hambra is red and the people that participated in the construction have red hair. There are 7 palaces and 4 doors in Al-hambra. There is one door that is called puerta de los siete suelos is closed forever. We can see it from the inside but not outside, a wall has been built to block it. This door is to honor the last sultan Emir Muhammad XII or Boabdil who walked out of his palace from it. He handed over Al-hambra to The Catholic Monarchs peacefully after his wife dead and it is said that he died very poorly. Then we visited different palaces Hall of the Abencerrajes, palace of justice; Hall of the Ambassador, palace of politics where Sultan hosts meetings. Court of the Lions is the private palace of Sultan where all the women live. In the center of the court is the Fountain of Lions, an alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble. Unfortunately the fountain was not in the court but inside a room because of conservation. A fountain in the yard an Arabic house is equivalent to air-conditioner; it’s a symbol of wealth in mussulman community.
Puera de los siete suelos
Court of the Lions
We were also told that Washington Irving lived in Al-hambra in 1829. There are a lot of interesting things in Al-hambra especially the massage room, shower room for the women. Arabic women have started shaving a long long time ago, back then they use sugar to shave.
In Al-hambra there is Palace of Carlos V, it looks like a square from outside but it is a circle inside which copied Da Vinci’s Man in the Manner of Vitruvius.
After Al-hambra our professor Jose took us to Albaicin, a district of present day Granada that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. We could see the whole neighborhood when we were in Al-hambra also we got a great view of Al-hambra from Albaicin. So there is one thing that means very special for me in terms of Granada. I went to Granada, Nicaragua 2 years ago and bought a shirt there, that was what I wore when we visited Granada Spain. So at a viewpoint in Albaicin I made my friend take a picture of me wearing the shirt from Granada, Nicaragua with the background of Al-hambra Granada Spain. That just means very different to me.
Albaicin from Al-hambra
The shirt in Granada Spain
The traditional type of housing is the Carmen granadino, consisting of a free house surrounded by a high wall that separates it from the street and includes a small orchard of garden. At the very beginning our tour guide explained to us why it is called Carmen—it comes from Arabic Karm which means coming. Remember all the Moors immigrated from North Africa?! All the houses in Albacin start with Carmen del “family last name”. There are a lot of souvenir shops in Albaicin and that’s where everyone got their goodies, lots of stuff in Arabic style.
Cordoba and Granada have really given me a complete different side of Spain, and I find the history of Spain is very interesting. These two cities for me were the peak of this cultural trip.