One thousand years ago, the only place throughout the Occident where the Emperor of Byzantium could find a place worthy of him in terms of wonder was Cordoba, and going to Cordoba today is like travelling to al-Andalus, a place that only exists in the history books.
In the tenth century, Cordoba was the capital of the world. All of the beauty, knowledge and love was there, among patios, plazas, countless libraries, the Great Mosque, alleys, palaces and the Roman bridge, flowers and colours... and part of that is still there.
The two hours on the AVE from Madrid reminded me of the journeys along the Guadalquivir that al-Andalus poets wrote about.
Walls, Palaces and Gardens
Simply crossing the Puerta de Almodóvar, one of the old gates of the medieval walls, is like jumping through time. Immediately, you are surrounded by the windy streets of Cordoba, among walls, palaces and gardens. It is easy to confuse the people with poets and philosophers, and cars with camel caravans. Everything is so overpowering: the smell of jasmines and daffodils, the traders hustling, and people showing off the new trends: silk from Samara, glass cups from Iraq, boxes of ivory made right there, ebony pieces of chess from Damascus, paper from Valencia, books from Baghdad, early roses from Pechina, Almeria…
The Great Mosque of Cordoba
In 784 Abd al-Rahman I, the first of the Umayyads, ordered the construction of this Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers, and now it is probably one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Europe. When you go in, you feel something similar to being alone in a twilight forest, lost, but in a way, protected. This especially contrasts with the sunlight and the plants in the patio.
There is a small plaza where the Archaeological Museum is, surrounded by palaces, orange trees, a cypress in the middle, the bust of a Roman poet that was born there, wall flowers and some boys playing football. Among them are people eating and drinking, celebrating life. I suppose there is not much difference to the tenth century.
Cordoba was called “The ornament of the world” and this is still true. Barely two hours away from Madrid by train, it is definitely worth a visit.
Valeria, Year 7