Set on the banks of the Río Guadilquivir, Córdoba for me is the city that epitomises Spain by fusing the Arabic world with the Christian. Being the centre of Arab Spain for more than 300 years saw the construction of some of the finest buildings dedicated to religion and education that Europe has ever known. The later re-conquest saw this Arab heritage incorporated into a new Christian world.
Around 152BC the Romans arrived in Córdoba giving it the name Corduba and because of its location became the capital of the Baetica Province. Many Roman remnants still exist most notably the magnificent Roman bridge built in the 1st century BC. Like the rest of Spain however, the region was overrun by the Moors in 711 and the great Abd ar-Rahman I made Córdoba the capital of his Al-Andalus.
In 926 Abd ar-Rahman III declared himself Caliphate of Córdoba, by that time Córdoba was the largest city in Europe with a population estimated between 300-400,000. It was also one of the great centres of learning in the western world with mosques, libraries, universities, observatories as well as skilled craftsmen in leather, textiles and tiles. And important note to make is that Abd ar-Rahman III´s court was visited by not only Arab scholars but Jewish and Christian also.
The Caliphate of Córdoba at this time encompassed lands from the Duero River in the north, all southern Spain, the islands of Mallorca and Menorca in the Mediterranean as well as lands in North Africa. It all fell apart towards the end of the 10th century as infighting saw the Caliphate disintegrate and eventually was broken down into dozens taifas, of which Córdoba was incorporated into the taifa of Seville.
The Christian Ferdinand III captured the city in 1236 and Córdoba declined to become no more than a provincial town of Seville.
The arrival of industry and tourism in the 19th century saw Córdoba’s fortunes change for the better and today is a UNESCO World Heritage City.
A true must see, in 785 Abd ar-Rahman I purchased the land from a Christian community to begin the building of the Great Mosque. The Mosque continued to grow for the next 250 years becoming one of the great religious pilgrimage sites in the world. With the Christian re-conquest the Mosque, instead of being destroyed, had a Roman Catholic Cathedral built in the middle. The Christian cathedral is entirely surrounded by Islamic aisles and pillars and arches. After visiting the cathedral and seeing the changes that were made, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V said;
“You have destroyed something unique to make something commonplace”.
For me one of the icons of Spain and a must see for any visitor to the region
Juderia (Jewish Quarter)
A maze of narrow streets surrounded by whitewashed building decorated with wrought iron doorways, silversmiths create fine jewellery in their workshops, incredible interior patios and beautiful flower boxes.