Come and take a walk around the charming Cordoba – the eighth largest city in Andalusia. It is situated near the Guadalquivir river and it lies near the most important communication routes of the south. Due to the beautiful architecture of Cordoba, it is visited throughout the year by crowds of tourists from all over the world. The number of amazing monuments is truly impressive. There is no need to convince anybody to visit the world famous La Mezquita – the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which is a symbol of past Arab influence and architecture – it is a must-see place!
At first, Cordoba was inhabited by Iberian tribes, and later, in the third century, it was taken over by Carthage. The first mentions of Kartuba city (Kart-Juba meaning the city of Juba – honouring the Carthaginian general named Juba) come from this period. The current name comes from 169 BC, when the Roman Empire conquered Carthage and Marco Claudio Marcelo, the praetor of the time, created his own settlement – Corduba right next to the pre-Roman one. He brought there people from the very heart of the Empire – Rome. Gradually, Cordoba opened to migrants from neighbour settlements and became the capital of Hispania Ulterior province. Here, great philosophers, including Lucan and Seneca, were born.
Although, in the fifth century, Kartuba and Hispalis (the contemporary Seville) had become self-sufficient cities, because of civil unrest, Cordoba got easily conquered in 572 AD by Visigoths, and later, in 711 AD, the city submitted to the Arab invasion.
The Moorish rule is connected with a great flourishment of the city and its dynamic development. In 929, the contemporary emir of Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman III from Umajjad dynasty, declared independence (from Baghdad) of nearly-created Cordoba caliphate. It included the whole territory of Al-Andalus (the Moorish Spain). Thanks to it, Cordoba became the heart of the new Muslim Empire on the West and the main city of Western Europe rivalling with Baghdad and Constantinople in prestige, splendour and culture. It used to be one of the most populated cities in the world with 450 000 inhabitants at the peak (around 1000 AD). According to Arab sources, in the city ruled by Abd al-Rahman IIII, there were about 300 000 houses inhabited by as many as a million people, for whom they built 1600 mosques, 80 000 shops and a countless number of public baths. In spite of ethnic diversity, the members of three largest religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism lived respecting their diversity and peacefully cohabited. At that time, the city gained about seventy libraries, a university, a medical school and they started building the Great Mosque. The caliph of Cordoba, who was open to innovations, issued an order to build a unusually beautiful palace situated about 7 km from Cordoba – Medina Azahara, in which the caliph lived until his death. The ruins of the complex have been included to the World Heritage List.
In such a way, the glory days of Cordoba lasted until Al-Manzura’s death in 1002. This date was the beginning of power struggles and the slow decline of the metropolis. Finally, in 1031, Cordoba caliphate (Al-Andalus) broke down. As a result, the city became a capital of one of 30 small countries known as taifas, the largest of which were Seville and Saragossa.
In 1236, the city was raided by the Christians under the guidance of King Ferdinand II of Castile. They modified the city to mainly serve as a trade centre of baize and silk. The stagnation in the city, created by epidemics and the banishment of Jews and the Arabs, lasted until the end of the sixteenth century.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Cordoba fell into the hands of the French. After the civil war in the twentieth century, the slow industrialization of the city has begun!
… visit some of the main attractions that you can see in a day, taking into consideration lunch breaks and some free time to take a relaxing walk on the bridge. The centre is not vast, the roads are narrows, so you will not need a transportation…. Unless, you will wish to go for a hackney trip.
The world famous La Mazquita was built in the eighth century on the grounds of the Visigothic church with the use of bricks, marble and plaster. Over the next centuries, the Mosque had been rebuilt multiple times. During its glory days, it was the largest mosque in Europe covering the area of 23 000 square metres. When the Christians ruled there, they started to interfere with the architecture of the building, trying to turn it into a Catholic cathedral, which looks as if it sprouts from the inside of the Muslim sanctuary. Luckily, the process was very slow and only a part of the mosque was destroyed. About five hundred columns create unique two-colour arches. You can look at the complete picture in an economical, atmospheric half-light – it is a breath-taking experience. The Great Mosque in Cordoba, Alhambra in Granada and Alcazar in Seville are undoubtedly the greatest Moorish technical and architectural accomplishments on the peninsula.
You can visit the building on your own, in a group or with a guide. You can also choose of the two available tour types: daily or nightly (enriched with visual and sound effects). All details can be found on the website: CLICK HERE. Inside, it is prohibited to take photos using a camera with a trivet. The security scolded me for using it.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
Originally, Alcazar was the residence of Roman governors. Later, the place got occupied by Caliphs. In 1328, it became the residence of Spanish kings during their stay in Cordoba. To honour them, Alcazar was enriched with beautiful gardens and baths. During the war against Granada, the building served the residence of the inquisitorial court. Today, the building is on the World Heritage List.
Near Alcazar, there is a bridge with sixteen arches, which connects the opposite banks of Guadalquivir (the name comes from Arabic Wadi al –Kabir which means a great river). The bridge was built in the first century BC. Later, it was rebuilt multiple times, but the Roman foundations remained unchanged. It may be interesting to note that until the middle of the twentieth century, it was the only bridge in Cordoba. On one if its ends, there is Torre de la Calahorra – in the fourteenth century, Alphonso XI ordered to build the fortress on the ruins of an Arabic building. Today, you can find there an interactive museum – Museo Roger Garaudy de las Tres Culturas. Inside, you will find objects related to the connections between the Christians, the Jews and the Muslim from the tenth century Cordoba.
In 1315, Isaq Moheb directed its construction in mudejar style. After the banishment of Jews from Cordoba in 1492, the building was used for various purposes, i.e. as a hospital for people infected with rabies, Saint Crispin’s chapel and a school for children. In 1885, the building became a national relic. Since then, a series of reconstructions has begun. It Is situated in the Jewish district called La Juderia – known for its beauty and flowery patios cordobeses.
As befits a large Spanish city, Cordoba is full of delicious food. Below, I listed recommendations found on Spanish websites, since I always like to know where the locals eat…
I recommend visiting Cordoba to everyone. It is a magical place, especially after the sunset, when the beautifully illuminated bridge and the old town add to the charm and create a fabulous atmosphere… We would like to return there someday.
Maybe, you will find a map with the most important attractions highlighted, useful: