April 11 and 12
We left Seville after early breakfast in the hotel. We had no time to visit Gibraltar. The only other option was to visit Cordoba on our way to
Cordoba is a small city with a rich cultural heritage. The UNESCO recognized in 1994 the universal importance of Cordoba's historic legacy, and extended the title of World Heritage Site not only to the Mosque-Cathedral, but also to all the streets and buildings around it.
The UNESCO defines the word Heritage as "the legacy we receive from the past, in which we live in the present and which we hand on to the future". The political and cultural leaders in Cordoba, as well as each and every citizen, have been entrusted with the task of keeping watch over, conserving, protecting and encouraging interest in our History. Among many attractions, the most important landmark in Cordoba is the Mezquita and Alcazar.
We arrived in Cordoba and first visited the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
The Alcazar (of the Christian Kings) features a castle, its delightful gardens and a moorish bathhouse. This is a very popular monument.
A Muslim Alcazar once stood where the Episcopal Palace is today - this building was reformed in the Baroque period and was recently reconditioned in order to house the Diocesan Museum. Alongside this museum, the Exhibition Palace occupied what used to be the Church of San Jacinto and the Hospital of San Sebastian, an outstanding construction opposite the Mosque featuring a portico that stands out among the Gothic jewels in Cordoba. Inside, in the Romero de Torres hall, one can admire interesting 16th century frescoes.
Despite originating from the Christian era, these gardens are typically Moorish in design with ponds, fountains and aromatic plants. Adjacent to the gardens are the Royal Stables which extend to encompass the Gardens of the Campo Santo de los Márties.
The castle is almost a perfect square in plan of 4.100 square metres. It was rebuilt in 1327 by King Alfonso XI. His aim was to bring European Gothic architecture to the town. The castle walls connect the four (now three) corner towers by walkways.
The other important historical landmark in Cordoba is the mosque Cathedral in Cordoba known as Mezquita. We had no time to visit it.
When first built in the 10th century, the Mezquita was one of the largest mosques in the world. It could accommodate 10,000 worshippers, being second only to Mecca as a pilgrimage site. The Mezquita dates back to the 10th century when Córdoba reached its zenith under a new emir, Abd ar-Rahman 111 who was one of the great rulers of Islamic history. At this time Córdoba was the largest, most prosperous cities of Europe, outshining Byzantium and Baghdad in science, culture and the arts.
We left Cordoba after lunch and drove to Granada.
Granada has a long history. It began as an Iberian settlement in the Albayzín district. Muslim forces took over from the Visigoths in 711, with the aid of the Jewish community who settled near the foot of the Alhambra hill. After the fall of Córdoba (1236) and Seville (1248), Muslims sought refuge in Granada, where Mohammed ibn Yusuf had set up an independent emirate. Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar to east of Almería, this ‘Nasrid’ emirate became the final remnant of Al-Andalus, ruled from the Alhambra palace for 250 years. Granada became one of the richest cities in medieval Europe.
But in the 15th century the economy stagnated and violent rivalry developed over the succession. One faction supported the emir, Abu al-Hasan, and his harem favourite Zoraya. The other faction backed Boabdil, Abu al-Hasan’s son by his wife Aixa. In 1482 Boabdil rebelled, setting off a confused civil war. The Christian armies invading the emirate took advantage, besieging towns and devastating the countryside, and in 1491 they finally laid siege to Granada. After eight months, Boabdil agreed to surrender the city in return for the Alpujarras valleys and 30, 000 gold coins, plus political and religious freedom for his subjects. On 2 January 1492 the conquering Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, entered Granada ceremonially in Muslim dress. They set up court in the Alhambra for several years.
But soon religious persecution followed. Jews were expelled from Spain, and persecution of Muslims led to revolts across the former emirate and their eventual expulsion from Spain in the 17th century. Granada sank into a deep decline Today it has become prosperous again due to tourism.
We bought online tickets at a premium price to visit Alhambra in the morning session. We were picked up at the hotel and dropped near the entrance. A tour guide who speaks English was assigned to our group. We had about thirty people in our group. Alhambra palace is a must visit placed in Spain. It is not easy to describe all the details of the palaces.
The central palace complex is the pinnacle of the Alhambra’s design. Though the Nasrid Palaces were erected late in Spain’s Islamic era, when the empire was already well in decline, they make up one of the finest Islamic structures in Europe.
Entrance is through the 14th-century Mexuar. Two centuries later, it was converted to a chapel, with a prayer room at the far end. From the Mexuar, you pass into the Patio del Cuarto Dorado.
Adjacent is the recently restored Patio de los Leones (Courtyard of the Lions), built in the second half of the 14th century under Muhammad V. But the centrepiece, a fountain that channelled water through the mouths of 12 marble lions, dates from the 11th century. The courtyard layout, demonstrates the complexity of Islamic geometric design – the varied columns are placed in such a way that they are symmetrical.
Walking counterclockwise around the patio, you first pass the Sala de Abencerrajes . But the multicoloured tiles on the walls and the great octagonal ceiling are far more eye-catching. In the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) at the east end of the patio, the painted leather ceilings depict 10 Nasrid emirs. The European style indicates the cross-cultural foment of the 14th century.
We finished our visit around 2:00PM. We walked down the pathway to the city and had lunch in a restaurant. While walking down the steep pathway, we stopped at a souvenir shop and Mala bought a multi-coloured lamp which serves as a cheap imitation of the lamps in that era. We are not sure how we are going to carry it in the plane without breaking it.