Our visit to Cordoba on Monday May 26 was the pinnacle of our Tour of Spain. At the end of our long journey, both Elizabeth and I agreed that Cordoba, with its spectacular Mezquita and amazing river scenery, was the epitome of our entire trip. It embodied the splendor of both Islamic and Christian cultures that have shaped Spain’s history in the last 1,300 years.
Cordoba was our first stop on the drive from Ciudad Real south. And what a jewel it turned out to be.
I could literally feel the beat of my heart quicken. I don’t know why, perhaps because of its music, but Andalusia has always have a special soft spot in my heart. And I sensed that exciting sights and discoveries were looming ahead.
Even the quality of air had changed. Now it was pale white, like summertime air in Arizona or Western Australia.
We came upon a fork of the road. The left branch led to Malaga. Too early for that. We planned to be in Malaga by May 28. But not yet. So we turned right toward Cordoba.
CORDOBA, HEART OF ANDALUSIA, WON OVER OUR HEARTS, TOO
We had the hardest time finding the downtown area where all the interesting sights were. We even ended up in some dilapidated neighborhood that looked as if still were in the Middle Ages.
But eventually we did find the famous sights. We even got lucky with parking which we thought it was free. Later, we found a ticket in our windshield. 😦 Oh well… another souvenir. 🙂
We stopped at a bakery and pastry shop for a quick breakfast. Then we continued walking in the general direction of where we thought the famous Mezquita, the Roman bridge and Alcazar were. We passed some ancient Roman ruins along the way.
I did not know that when I got dressed that morning in Ciudad Real, but the outfit I wore blended in perfectly with the limestone used to build the great structures of Cordoba (right).
Once we got to the river, we decided first to walk across the Roman bridge to the other, and then go to Mezquita. Crossing the bridge, we kept snapping pictures of the many interesting scenes along way. Here’s a selection of those…
Views of and from Cordoba’s Roman Bridge
And then we walked over to the famous Mezquita. Built between 784 AD and 987 AD, when Cordoba was ruled by Islamic Caliphs, this amazing structure was originally a mosque. Unlike the subsequent Christian architects who inserted a cathedral inside the mosque, the Muslim rulers of the 8th century were quite tolerant and friendly.
Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:
“The attitude of Abd-er-Rahman I towards the Christian population of Cordova was kind and conciliatory. The work of building the resplendent Mezquita employed thousands of artisans and labourers, and such a vast undertaking led to the development of all the resources of the district. Hard stone and beautifully veined marbles were quarried from the Sierra Morena and the surrounding regions of the city. Metals of various kinds were dug from the soil, and factories sprang up in Cordova amid the stir and bustle of an awakened industrial energy.
A famous Syrian architect made the plans for the Mosque. Leaving his own house on the edge of Cordoba, the Caliph came to reside in the city, so that he might personally superintend the operations and offer proposals for the improvement of the designs. Abd-er-Rahman moved about among the workers, directing them for several hours of every day.”
Construction of the Mezquita mosque continued for the next two centuries. By then, it had become the third most important Islamic temple in the world – after Mecca and the Jerusalem mosque.
Indeed, its beauty was breathtaking, especially considering that it was built over 1,200 years ago. Both Elizabeth and I were reminded of the magnificence of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul) which we visited in 2011. Like the “Mother of all Christian Churches” built in the 4th century, the Cordoba Mezquita took our breath away. Perhaps you can see some of the reasons from these pictures.
Panoramic Views of Cordoba from Alcazar Walls
You’d think after something like the Mezquita, there is only one way to go – down. Actually, we went up.
We walked back to the medieval Alcazar (fortress – above), constructed by the Christian rulers of Cordoba. And we climbed up to its walls. They offered wonderful panoramic views of the city, including the Mezquita and the Roman bridge.
And now, here are some street scenes of Cordoba, including a number of women who were hurrying toward Mezquita wearing Flamenco dresses. We were tempted to stay and watch, but this was only our first stop of the day. Seville was awaiting us (and Cadiz later on, though we did not know it at the time).
We left Cordoba with our hearts full of its beauty, and minds buzzing with the splendor of its amazing sights. “The heart of Andalusia,” that will remain a lasting memory of Cordoba in my mind.
As for the sounds of Andalusia, the music and rhythms of this southern Spanish province first came to me in September 2009. It was just before another trip we were about to take to Europe – to Italy and Switzerland back then.
The music that came to me on the steep slopes of the Rainbow Shower in Maui turned out to be “Malaguena” by Ernesto Lecuona, a Cuban composer. It is a theme song from his “Andalusia Suite.”
Right now, for example I am working on new orchestra, flute and full orchestra rendition of “Malaguena” on my Clavinova. And it is in Flamenco style. So while we missed Flamenco in Cordoba, we can still enjoy it at the Rainbow Shower in Maui. 🙂
Here it is now, as recorded on June 26, 2014:
ANDALUSIA FLAMENCO IMPROVISATION ON MALAGUENA THEME (from altzar.org web site)
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Here is Malaguena now as I recorded it four years ago while practicing on the big Steinway concert grand backstage at the Castle Theater in Maui. The “Malaguena” theme starts at 2:50 mins of this recording:
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And now, here’s that original recording from Sep 2009, along with the full explanation how and where that music came to me. The “Malaguena” music starts at 4:20 mins of this video:
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As you can see, I was being primed by my Spirit guides for this Tour of Spain trip as far back as five years ago. Amazing how our Spirit guides work.
TO BE CONTINUED… IN SEVILLE