Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cordoba‘s main attraction: mix of Jewish, Muslim, Christian history

A couple headed to a wedding on Saturday in Cordoba.
A thousand years ago, Córdoba in Spain was ruled by Muslim caliphs and is cited by many sources (see the notes to the linked article) as one of Europe´s most important cultural, scientific and economic centers at the time.

The Muslim rulers tolerated Christians and Jews, and there is quite a debate among Jewish scholars about whether the Muslims were benevolent, indifferent or worse. In any case, the three cultures coexisted, and there are signs of all three cultures around the city.

Inside the Great Mosque of Córdoba, here known as the Mezquita. A Visigoth Catholic church first occupied the site, and the mosque.was built on top of it.

In the 1500s, after the Muslims were expelled from Spain, a Catholic cathedral was built inside and on top of many of the origial Moorish arches; you can see the mix here.
The Jewish synagogue in Córdoba was built in 1315. The Catholic rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella, expelled all Jews from Spain in 1492 unless they converted.

Exterior of the Great Mosque.

The Romans built the foundation for this bridge 2,000 years ago. It has been rebuilt on the Roman base a number of times and now is open only to pedestrians. Buses park along this bank and discharge mobs of camera-toting  passengers into the historic center. 

The Romans left their mark all over Spain. Cordoba (Corduba) was an important city for them, and the ruins from a temple of that era dominate the center of the city.

Roman ruins in the city center.

The trees suggest columns in the gardens of the Alcazar.
School kids sketch in the gardens.

The Moors loved the effect of falling water, fountains and pools. This is in the gardens of the Alcazar.

Cindy thought the size of these daisy plants was impressive.
There were lots of groups of Spanish students touring the city, and we ran into groups of Germans, Italians and French tourists, as well as a few Americans.

These tourists were speaking French.
 Spain is the world´s leading producer of olive oil, with 40% of the total. Traveling from Valencia to Cordoba, we passed through the heart of olive country and saw mostly olive trees on either side for several hours of the train ride. This article says Spain has 300 million olive trees and I believe it.

A scholarly article I read said the industry is heavily subsidized and producers have problems with soil erosion. The World Wildlife Fund and other environmental groups oppose the subsidies, saying they encourage a monoculture that damages the environment. 

Most of Spain´s 300 million olive trees are in the South. We saw views like this for hours between Valencia and Cordoba.

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