Cordoba is only 90 minutes drive from Malaga, or can be reached by AVE High Speed Train from Malaga (40 minutes), Medium Distance TALCO (60 minutes) from Malaga’s Maria Zamberano Station.
Between 750 AD and 1200 AD, Cordoba was was the capital of Moorish Umayyads dynasty and a glittering capital city and centre of arts, knowledge,education and a wealthy city. It could be argued that Cordoba is a mere shadow of its former self but it is still an important city in Andalucia.
Famous for the Mezquita, Patio Competition (Flower Festival in May), Olive Oil, Red Wine and Cordoba Flamenco, which is a lively women only dance dressed in brightly coloured riding outfit together with Cordoba style riding hat.
Established on the shores of Guadalquivir by the Romans in 152 BC by it was known as Corduba. The river was fully navigable all the way to the Mediterranean seas hence it became a major trading route between the region and the trading posts as far away as Carthaginian ports on the Eastern Mediterranean.
Cordoba was chosen the capital of Hispania by the Romans, but it paid a terrible price for backing the losing side on the war between the Caesar and Pompey with over 30,000 citizens when the Caesar sacked the city. Its misfortunes continued with the arrival of the Vandals and then Visigoths.
Cordoba’s fortunes turned for the better with the arrival of the Moors in 756 AD and renamed Cordova. With the Moorish empire breaking away from the Baghdad led Islamic empire, Cordoba became the capital of the Umayyad Dynasty.
Umayyads encouraged tolerance and the freethinking which established Cordoba as a major centre of learning, arts, and philosophy. By the orders of the Umayyads the old Roman books were translated into Arabic, which preserved the ancient knowledge of the Greeks and Romans in the libraries of Cordoba. Without this intervention these books would have been lost in the chaos that engulfed Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire. After Reconquesta these books were later translated back into Latin, which enabled their transition to all modern European languages.
Not content with merely preserving Roman knowledge, Umayyads they went on to develop Universities and Libraries in their newly created Empire. Encouraged by the Imperial Court, Al Andalus and in particular Cordoba became rich in culture with poets, artisans, philosophers, alchemists and men of medicine all contributing to the renaissances of Western Islamic Empire of Al Andalus.
The building work on the Mezquita, which in its time was the largest mosque in the world, started at 756 AD by Abdr al-Rahman I and with successive caliphs expanding on the original concept. The final phase of expansion was completed by the Moorish warier al-Mansur. Al-Mansur (977-1002) was famed for his daring attack on the Galicia and Asturias which were the final territory still under Christian rule.
During Al-Mansur’s famous raid, he captured the Bells of Santiago de Compostela, bringing them back to Cordoba where he ordered them to be melted and reused in the Mezquita. The materials from the bells were finally recovered after the Reconquesta, repatriated to the North, and made into Church Bells once again. Due to repeated melting and resetting, the Bells of Snatiago cannot be rung as they will shatter, so the original bells have fallen silent forever.
The Mezquita is a magnificent building. Its simplicity and striking architectural modesty are tribute to the concept of simple and pious worship, created solely to celebrate worshipping of god and not for the glory of men who built it. The ostentatious Cathedral built within the Mezquita is not only an abhorrent architectural vandalism, but also a clear demonstration of philosophical differences between the Catholic Church and the Umayyads caliphates. Visit this fascinating place and make up your own mind, but whilst doing so remember the words of advice from Al-Hakam II to his son and crowned prince “Do not let yourself be dazzled by your own brilliance!”.
A short walk from the Mezquita, on the northern side of Plaza Campo de Los Martires, you will find Banos Califates. This the only remaining bath of the 300 hundred of Arabian Baths once in existence in Cordoba. Arabic Baths had a very similar design and technology for heating water and production of steam as the Roman baths. Cities wealth and civility were judged by the number of baths and mosques it possessed and Cordoba as the capital of the Al-Andalus had over 300. These baths were the centre of social and political intrigue, alliances and assassinations.
A little further out around 8KM to the west of the city centre, you will find Medina Azahara, built by Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III and dedicated to his wife az-Zahra. Built with a workforce of 10,000 men using 1500 mules and camels the Medina was a symbol of the Ummayads wealthy and powerful empire. It boasted 400 houses, two Imperial barracks, Royal House, Viziers House, Baths, Mosques, and armament production facilities. Sadly the medina was destroyed by the Berber rebels during the civil war that engulfed the Moorish Empire after the death of Al-Mansur.
Cordoba has to be on your list of places to visit when you make your journey to Andalucia. Cordoba is still a beautiful and serene city, even if the message of religious tolerance has faded, and the fountain of universal knowledge might be running a little dry, but the voices of its golden age can still be heard whispering to us from a distant past.