On a recent 2-month trip around Spain, I had the great pleasure of staying 4 nights in Cordoba. And even though its tight neighborhoods had me longing for wide open spaces, the whole experience gave me the big-world view of how Spain became Spain. Here’s what I found out:
- Over the course of 2,000 years, Cordoba had been ruled by Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Moors, and Christians.
- After the Moors took power in 711, Cordoba became the largest and most influential city in Europe, boasting 1 million inhabitants. Other large cities barely topped 50,000.
The Great Mosque, or Mezquita, was built in the 10th
- Cordoba attracted the brightest and most sophisticated people from around the world at that time. Commerce, education, and culture flourished. Leather, metal work, textiles, and glazed tiles were specialties.
- Moors brought with them a wide variety of agricultural gems, such as oranges, lemons, limes, watermelons, figs, pomegranates, almonds, bananas, artichokes, eggplants, spinach, and sugar-cane.
- Cordoba was the first city in Europe to have lighted streets and indoor plumbing.
- Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures coexisted in harmony for centuries.
So what struck me the most – and was my Ah Ha moment – was that the Moorish/Muslim influence is the flavor that makes all of Spain different from other European countries. First of all, remnants of the tight windowless neighborhoods are still present in most villages in Spain, but with a twist. Yes, high adobe walls surround inner courtyards, reflecting Moroccan towns, but windows with balconies look out, mixing the European tradition.
Moorish rule in Spain also left behind the cultural flavor. Deep passion for intellectual pursuits across religious boundaries encouraged all. Cordoba was the epicenter of modern everything in the 10th Century, and the acceptance of all religions gave Spain that greatest of all gifts – freedom to be who you are.
Philosopher Ibn Rushd, born in Cordoba, translated Aristotle’s works while commenting on them. His works were treasured for 400 years by Muslims and Christians alike.
Moises Maimonides, Jewish philosopher and doctor, also wrote influential works in law and ethics.
In short, the Moorish influence in Spain runs deep, providing a most unique culture.
I’m so fortunate to travel the world. What it gives back to me is infinite — the sociological concepts and history, culture, beauty, and personalities. Thank you Cordoba!
Wishing you safe and happy travels always and all ways,