Within 1.5 hours of home I can be in the centre of Cordoba and I often am. I’m lucky, I know. Cordoba is Andalusia’s most northern province. Vast swathes of sierras and pasture land used for the grazing of black pigs for Spain’s famous jamon meet the more northerly regions of Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.
It’s not to the natural areas that I’m taking you to today but the city. The historical city which is said to have been founded by the Phonenicians in the days when the huge River Guadalquivir could be navigated from the Atlantic Ocean as far as Cordoba.
Under Roman occupation it flourished. Trading in olive oil, wool and minerals. Its riches were spent on building beautiful palaces and the enormous the Temple of Claudio Marcelo. After the decline of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, Vandals then Visigoths gained footholds before the city fell to the Moors around the 8th century.
It’s the legacy of the Moors, Cordoba’s golden years, that we see today. The time when Cordoba city formed the Western Islamic Empire which rivalled Cairo and Baghdad as a centre of Muslim art and learning. These legacies, which are now protected by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites are the main reason I keep on returning to my neighbouring city.
Cordoba’s UNESCO Sites
There are four UNESCO sites in Cordoba more than any other city in Spain, or indeed any other area of the world. So why isn’t Cordoba the most visited city? It is one of Andalusia’s top three cities but many people associate Cordoba with the Mezquita and the Mezquita as Cordoba.
In ‘my’ province of Jaen I have a holiday home. Many foreigners visit precisely because of the location to be able to visit Cordoba and The Mezquita one day and Granada and The Alhambra the next. Nothing much more than these two, incredibly worthy of visiting, monuments are seen. Take your time. See the cities. Inhale the history. Stop a while and picture the times when these incredible buildings were inhabited.
The four UNESCO sites in Cordoba that you must see are:
Once a splendid city which took twenty-five years to build, the Medina Azahara oozed marble, jasper and precious metals. In 936 Caliph Abd al-Rahman started to establish a city about 7km west of the Cordoba. An area where the rich, since Roman times, had traditionally established their country homes. Now it’s a museum and archaelogical site that has to be seen.
The historic centre of Cordoba
I always drive to Cordoba and park (for free) then walk over the enormous pedestrian Roman Bridge. Leaving the Torre Fortaleza de la Calahorra protecting one side of the bridge which straddles the River Guadalquivir and walking towards the Mezquita and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos has to be the best view in Cordoba. All of which, together with the maze of narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter around the Mezquita, form the historical quarter.
This complex of streets home to communal houses surrounding inner patios, originally Roman then Moorish are the host of our next UNESCO listing
The Great Mosque of Cordoba
Started by Abd ar-Rahman l, 30 years after the conquest which began the domination of Moorish Spain in 792, The Mezquita is astounding. Great in name and in structure. On my first visit which was near the end of the day, a time I recommend you visit, there was one other couple, several security guards and me. Overwhelming and enormous. Silence prevailed and I was touched to the core. Subsequent visits with family and at busier times of the day when bus loads of tourists are present sadly detracted greatly from the experience.
Cordoba Patio Festival
Festivals are declared world heritages when they’re ‘deemed particularly notable’ This festival of flowers started in 1918 and was added to the World Heritage list in 2012. These days visiting the patios involves a lot of queueing. Each one is uniquely decorated, brightly coloured flowering shrubs spill out of borders and potted geraniums which survive the intense heat from one watering to the next. With camera in hand it’s often difficult to take photos without people getting in the way but I’ll be there yet again this May.