Cordoba & Beyond!

One of the most spectacular and memorable visits in our journey so far would have to be the Mezquita (Mosque) at Cordoba.  It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of rows and rows of the red and white striped arches of the Prayer Hall. Stretching on, seemingly, forever; spectacular and grandiose.

The Mosques construction began in 785 on the site of a Catholic church.  Built in accordance with Islamic design ideals it flourished for nearly 500 years.  In 1236 the Christians reconquered Cordoba and reclaimed the site, transforming the Mosque in a very curious way.  Having consecrated and purified the building, they made their mark by constructing a huge cathedral right inside the Mosque!!!!  Fortunately, for all of us, they were actually able to maintain the beauty of the Mosque and surprisingly, the “cathedral” pales by comparison to the stunning dimensions of the space and the arches.  Incongruent, yet somehow it works.

This fusion of Islam and Christianity is common in the south of Spain, being so close to their Moorish neighbours and ruled by them for nearly 800 (8th century to 16th century) years.  Cordoba having been a Roman and a Moorish capital, at one time was thought to be the largest city in the known world; an intellectual, rich and sumptuous city that incorporated religious tolerance and co-operation between Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  The stamp of these 3 religions still prevail in the city.


The “old” part of Cordoba is pretty and interesting to walk around, yet the cheeriness of the flowerboxed, white housed streets and the awesomeness of the ancient roman bridge are marred somewhat by the social problems of today. Whilst Spains unemployment rate has skyrocket in the last 3 years from 7 % to 22 %, Cordobas unemployment rate is 34%!  The tension feels palpable. Groups of clearly unemployed men cluster together, talking, edgy.  Romanian women offer sprigs of rosemary for one Euro.  Unemployment benefits last for two years!  The “Economic Crisis” began 3 years ago. We don’t stay long, not keen to leave Cubby for long after an off duty policeman advised us not to park where we were first going to. He demonstrates someone taking a rock and smashing the window.  “Mal” he says, we know, is “Bad!”

Continuing on our way, destination Parque Natural de Sierras Cazorla, we stop overnight at Jaen.   Yet another fascinating Spanish city.  The name comes from the Arabic word “Jayyan”, meaning crossroads of caravans.  The city is spectacularly set on the “walls” of a valley and stretches out over  arable and fertile land – land that produces enough olive oil to earn the title “World capital of Olive Oil!”
The olive grove theme continues all the way to Cazorla. 6 million olive trees grow in this area, apparently more than in all of Italy.  It’s a lean, rocky, utilitarian landscape – hardworking, almost muscular.  Drawing everything possible from the soil to fill the fruits of these trees, that will be pressed to create a famous Spanish culinary hero – Spanish Olive Oil.

One Comment on “Cordoba & Beyond!”

  1. Douglas says:

    Hi Denise, your pics and writing are getting better by each post. It’s great to read! Hmm, 34% unemployment is a sad statistic, really. There’s a lot ot talk now of a “lost decade” in Europe. There are so many gifted and talented (and less gifted too) people drifting about without a real purpose to their lives: the jobs are just not there!

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