Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cordoba, Spain

Sat, 23 - Sun, 24/8/14


We arrived in Cordoba at 7pm after a 1.5 hour journey from Sevilla by train. We took the taxi from the train station to our Hotel Mezquita at Cordoba's Old Quarter (room rate EUR 40/nite or RM 171/night ) The train station is quite a distance from the hotel so it was not feasible to walk (and we didn't get laugh at by the taxi drivers this time). Cordoba is a smaller city compared to Sevilla with half the population of about 330,000 (Sevilla's population is around 700,000).

Cordoba train station
taxi uses the meter

Our Hotel Mezquita is right smack at the door of the Mezquita, as its name suggests. Our hotel is adorned with classic furniture and decoration from the Reconquista era, and paintings in our room depicting trade during the Islamic era.

Hotel Mezquita entrance
our room
classic hotel furniture

Tonight we just ventured out around our hotel by walking, looking for halal food. We found one at the Petra restaurant after asking around . We had cous cous (EUR 10.90 or RM 46) and humus (EUR 5.90 or RM 25) for dinner. The nice owner was happy to see us so he offered us a free pot of mint tea. Shops here close early so we retired early to our room after dinner.

Petra restaurant
inside the restaurant
cous cous

Mezquita of Cordoba (or Santa Iglesia Catedral de Córdoba)

We started early to visit the Mezquita as it was a Sunday. It will be closed during worship on Sundays from 11.30am - 3.30pm. The opening hours on Sunday are 8.30 - 11.30 am and 3.30 - 6.30pm. Entrance fee is EUR 8. From Monday to Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., it could be possible to visit the Cathedral free, but individually and in silence (this is during worship). In this period of time group visit is not permitted.

The Mezquita of Cordoba is a Unesco World Heritage site. Some history of the Mezquita excerpted from Wikipedia and the official Mezquita website:

The site of the Mesquita was originally the St Vincent Cathedral during the Visigoth period. In 786, Emir Abd al-Rahman built the primitive mosque that was successively extended by Muslim governors:  Hisham I (796), Abd al-Rahman II (833 and 848), Abdullah (912), Abd al-Rahman III (952 and 958), al-Hakam II (961) and Almanzor (976). When the city was reconquered by Christians (Reconquista) in 1236, St Ferdinand III ordered the consecration of the church as the Cathedral of the Blessed Mary. Consequently, chapels and altars were built over the 15th - 16th century.

The building was divided into a courtyard, also known as the Orange Courtyard, the old minaret, which was transformed into the bellfry tower of the Cathedral in the 17th century, and the prayer hall, made up of more than 800 marble, jasper and granite columns, which supported around 400 horseshoe arches with arch-stones in two colours. Above them, the mihrab impressed with all its splendour. It was built using marble, featuring stuccos and beautifully coloured Byzantine mosaics, contrasting with the gold background.

The poet Muhammad Iqbal of Pakistan described its hypostyle hall as having "countless pillars like rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria". To the people of al-Andalus “the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description". I have to agree. I wish I could go back to the time of the Islamic community of al-Andalus.

entrance to the Mezquita

fountain in the Mezquita compound
lime trees in the Mezquita compound
the minaret which is now the bell tower
could almost reach the lime arghh
the walls of the Mezquita. Model as scale
one of the entrance door from outside

the 2 coloured arches of Mezquita at the prayer hall

the mihrab

the altar of Altar Mayor desde el coro
the cathedral organ

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

Not far from the Mezquita of Cordoba is the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs. Alcázar is taken from the Arabic word Al Qasr meaning "the Palace". The Alcázar was built by Alfonso XI in 1328 on part of the site for the old fortress.  Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I  later governed Castile from the Alcázar for eight years in the 15th century as they prepared to reconquer Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain.

There was nothing much to see of the Alcazar after witnessing the dazzling beauty of the Mezquita or the Real Alcazar of Sevilla. So we quickly went through the palace then headed to the jardin (garden) of the Paseo de los Reyes which is truly a gem. Entrance fee is EUR 4.

outside the Alcazar
from the fort tower

the beautiful Paseo de los Reyes jardin

Torre de la Calahorra (Al-Andus Living Museum)

From the Alcazar, we crossed the Guadalquivir river to the Tower of Calahorra (from the Arabic qal'at al-hurriya, or free fortress). It was built during the late 12th century by the Almohads to protect the nearby Roman Bridge on the Guadalquivir (Al-Kabir) river. The tower now hosts the Al-Andus Living Museum. Entrance fee is EUR 4.50

The museum recreates the Cordoba of the Islamic period between the 9th-13th centuries, at a time of brilliant cultural, artistic and scientific achievement. It includes a headphone guiding you through the eight themed rooms with dioramas. It seemed that my wish to relive the Islamic Al-Andalus period had somehow been granted. I absolutely loved this museum although it is quite small.

Roman bridge
Roman bridge view from the tower

entrance to the to Torre Calahorra

model of the original minaret of Mezquita of Cordoba

model depicting Muslims performing ablution and prayers at Mezquita of Cordoba

model of the original mosque of Mezquita

We were feeling hungry now, so we walked around to find other halal eateries, hoping to find halal paella, but found a kebab cafe instead. Kebab it is then. Durum (wrap) set with refresco (soft drink) cost EUR 4 and Kebab set (rice mix with chicken and beef and soft drink) cost EUR 3.50

kebab hut
kebab with rice

We then planned to go to the Medina Az Zahra, the ruins of an Arab Muslim medieval palace-city about 11km from the Old Quarters of Cordoba.However, the last touristic bus to the Medina had already left at 11am (there are only 2 trips per day at 10.15 am and 11am). There is no bus services on Monday so we couldn't even go tomorrow as it would be Monday and we would be going to Granada already tomorrow. Oh dear, we would have to skip Medina Az Zahra.

Since it was getting hotter and we've pretty much covered the places we wanted to go, we rested for the rest of the afternoon at our hotel and ventured out again after 6pm to enjoy sunset at the Roman bridge. We also checked out the pretty floral alley Calleja de Las Flores

Calleja de las Flores

Roman bridge at night

outside the Mezquita wall at night

Calahorra tower at night

Mezquita minaret tower at night

Before departing for Granada by train the next morning at 11.10 am, we had breakfast of churros (EUR 2.90 per person) dipped with chocolate at a nearby cafe. Luckily cafes in Cordoba open early for breakfast.


I truly loved Cordoba for its rich history and am particularly fascinated by the history of the Andalusian Islamic empire during its heyday. I would highly recommend Cordoba to be visited.



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