From Poetry to the Mezquita: Why Cordoba Is Not Like Any Other Spanish City

It all started with the submission of Spain to Musa bin Nusayr, a tabi’en from Damascus. He submitted the Berbers and spread the Islamic faith over them. He had appointed Tariq bin Ziyad, his former free slave, as the commander of the army with which he could conquer Spain. Tariq bin Ziyad had arrived in southern Spain in April 711. Battle after battle he was able to assure a Muslim victory. After the news of the victory, Musa bin Nusayr and the Muslims successfully flanked Spain from both sides in 712.

Al-Andalus: the centre of culture and science

The Islamic part of Spain was then called ‘Al-Andalus’. Al-Andalus was united under Abd Al-Rahman I, who made Cordoba the capital. He founded a city that would become a centre of culture and science, pushing Cordoba into its own Golden Age. Not only did he manage to secure proper commerce and culture, he also stimulated the development of agriculture, ensured a growing welfare and supplied the city with modern utilities such as water and streetlight.

About Andalus Voices

In April, I was able to experience Andalus again thanks to Andalus Voices. This time it was arranged in a city which is also a cultural hub: Amsterdam! Andalus Voices is a unique cooperation of international top artists and virtuosi from the Netherlands. They tell the story of the unique musical past of Al Andalus and today’s Andalusia. I was able to experience Safar Andalus, but Andalus Voices in fact consists of different programmes. For example: the literary and musical programme inspired by poetry and stories from the lit streets of Cordoba. The poetry, the stories, the sound of the guitar, the oud, the rhythms of the cajon and the darbuka bring life to the city. Both the unique concerts about the large variety of Andalusian repertoires and the musical stories from Cordoba will leave you with a deep impression. The top of Cordoba’s bill however are the beautiful mosques and the library which is estimated to contain no less than 400,000 books.

The Mezquita

A new mosque was built in the centre of Cordoba, one that would eventually end up as one of the most beautiful of all: the Mezquita (Spanish for mosque). The Mezquita is built on top of the foundations of a Roman temple and the Visigoth Saint-Vincent Basilica. Abd Al-Rahman I had bought the church. Later on in the next few centuries it was changed into a mosque. During the construction they used approximately 750 marble pillars from the nearest Roman villas. The pillars were in fact too small to reach the required height, so a second arch was added, resulting in the Mezquita’s unique architecture. During the next centuries a couple of overhauls have taken place. Today, the Mezquita is Cordoba’s cathedral. Both the Islamic and Christian influences are clearly visible.

For those of you who wish to travel around Andalusia: it would be wise to give Cordoba a spot in your schedule!

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Written by Sumeyye Copoglu

Sumeyye Copoglu

Sumeyye Copoglu is 23 years old and studies Islamic theology at the Islamic University of Rotterdam. She is an artist, with a passion for culture and travel.