Once Upon a Time Europe Had Its Very Own Flourishing Islamic City

Andalusia, in a land not so far away, there was a flourishing Islamic region established in the 8th century in the Iberian Peninsula. Therein was Cordoba, capital of the province Cordoba with inhabitants of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim heritage living together harmoniously. Now situated in the southern part of modern-day Spain, the city was one of the largest and most influential cities in the world a few centuries ago. Years of historical battles of passers-by have left the city with monumental historical artefacts that led to Cordoba being a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 2011, for it being one of the best preserved historical cities we have today.

Long ago in the time of the Romans

In 206 B.C.E., Cordoba was conquered by the Romans. During the time of Julius Caesar it became capital of the Roman province Cordoba. After the Roman rule, the city had been host to many other rulers, one of which the Visigoths in the 6th century C.E., which were Germanic nomadic tribes of the Goths. Belonging to Cordoba, a famous treasure consisting of pieces that trace back to the Roman era, can now be found in the British museum. Cordoba city, now known for its Roman heritage, has had many other major influences that made it into the historical site it is today.

The dawn of Muslim Cordoba

In the 8th century around year 711, Cordoba was conquered by the Moorish army and named the region in the Iberian Peninsula at that time under their rule, Al-Andalusia, also known as Islamic Spain. The Moorish were descendants of the Ummayad Caliphate, one of the four major Muslim Caliphates after the life of the Prophet. Five years from then, Cordoba was declared an emirate under the Caliphate of Damascus. In 756 Abd al-Rahman came to power and led the city to become an independent emirate but still maintained strong relations with Damascus. The erection of the Great Mosque of Cordoba started under his watch in year 785. Later at the end of the 10th century the mosque, also known as the Mezquita, underwent a vast expansion under Al Hakam II making it into the present-day magnificent architectural phenomenon.

The peak of civilization under the Muslim rule

The Islamic city reached its peak in the 10th century. This is the time when Cordoba was declared an independent state by Abd al-Rahman III. He then founded the Caliphate of Cordoba. Under this Caliphate, the city flourished and became very advanced for its time – a part of the Golden age of Islam reflected in the sophisticated infrastructure of the society. Equipped with street lighting, pavements, central water supplies, public bathing centres, and mosques, the city was well on its way to become glorious with all the facilities it offered to its inhabitants.

Al Hakam II, son of Abd al-Rahman III, who became the second caliph of Cordoba in the year of 961, took keen interest in the arts and sciences. Under his reign the city was stimulated for the growth of the civilization through the construction of many educational centers. His rule prompted the construction of a library and many schools, which lead to the magnificent status of Al-Andalus as a major educational centre in the medieval period in the whole world. Cordoba became famous for its books since Al Hakam II had a collection of around 400,000 volumes in the library that was built in his time.

Cordoba’s Islamic past shining brightly

After the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba, the Christian rule took over. This however did not overshadow the positive influences of the Islamic rule Al-Andalus was left behind with. Today it is possible for people to come across many articles recalling Cordoba’s Islamic past. From the language that contains hints of Arabic, to monuments such as the one depicting Ibn Rushd or Averroes, a scholar of many sciences ranging from Islamic philosophy to medicine covering a diverse array of fields. The Ibn Rushd Islamic University is yet another tribute to the medieval Andalusian scholar. Another once beautiful piece of Islamic architecture the Madinat-al Zahra, a Moorish palace, can today only be experienced from whatever remnants can be seen of it in its ruins.


Cordoba today in all its glory

Cordoba’s name is engraved in the chapters of the history of Islam’s travel across all borders of the world. Its timeline portrays how it once was home to one of the most advanced civilizations. A trip to Cordoba will inevitably result in the visitors finding themselves amongst a view of picturesque architecture. The city will surely be able to tell many stories and take them on a time machine traveling back to those days of splendor and excellence where wisdom in the sciences and faith went hand in hand. One of the largest mosques in the world, the Mezquita now has a cathedral that was placed in the 16th century in the middle of it, resulting in a unique mosque-cathedral drawing plenty of attention from tourists. Wandering across the streets of Cordoba, the visitor is bound to get a blend of the Christian and Moorish architecture as portrayed earlier telling how two religions met and each left behind their own legacies.

Written by Farhana Nitol

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Farhana Nitol, a 22 year old Bangladeshi by birth and raised in Belgium, is a medical student at the University of Antwerp hoping to soon become a doctor. Other than the afore-mentioned career path, practically anything and everything interests her ranging from world politics to cooking. A little bit of an optimistic dreamer, she hopes to lighten up spheres around her by using some good old sense of humour.