As I walked up from the Guadalquivir River, light, summery music floated through the streets. Ahead of me was the grand Mezquita-Catedral, Cordoba’s greatest claim to fame. The sun had just set and the sky was entering its magnetic blue hour, framing the turrets and towers an electric azure.
It wasn’t yet dinnertime in Cordoba – that was still an hour away at least – and the streets were quiet. A few tourists strolled around the mosque’s walls, joined by locals walking their dogs in the mercifully cooler temperature.
I walked past the elaborate doorways interspersed along the mosque’s high wall. The gargantuan gates were bolted, but the arched fretwork around doors still demanded admiration – and got plenty of it from the camera-happy passersby.
But up ahead the Pachelbel’s Canon in D beckoned like a siren. Positioned equidistant from the mosque’s southwestern and northwestern corners was a string trio. A celloist sat on a chair, his fingers quivering on each chord. Two female violinists swayed to their melody.
There was a low platform just beneath the mosque wall. I sat down and took a deep breath, trying to grasp my surroundings. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the places you go and the things you experience when you travel. I guess that’s why I made this blog.
I had just crossed over from Cordoba’s Roman bridge. From the opposite bank I’d admired a postcard perfect view of the Guadalquivir River, its shallow water gurgling around numerous obstacles, including swampy islands and old ruins. Up above, hundreds of birds twittered and swooped against a peachy dusk background.
And just beyond the bridge was old-town Cordoba, boasting its magnificent mosque-cathedral, whose exterior from this distance looked just as impressive as its famed interior. The scope and beauty of this mosque was comparative to others in the Middle East in its time. Inside, you can still see the cream-and-white archways and marble columns – hundreds of them – that hold up the magnificent building.
Sadly the centre of the mosque was gutted when Christians conquered Cordoba. A huge, opulent cathedral was built in its place. When Charles V saw the new installation, he reportedly lamented destroying something that was unique to the world. Since the 1200s, Muslim worship in the temple has been prohibited, despite a recent petition to the church by the Islamic community.
My sunset view also included glimpses of the Juderia, the Jewish district that stretches right up to the mosque’s walls. Once upon a time, in the mosque’s heyday, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side in this city. The Jews held many positions of power, working alongside the Muslims. After the Christian conquest, these two faiths were persecuted, eventually expelled from Spain. Little remains of that multi-religious city today.
But it hasn’t lost its magic.
Families gathered around the musical trio, snapping family portraits. Kids posed against the stuccoed archways. Dogs skipped alongside their owners. The street lamps were starting to emit an orange glow and the last of the horse and carriage vehicles were clip-clopping through the cobblestoned streets. The final note of the song quivered in the air. I held my breath and blinked away the moisture in my eyes.
Sometimes travelling can just be so damned beautiful.