Cordoba - Capital of Caliphates, Kingdoms, and Empires

On any journey to the Iberian peninsula, it is easy to focus all of one's time, budget, and attention to the more popular and glamorous cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon. However one cannot truly appreciate the richness of Spanish culture, without experiencing the city of Cordoba.

One of the most important cities back in the Middle Ages, yet overlooked today, Cordoba has been inhabited for thousands of years; with its earliest inhabitants thought to be the Neanderthal humans whose fossils can be found all over this area of Spain.

* Later on becoming a Roman settlement, whose people left their mark by constructing this fascinating and sturdy bridge that still stands to this day running across the Guadalquivir River! 

* When the Roman Empire collapsed, the area was taken over by the Visigoths, descendants of a Germanic barbarian tribe who established a kingdom in today's Southwest France, Spain, and Portugal.

* Who then got overrun by the Muslim conquest of the 8th Century, turning Cordoba into the Imperial Capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

* Before changing hands multiple times across various Muslim Caliphates starting with the Umayyads, a vast empire that stretched from Spain, through North Africa, the Holy Land, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

* To the Almohad Caliphate, who ruled in the area comprising present day Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria.

* Until finally the Reconquista happened, where the Christian Kingdoms (all located in Northern Spain) of Asturias, Leon, Aragon, Navarre and Portugal, united under the banner of the Kingdom of Castille and pushed southward to retake the entirety of Muslim territory on Iberia.

* Bringing an end to centuries of Islamic rule, and ushering in the great age of Christian Kingdoms in Spain.

* The Kingdom of Castille, celebrating its hard-won trophy, immediately set out to build a Royal Palace known as the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos.

* A palace that doubled as a fortress and served as one of the primary residences of Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, the power couple back in those days.

* Today, the Alcazar is a popular shooting location for film and television series.

* In fact you might recognize some locales from the hit TV show, Game of Thrones.

* All over the city, ruins are scattered as a reminder of the various powerful empires that have come and gone.

* Typical characteristics of southern Spanish palaces include large rooms with huge windows for continuous ventilation, manicured gardens, and lots of water fountains.

* Which come in handy especially since the southern region of Spain tend to have much warmer climates than the rest of Europe.

* In fact, Cordoba is known to have the highest summer temperature in all of Europe, reaching 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August. 

* Making its beaches a favorite tourist destination for Europeans all over the continent.

* The king is very much pleased, indeed!

* Formidable castle walls prove that the crusades did not only happen in the Holy Land, but in Iberia as well.

* The fact that Cordoba is often overlooked today is a crime as it was actually one of the major centers of education and learning in the world, and was the second largest city in Europe by the 10th Century.

* The truth is the Muslim Caliphates were a very civilized people, arguably more so than their European counterparts during those times; scientific and inquisitive, open to new ideas, and tolerant of other religions.

* In fact, Muslims, Christians, and Jews here mingled, intermarried, and learned from each other's cultures.

* This cultural fusion led to Cordoba producing some of the world's greatest Muslim thinkers including Averroes, a philosopher, theologian, astronomer and lawyer, whose works include in-depth studies and commentaries on the teachings of the legendary Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Some might even say, the works of Aristotle might have been lost to history and antiquity were it not for Averroes.

* Ibn Hazm, who was a Muslim poet and historian, widely regarded as the Father of Comparative Religious Studies (aka the study of the world's religions)

* And Al-Zahrawi, considered the Greatest Surgeon of the Middle Ages and Father of Surgery. His work on medical practices became the reference guide for Europeans over the next 500 years!

* And Muhammad Al-Gafequi, who was widely regarded as one of the Pillars of the Science of Ophthalmology (the study of eyes). 

* Have an interesting door, and the wife shall pose!

* Today, Cordoba is a shining example of the blend of Moorish and Christian architectural and design elements.

* And no where is this more definitively seen, than in the truly impressive Mezquita of Cordoba (read all about it soon!)

* Time to brush up on my Spanish!

* Giant Julio over here, concurs!


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