Cordoba‘s hour of greatest glory was when it became the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and this was when work began on the Great Mosque, or “Mezquita”, which – after several centuries of additions and enlargements – became one of the largest in all of Islam.
Abd al-Rahman (731–788), was the founder of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries (including the succeeding Caliphate of Córdoba). At the time it was known by the Arabs as al-Andalus. Abd al-Rahman’s establishment of a government in al-Andalus represented a branching from the rest of the Caliphate of Damascus, which had been brought under the Abbasid following the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty from Damascus in 750.
When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers of the city were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns, and shamefully creating the extraordinary church-mosque we see today where only Christians can pray but Muslims may not hold any ceremony within the great mosque.
As well as the unique mosque-cathedral, Cordoba’s treasures include the Alcazar, or Fortress, built by the Christians in 1328; the Calahorra Fort, originally built by the Arabs, which guards the Roman Bridge, on the far side of the river from the Mezquita, and the ancient Jewish Synagogue, now a museum. Cordoba’s medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called “La Judería” (The Jewry), a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares such as La Plaza del Potro. In early May, homeowners proudly festoon their patios with flowers to compete for the city’s “most beautiful courtyard” contest.
Córdoba is a great place for exploring on foot or by bicycle, staying and eating well in old buildings centred on verdant patios, diving into old wine bars, and feeling millennia of history at every turn. The narrow streets of the old Judería (Jewish quarter) and Muslim quarter stretch out from the great mosque like capillaries (to the northwest and northeast respectively), some clogged with tourist bric-a-brac, others delightfully peaceful. The life of the modern city focuses a little further north, around Plaza de las Tendillas, where you’ll find a more boisterous vibe with some excellent bars and restaurants. Andalucía’s major river, the Guadalquivir, flows just below the Mezquita, and the riverfront streets are home to a growing band of lively restaurants and bars making the most of the view.
Córdoba bursts into life from mid-April to mid-June, when it stages most of its major fiestas. At this time of year the skies are blue, the temperatures are perfect and the city’s many trees, gardens and courtyards drip with foliage and blooms. September and October are also excellent weatherwise, but July and August can sizzle.
Cordoba is three hours from Cortijos Rey Fini and we highly recommend to stay there at least one night.
Hotels across the river are much quieter and cheaper. In our visit we stayed in the modern hotel of Oasis which is rather cheap and clean but modern. If you prefer older looking hotels there are many of them. If you can avoid going there during the months of July/August as the heat makes it unbearable.
A great video to watch is highly recommended.
Other places near of interest near Cordoba
Castillo de Almodóvar del Río:
Castillo de Almodóvar del Río is a castle of Muslim origin in the town of Almodóvar del Río, Province of Córdoba, Spain. Previously a Roman fort, the current structure has Berber origins, in the year 760. During the Middle Ages, it underwent several renovations and reconstructions. Between 1901 and 1936, it was restored by the owner Raphael Desmaissiers, 12th Count of Torravala, under the technical direction of the architect Adolfo Fernández Casanova. The most important towers are the Cuadrada, the Redonda, and the Homenaje.
There is a charge of €3.00 per person. Just below the castle there is a very good restaurant.
open all day from 9 am to 6 pm.
Medina Al Azahara (Arabic: مدينة الزهراء Madīnat az-Zahrā: literal meaning “the shiningcity”)
8 Klms from Cordoba
Medinaal-Zahra, the sumptuous palace-city built by Caliph Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th century. The complex spills down a hillside with the caliph’s palace (the area you visit today) on the highest levels overlooking what were gardens and open fields. The residential areas (still unexcavated) were set away to each side. A fascinating modern museum has been installed below the site.
Legend has it that Abd al-Rahman III built Madinat al-Zahra for his favourite wife, Az-Zahra. Dismayed by her homesickness and yearnings for the snowy mountains of Syria, he surrounded his new city with almond and cherry trees, replacing snowflakes with fluffy white blossoms. More realistically, it was probably Abd al-Rahman’s rivalry with the Fatimid dynasty in North Africa that drove him to declare his caliphate in 929 and construct, as caliphs were wont to do, a new capital. Building started in 940 and chroniclers record some staggering construction statistics: 10,000 labourers set 6000 stone blocks a day, with outer walls stretching 1518m east to west and 745m north to south.
other argue that The main reason for its construction was politico-ideological: the dignity of the Caliph required the establishment of a new city, a symbol of his power, imitating other Eastern Caliphates. Above all, it demonstrated his superiority over his great rivals, the Fatimids of Ifriqiya in Northern Africa, as well as the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. Legend also says it was built as a tribute to the favourite of the Caliph: Azahara.
The complex was extended during the reign of Abd ar-Rahman III’s son Al-Hakam II (r. 961-976), but after his death soon ceased to be the main residence of the Caliphs. In 1010 it was sacked in a civil war, and thereafter abandoned, with many elements re-used elsewhere. Its ruins were excavated starting from the 1910s. Only about 10 percent of the 112 hectares have been excavated and restored, but this area includes the central area, with “two caliphal residences, with associated bath complexes, two aristocratic residences, and service quarters … spaces associated with the palace guard; some large administrative buildings … the extraordinary court complex presided over by the reception hall … the great garden spaces, and just outside this area, the congregational mosque
It is almost inconceivable to think that such a city, built over 35 years, was to last only a few more before the usurper Al-Mansur transferred government to a new palace complex of his own in 981. Then, between 1010 and 1013, Madinat al-Zahra was wrecked by Berber soldiers. During succeeding centuries its ruins were plundered repeatedly for building materials.
The visitors’ route takes you down through the city’s original northern gate. Highlights of the visitable area are the grand arched Edificio Basilical Superior, which housed the main state admin offices, and the Casa de Yafar, believed to have been residence of the caliph’s prime minister. The crown jewel of the site, the royal reception hall known as the Salón de Abd al-Rahman III, was closed for restoration at the time of writing. This hall has exquisitely carved stuccowork and is said to have been decorated with gold and silver tiles, arches of ivory and ebony, and walls of multicoloured marble.
The museum, 2km downhill by road from the site entrance, takes you through the history of Madinat al-Zahra, with sections on its origins, planning and construction, its inhabitants and its eventual downfall. The sections are illustrated with beautifully displayed pieces from the site and some excellent interactive displays, and complemented by flawless English translations.
How to get there:
Drivers should leave Córdoba westward along Avenida de Medina Azahara. This feeds into the A431 road, with the turn-off to Madinat al-Zahra signposted after 6km. You must park at the museum and get tickets there for the site and the shuttle bus (lanzadera; €2.10 return) which takes you 2km up to the site.
A bus to Madinat al-Zahra leaves from a stop near Córdoba’s Puerta de Almodóvar at 10.15am and 11am daily, 4.15pm Tuesday to Saturday and 11.45am Sunday (€8.50 return including the shuttle from museum to site and back). Tickets for the bus must be bought in advance at the Centro de Visitantes or at the tourist offices at the train station or Plaza de las Tendillas .
Medina Al Azahara is the ruins of a vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III al-Nasir, (912–961) Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, and located on the western outskirts of Córdoba, Spain. It was an Arab Muslim medieval town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls. Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences, and baths. Water was supplied through aqueducts.