|| Andalusia | cordoba
La Mezquita & Around
La Mezquita (Great Mosque) – One of the most stunning buildings in the world, La Mezquita started out as a Visigothic basilica. In 784, the Emir of Cordoba began construction on a great mosque, incorporating Visigothic stone columns into the new building. Work on La Mezquita continued over two centuries, expanding the prayer hall, open courtyard and minaret. After Cordoba was conquered in 1236 by the Christians, the mosque was remodeled; columns in the center were removed to make way for a white and gold cathedral.
|It's quite a contrast stepping from the bright sunlight in the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) into the mosque, where a forest of striped arches seem to float in the velvety darkness. The horseshoe arches are an ingenious innovation, blue and black stone columns are topped with two tiers of white stone and red brick arches. First thing, kids will want to explore this amazing forest (like a grove of date palms), just wander around the mosque.
|The columns are laid out in rows, which point to the Mihrab at the eastern side of the mosque. The Mihrab is a prayer niche that points the direction to Mecca. The arch and cupola of the Mihrab are dazzling, decorated in gold, red and blue mosaics with patterns of leaves, flowers, pineapples and grapes.
|The Renaissance cathedral in the middle, with chubby cherubs on the ceiling and sleepy lions on the pulpits, is quite a contrast. King Carlos V approved the addition of the cathedral, but wasn't sure this was a good thing. He said, "You have built what you or others might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world."
|After you've visited La Mezquita, be sure to walk all the way around the mosque, checking out the different doorways and outer walls. The doors are decorated with horseshoe arches, lattice windows, red and white geometric designs.
|Tip: When we visited La Mezquita, it was free entrance from 8am to 10am.
|Horse carriage rides – On the west side of La Mezquita, take a horse drawn carriage ride around the old city.
Calahorra Tower (Torre de la Calahorra) – Walk across the Guadalquivir River on the Roman Bridge (the foundations are from the original bridge constructed in Roman times) to the Calahorra Tower. In the museum (Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus) inside the tower, check out a beautiful model of La Mezquita (without the cathedral) and super dioramas of life in Cordoba in the 10th century - the souk, an Andalusian house, palace of Abd al Rahman, alcazar, gardens, the synagogue, Christian church, mosque, open air market, and boats on the river. And climb up to the top of the tower for views across the river to old Cordoba.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos – This is the palace where the Christian monarchs stayed when they visited Cordoba; Isabel and Ferdinand were in residence here when Christopher Columbus first popped his plan for a voyage to the Indies.
|Kids will want to climb up the big golden yellow tower, walk all the crenellated ramparts and explore the rounded rooms. Don't miss the lovely Roman mosaics, especially the wild-haired Medusa from the 3rd century, and a Roman sarcophagus in the museum.
|Outside, the gardens have several pools with fountains, (cooling just to look at them), and statues of Columbus with Isabel and Ferdinand.
Caliph's Baths – Public baths were an essential feature of life in Moorish Cordoba, and the caliph had his own private baths for his family and friends. The Caliph socialized in the bath, met important people, there was even a murder in the baths. Located across from the Alcazar, visit a museum in the ruins of the 10th century baths. Wander through the reception room, to the cold room, warm room (where the caliph spent most of his time), and hot room (boilers heated water for the pools and showers).