As I said in the Sevilla page, there is so far three age for Andalucia when it comes to the dominant political and cultural city. Nowadays, it's Sevilla. Before that, Granada. And before... there was Cordoba (قرطبة) the most prestigious city of Al-Andalus, the capital of the independant caliphate which ruled over Muslim Spain until the collapse and the anarchy which paved the way for the Reconquista.

Today, Cordoba is a rather sleepy city of 300.000 inhabitants which survives in the shadow of its former self, exemplified by the wonderful church-turned-mosque-turned-cathedral. That monument is also still the place of a fierce debate about its nature. The Spanish Catholic Church bought it for 30€ (I'm not kidding) and since then tries whatever it can to delete any reference of its Muslim past. Oh, and of course, every cent of the ticket price you pay (8€) to visit it will go to the coffers of the Church. The city and the region get... nothing.

The mezquita was built on the site of a wisigothic church after the conquest of Spain and gradually amplified as a result of the demographic explosion enjoyed by the city. At its height, Cordoba had between 300000 and 500000 people. That means it was the biggest town in the whole Western Europe (more than Paris, London and Rome combined). It had no equal and was a reputed center of learning, for physicians, philosophers, jurists and linguists. 

In 1236, Cordoba falls to the Reconquista and gradually loses all influence. The mosque is converted into a cathedral in 1239 and in the XVIth century the construction of the central "capilla mayor" begins. It is an impressive work indeed, even if the location may not be the most adequate. It must be reminded that at the same time Carlos V commissioned the building of its palace in the middle of the Alhambra, to obtain a similar effect upon the eye : a Renaissance Christian monument in the middle of a Middle Age Muslim building.

But Cordoba is also much more than that. First of all, its historical center is one of the biggest in Europe. It has been perfectly well conservated : white small houses, tight cobbled streets, it also has a great deal of the fortifications (going back even until Roman times) which surrounded it. It will remind you of the Albayzin in Granada, and it has this advantage on it that it is all flat ground !

Then, on the river of the Guadalquivir, you will find that other landmark : the powerful Roman bridge which ends up with the powerful Calahorra Tower. It reminds me of the Charles Bridge in Prague, like a distant, more austere cousin.

And if you follow the river West, you will find the Alcazar de los Reyes Catolicos, a fortified complex which housed the kings and queens of Castilla, an outpost of the Reconquista, adorned nowadays with beautiful gardens.