Photographs and Commentary by Debra Jan Bibel


         Music: Agua y Fuego [Maimonides / Eduardo Paniagu, Jorge Rozemblusm / Pneuma, 3 min excerpt] Euro-Arabo Classical

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On to Cordoba in our bus driven by Reuben, a taciturn and patient professional who was assigned for our entire tour. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a quaint village, Puerto Lapice, dedicated to Cervantes's Don Quixote, as this area in La Mancha was his inspiration. [I do not normally eat red meat, but I must admit that the stewed lamb dish, washed down with beer, was extraordinarily tender and delicious, and on a hot day, the beer was particularly refreshing.]  Headquartered at Hotel Los Gallos, we dine at the hotel and afterwards hear Yuval discuss the origins of the oud and how it and Judeo-Arabic music came to Andalusia. The next morning began a full plunge into history with a tour of the Jewish Quarter, the huge converted mosque, now cathedral, and a special visit to the Casa de Sefard, a private library and cultural center dedicated to the history of Jews in Spain, passionately directed by SebastiŠn de la Obra, of Converso heritage.


A village in La Mancha, a place for lunch.

Iconic sculpture of the Don; but is that Sancho Panza beside him? Grounds of the restaurant. Old village church. Dispense with the dog? Metaphorically, for condemned prisoners of the past. Cliffs of the lethal plunge.

Hotel dinner toast.

The other side of the table.

Yuval discusses the oud.

The oud discusses Yuval.

Ancient rampart and Roman bridge/aqueduct.

Bridge protector.

The Jewish Quarter, alcazar, and cathedral/mosque. Enrique, our guide, ponders a question. Ornate wall facing Alcazar. A different view. The size of the mosque becomes apparent. Archeological dig: Visigoth and Roman levels beneath.

The huge mosque, La Mesquita, of Cordoba was built in three stages, during the caliphates of Abd-ar-Rahman I, Abd-ar-Rahman II, and Al Hakam II. As it consists of columns and outer walls, there was ample space for the conquering Christians in 1236 to begin dividing and erecting chambers for a cathedral and chapels. The conversion creates a violent clash of  architectural styles, producing a griffin rather than a compatible hybrid, such as the endosymbiotic luminescent bacteria in a firefly [I am a microbiologist after all!]. The cathedral itself was built in stages over the Renaissance, and the art also varies in development.  I found the result ridiculous, as much an oddball as the Hearst Castle in San Simeon along the California coast.

Vastness of the mosque. Non sequitur: the edge of Christian portion.. Double arches provide architectural support.

Advanced Islamic architecture.

An adjacent niche.

Looking to Christian heaven.

The columns are all different, with filler rising to the level arch base,

Rubbing impressions of column mason signings. Detail of signings; note difference in letters of same word, Allah. This is a depiction of Maimonides. The statue is Moses ben Maimon. This is Ernesto.

Below are images of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter, the last survivor, from 1315. Not to be confused with a large central temple, so familiar in cities of today, it is small neighborhood hall, essentially a chapel, for a nearby community.  The decorative patterns are strongly influenced by Arabian design. Across the street is Casa de Sefrad, with its special exhibition on the Inquisition. It was here that fellow traveler Michael learned that his family, according to records, once lived in Cordoba. What a trip! [Yes, I was and remain an academic hippie.]

A wonderful doorway. Hebrew and arabesques. Diffused light from above: how Frank Lloyd Wright! The altar. Upstairs for women; in Islam, women to the back or sides. Decorative arch.
A museum in order to remember. Sebastiŗn and his assistant in the library. Earliest document of the Inquisition in the collection. Explaining the effects of fear, distrust, and intolerance. Instruments of Sefarad. Arabian instruments of old Spain.
At El Churrasco for lunch. Bonnie, Dinah, and Michael: a happy trio after a splendid meal. Garden of the Alcazar. Modern garden extension. Near the Alcazar of the kings.  

Appendix: Food 


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On to Sevilla

    Roman geometric mosaic at the Alcazar reception hall. Roman  geometric design anticipating arabesques.