Cordoba. Where do I start. This was a Dream. Come. True. I had an imagination in my mind. Of Seville and of Cordoba. And it was far from the reality – and yet it was still amazing. That’s what travelling does to you, it just always surprises you. I thought they were tiny towns – like Ronda or Carmona. But in fact, they were 2 of the biggest cities in the province. The city itself was still small in size, but crowded, alive, bustling.
The name Cordoba holds a special place in my heart. And the strange thing is, even though it has turned out to be a big city, somehow, very strangely, I have 2 Cordoba’s in my mind. One of the one I visited, and one still has its own imagination in my head.
When I was 7, mom sent me to study the piano. She loved music, and growing up in a very very poor family, she didn’t have the means to learn music. So she wanted us to have access to it, to try it, even if we might not like it. I loved it. I found comfort and awe in classical piano and classical music. And thanks to my mom, I learnt to play, appreciate and enjoy classical music. Cordoba is the name of my all-time favourite piece of music that I learned to play. It was for the Grade 8 piano examinations for the London Royal School of Music. I didn’t do so well in the exam as I did in the performance at the local music school – I look back with pride because I don’t think I ever played so well as on that evening in that music school. I won the performance of the night – a very prestigious award, and had my name painted permanently on the board in the school hallway. I was so very humbled and proud of this little achievement. As I look back now – I see more clearly at I was so happy and proud more so because it was for a particular piece of music that I loved so much and poured my heart into.
It was a piece, where I wanted to perfect so much, that I bought the audio “model version” performed by a professional for that same London Board, and listened to it countless times. And the beauty of it – is that in the end – whenever I played it, I would naturally play it my own way, not copying the CD but using the CD more for inspiration. And it’s a strange feeling – when I was in the Cordoba’s Mezquita, the FEELING and VIBE I got from being in this place – is what I felt from the music. Dreamy…enchanting…romantic…grand.
The city was so quaint and old and beautiful. Endless winding lanes. And if you peeked into a gate – you would look into beautiful courtyards. 2 weeks later, they would have a yearly flower contest where every courtyard would be opened to the public to showcase flowers!
Visiting this ancient mosque/cathedral, one couldn’t help but feel completely awed. The mosque part originates from 700 A.D.!!! We’ve been to old papal churches from the 1000 A.D. and none were so elaborate as this! So much painstaking labour. What amazed me was how the Moorish king appreciated the roman remains so much, he had all the roman pillars collected from all over and brought here to serve as pillars for the mosque! I also loved reading the history. It was such a peaceful time – where a Muslim king ruled, and the Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together and flourished for hundreds of years! The Muslim king even appointed the Jews to high places in administration. He must have been such a wise king. Isn’t that amazing, back then, how civilized and harmonious it was.
For three centuries following the Christian reconquest, the Mezquita stayed mostly the same. Then the Spanish King ordered that a gothic altar be built in the middle of the mosque. And even the city hall rejected this idea, because the building was so beautiful! HIs orders overruled the city hall’s reject, and they spent years tearing down the middle and building a gothic cathedral. At the end, this King is known for famously regretting this decision and famious for this quote from our travel book “You have built what you or ohters might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world”. Strangely, I find it still so pretty, the fusion of the two as the cathedral is also stunning. I find it sad that today, you are allowed to pray in the Cathedral part, but not in the mosque part – and this building feels like a mosque more than a church. Why couldn’t they be both allowed to pray ?