Tales from my feet: The Alhambra and the Mezquita

THE Alhambra (“the red fort”) is a massive palace and fortress complex located in the Andalusian region of Spain.

Constructed in AD 889, it was ignored for many years until it was renovated by the Nasrid family of the Emirate of Granada and was eventually converted into a royal palace by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. When Christianity returned to this area, this became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, where Christopher Columbus received their royal endorsement for his expedition. By reputation, it is said to be the most splendid of all the Arabian Palaces to be built in Spain during the 700 years of Moorish domination. It became the symbol not only of their wealth, but also their genius and mastery of architectural and artistic skills.

I will not even attempt to go into the details of just how spectacular this whole complex is. This is one of those places where you do not even notice that you have been walking for hours. Once you enter the gate of the 26- acre hilltop property, you will be confused where to look first, while trying very hard to keep up with your guide. The sweeping views to the left or the gardens to the right? To study the details of the stained glass walls of the harem or to look up at the details carved into the ceiling? Everything around you is just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.

Cordoba’s Grand Mosque-Cathedral which locals refer to as the Mezquita is actually the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. It is famous for its unique architectural Moorish design. In 784, AD Abd al-Rahman I ordered the construction of this Great Mosque which over the years was expanded by other Muslim rulers. This was the time when Cordoba was the most prosperous city in all of Europe, outshining even Byzantium and Baghdad. Originally the horseshoe-shaped arches were of a more sedate design, which evolved into alternating brick and stone in the arches, creating the red and white striped pattern that it is famous for. There are more than 850 colored granite jasper and marble pillars in total. Once the sun streams through the windows in the four cupolas, it combines with the interior lighting system, thereby creating unique and interesting effects.

When Cordoba returned to Christian rule in 1236, the Mosque was converted into a Roman Catholic Church, with the insertion of a Renaissance Cathedral nave (central aisle of a church) during the 16th century. There is also the Villaviciosa Chapel with its own stunning multi-lobed arches and the Capilla Real built as a pantheon for Christian Kings.

Spanish Muslims have been lobbying the Roman Catholic Church for the right to pray in the Cathedral, but they have been rejected on multiple occasions by Spain, and even Rome. It is my hope that one day, both religions can share this sacred space, in honor of their ancestors and their rich history.


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