iHola a todos!
This past week I visited the second largest autonomous community in Spain, Andalucía. For the last three weeks, my field-study class has been researching and learning about the cultures of the three cities we would be visiting: Córdoba, Granada, and Sevilla. As a social studies enthusiast, I have always wanted to visit the south of Spain because of the historical and cultural importance these cities have on the country as a whole.
On Monday, we left Madrid for Córdoba and arrived in the South around noon. The first stop of the journey was to the beautiful Mezquita de Córdoba. The Mezquita is a cathedral built on a mosque, which was built on a Visigoth church, dating back as far as 600 A.D. The Mezquita is a reminder of the Islamic rule in Spain and especially the Golden Age of the Umayyad Caliphate. It is a preservation of the artistic and cultural history of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam under the same rule.
Featured in the Mezquita is the Mihrab, a wall that is built in the direction that leads towards Mecca. The Mihrab in Córdoba is unusually larger compare to Muslim style and is more elaborate than most. A notable feature is its a horseshoe-like arch. Behind the arch is where we find the mosaic decoration that was created by craftsmen sent by Byzantine Emperor, Nicephorus II. Verses from the Qur’an, the principal religious text of Islam, are also inscribed on the mosaics.
Córdoba and the Mezquita both left me in disbelief because I remembered reading about the Muslim Conquest of Spain and seeing the famous voussoirs. Standing inside the former mosque brought back memories of my childhood but also my initial excitement about studying in Spain.
The next leg of our journey was to Granada, Spain to see the Alhambra. Formerly used as a palace and a fortress, the Alhambra itself is more than a royal residence as it is almost a mini city with its schools, mosques, baths, and administrative offices. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alhambra remains a remarkable example of Spanish architecture under the Moorish rule. From the outside looking in the Alhambra looks like any other fortress. The exterior design of the Alhambra is sparingly simple and greatly contrasts its grand interior in terms of color and artistic decoration.
While we visited many beautiful rooms and gardens in the fortress, the two features I wanted to see the most was the Court of Myrtles and the Lions. The former received its name from the myrtle bushes that contrasts with the white marble of the patio. The water in the Courtyard of Myrtles also gives life to the tree around it and supply fresh air to visitors. Unlike the former, the Court of the Lions is merely a grand skeleton of its former days. Throughout history, there were plans to restore the courtyard to what it supposedly looks like.
At night, we attended a flamenco show and it was one of the best performances I have ever watched. The Flamenco is a traditional style of dance, guitar playing, and music from Andalucía. It is dramatic and allows the performer to express a wide range of emotion and expression. The three elements of flamenco are dance (baile), guitar playing (toque) and song (cante). Dancing is very dramatic in flamenco because gives out a wide range of emotion and expression. Guitar playing and song are often accompanied by special rhythms, techniques, and harmonies. The performer aims for an emotional connection with the audience through the power of music called duende.
The way the dancers moved in their flamenco performances captured my attention. Every move they make was mesmerizing and detailed which draws the audiences in. It feels as if they are not only trying to connect with the audiences but also those on stage as well.
Our last stop during the field-study was Sevilla, Spain. As the capital and the largest city of Andalucía, Sevilla is home to many historical landmarks including the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, La Giralda, El Alcázar, and La Plaza de España. Built in the name of religion, the Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Sede is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Despite its size, its main characteristics include large columns and simplicity of style. While at the Cathedral, I also climbed 34 flights of stairs to see on top of La Giralda. Completed in 1198, La Giralda was a former minaret that was converted into a bell tower for the Cathedral. It serves as an important symbol for Sevilla as a medieval city.
The tomb of Christopher Columbus is also found in the cathedral “carried” by four noblemen representing the Kingdoms of Castille, Leon, Navarre, and Aragon. As a history lover, I could not help but express my excitement over the famed navigator’s tomb because of how elaborate and symbolic it is. Ironically the two noblemen in the front are from Castile and Leon (the kingdoms of Queen Isabella who sent Columbus on his voyages) are looking up representing prosperity while the two noblemen in the back are from Navarre and Aragon (the kingdoms of King Ferdinand who did not fully consented of Columbus’ voyages) are looking down representing fear and uncertainty.
Aside from the Cathedral, I also visited El Alcázar and La Plaza de España. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcázar is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. I was extremely excited to visit the Alcázar because of its feature on Game of Thrones as the “kingdom of Dorne.” Like the Alcázar, La Plaza de España is known for its grand and massive size. Its feature includes a canal with 4 bridges representing the kingdoms of Castille, Leon, Navarre, and Aragon. Along the wall are tiled alcoves, one for each province of Spain.
After the field-study ended, my friends and I decided to stay in the south for the rest of the week to explore some of the cities along the coast. Here are the places I visited post field-study:
- Cádiz, Spain
- Ronda, Spain
- Málaga, Spain
Song of the week: “Chantaje” – Shakira feat. Maluma