Thursday, March 6

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Nine: Mosques, Churches and Stuff In Between

After another inevitable late start we headed off to spend the morning at Cordoba's highlight: the Mezquita.

This is the most famous mosque of all Andalucia at one point; or at least used to be, it now being a cathedral. The transformation into the latter can only be described as blunt - with the mosque's original flat and open structure rudely interrupted by the church slapped right bang in the middle of it. Still at least the rest of the building, including the mehrab, has been preserved for people to check out.

The story goes that the mosque itself was built atop the foundations of a church and so there was a justification in re-appropriating it. Regardless, I had more unexpected feelings of frustration and injustice when wandering around the place, although I'm not what what I wanted instead: it's probably unreasonable to have it turned back into a mosque, although perhaps in some kind of naive and hopeful future it could be used as a shared religious space.

It being a chilly morning, I had my hoodie on. Although I had been previously told about the "special treatment" Muslims visitors receive here I was still a bit taken aback when I was asked to remove it - although others were being asked this also so I'm not sure if there was any prejudice in this particular case (I later saw a teen keep his baseball cap on; I suspected this was an act of rebellion rather than something explicitly permitted).

Less acceptable was the constant tailing by guards. Apparently there's a "problem" with some Muslims reclaiming the mosque and taking a few minutes out to pray. Although I don't see the problem with that in principle, I had no intention of doing the same. I had some fun with the guards anyway.

Before lunch we went to find the Fiat Garage we were given the address of in Seville. Despite my useless Spanish and the dealer's non-existent English, I managed to get a replacement wing mirror on order for tomorrow - never underestimate the power of gesticulation. Although I was smug about getting that far at least I know that I still haven't actually fixed the car yet. I probably won't relax till I do.

After a quick bite we turned to the issue of Jummah. Tomorrow is Friday, and we still had no idea where to pray. Ironically Google didn't help in this case, with all searches returning hundreds of hits for the Mezquita and nothing else. We then turned to friends and family and finally got the number of someone residing in Cordoba - he said that he'd meet us in the afternoon and sort us out. As a final long shot back up plan we also asked the hotel who, surprisingly (for me anyway), told us exactly where to go for prayer.

While waiting for our new friend, we checked out the Alcazar de los Reyes Crisianos. This was a smallish palace, west of the Mezquita, and turned out being a nice reward for all the chores we had done that day. A pretty place with its buildings and gardens reflecting a lot of the local history it was well worth checking out.

We were taken out for the rest of the evening. We discovered Central Cordoba, something we didn't realise had existed (our hotel was opposite the Mezquita so we didn't have to explore much). We were also shown the mosque and treated to halal kebabs (our first meat since arriving in Spain) and tea. It was pleasant being in the company of a local; as well as him being a nice guy it was nice to converse with someone living in the city. It's a fun way to get to know some of the insights, back streets and become part of the story itself.

I realised today how rich the areas I've been travelling are in language. Now I always find language skills very attractive and in theory a girl who was brought up in Morocco and then moved to Andalucia (not an uncommon thing apparently) could potentially know Arabic, French and Spanish. Add to that my Urdu and English and assuming we take some Mandarin classes and as a couple we could talk to the majority of the world. Not bad, eh?

Since we were spending the night in Cordoba we weren't in any rush to move on - this despite having completed most of the sights of the city today. Looking back this is the first time I'll be spending a second night in one place since Marrakech. I think that I quite like that statistic.

I also heard the news about the Jerusalem school shooting and ironically felt vindicated in going when we did.