July 7th: woke up early for free admission to La Mezquita . If you wake up early, then you can go to the church and get in for free (Gratis!) Make sure you are dressed to be respectful. Ladies, this means, wearing a shawl or something that covers up your shoulders. Also, make sure if you are wearing a dress or skirt that is longer than the knee or just above it. Always be a good ambassador. They are strict here, which I appreciate. Guys, you should wear pants or slacks and a t-shirt, no tanks.
Waking up early and touring La Mezquita was awesome!!! It was everything I expected and more. The left side of cathedral had better lighting for openings in the ceiling that the Christian Kings put in later during the time of the Reconquista. You could see older arches and newer arches stacked upon each other. Just to give a quick history lesson, the visigoths (a Germanic tribe) were in Cordoba first, then the Muslims (Moors) came and lastly the Christian Kings kicked the Moors out. So, as you can see this building has been through A LOT! It was bewildering to see the beautiful Islamic style arches and then walk around and see Catholic carvings and pictures of Jesus. The Mihrab was stunningly beautiful painted with shiny golds and hunter green shades. I could see moon shapes and flower shapes in many of the panels. You have to note that these panels and spaces were hand painted by many individuals and are painstakingly lovely. A Mihrab is an opening in the wall or a niche that is pointing towards Mecca, so it is a very important part of the building. If you were to make comparisons, it would be like walking into a Catholic Cathedral and walking towards the altar. When standing in front of a Mihrab, you will see more etches and intricate designs that go into the wall. You may even see beautiful tile work or Arabic writings if you look really closely into the designs in the ceiling part of the Mihrab.
Barely anyone was inside which made my experience better. Daily routines for maintenance were taking place early in the morning before flocks of tourists came in. There was a man cleaning the floor with a zamboni machine. I had to step aside so that he could clean the floors to shine. I was in the building for more than an hour. A early morning Catholic mass was taking place. There were speaker phones that were attached to several columns and I decided to go and stand right next to one. I didn’t feel brave enough to go and sit at mass. I feel like if I knew my Spanish a bit more, I could listen along and know when to be respectful. What a trip to listen to a Catholic mass that used to be a mosque. Talk about cultural diffusion! It is a surreal and mystical experience. For just a minute, I felt as if all the religions of the world had no hostilities and that every religion in the world was on the same page. This mosque has its religious differences set aside, because they kept the beautiful parts of the Catholic Church and they kept the exquisite parts of the mosque.
Walking around, there is just so much detail to absorb and to feel. I had to touch some of the columns to try and feel what this building had gone through in history. It amazed me that this building had gone through several hands in history, yet maintained a quiet and serene and pristine beauty. Before I left, an Australian lady was so kind enough to take a photo of me inside the cathedral with the beautiful pink and creme arches. We exchanged a quick conversation and we both agreed that it was a spiritual and reflective experience to walk around with only less than 10 people inside. I finally decided to go outside and sit in the sun. I felt a sense of completion and purpose. I was exposed to these beautiful arches of Cordoba when teaching my AP World history students about the Ummayad and Abbasid dynasty almost 7 or 8 years ago. Something about the arches, haunted me and drew me in to its enticing story. The arches were so perfect, so geometric and so simple, yet they inspired me to travel to Spain. Kids that I have taught still taunt and tease me about the arches. I was able to tell them that I actually went and saw them!
As I sat outside, girls were getting denied at door for not having shawls. This was the first place that enforced this rule and I appreciated this. I witnessed some small birds, possibly swallows flying around like a swarm of bats. At one point, I thought that maybe the birds were bats and still I have yet to answer that. I sat close to a water fountain and watched the local people and tourists hang out by it to be purposely splashed with water because of the escalating heat. It gets REALLY hot in Cordoba. There was some kind of bell device attached to the water fountain that made chiming noises and many people were videotaping it, including myself. Cordoba, is definitely a place that feels local. You can tell who is a tourist, who is a student and who lives there. I wasn’t used to the change in pace since I had come from bustling Madrid and Sevilla, but now when I think back and reflect on my experience, I would go back and enjoy it all over again. One more thing to note, is to go and check out the outside facade of the building as the day progresses with the sun placement. The light and dark of the day bring about a feeling as if the building is still alive and breathing. I can’t explain it, you just have to go and see it throughout the day. Oh…and if you get hungry, go eat a slice of Spanish tortilla (egg, potato & onion) at Bar Santos, you will thank me later.