22 May 2009
The mandatory but lengthy Mosque Cathedral visit done, we emerge into the hot noon Andalusian sun. Even the crowds are staying away.
Foot patrols are common, making us visitors feel safe and secure.
At the northeastern tip of the Mosque Cathedral, there’s even a tourist trap called Al Mihrab.
The Great Mosque is a huge industry for Cordoba’s economy.
Typical of old Andalusian quarters, narrow lanes such as this one abound. Designed for pedestrian, carts and horse traffic in the old days, but nowadays the odd modern car can still squeeze by.
It’s lunchtime, and we are famished. Up another narrow lane, we find a halal eatery. It’s a Morrocan joint, not owned by descendants of the original Cordoban Muslims. A thousand years ago in its hey-days, Cordoba the Islamic City (of 500,000 people) boasted 700 mosques, but now only 500 Muslims live here (out of 320,000 people).
Interior of the restaurant is cosy and cooling, but the menu is in Arabic and Spanish. A bunch of Morrocans from France, who sat nearby, help us in deciphering the menu, thanks to our bad French and their bad English.
Nevertheless we manage to figure this one out: spicy wheat couscous with vegies and chicken. Probably a staple Berber dish but quite tasty and filling.
Outside the eatery, the traffic is perpetually non-stop. Cars in single file patiently wait for their turns along the narrow one-way cobblestone lanes. No honking allowed.
From the hot sidewalk I peer into a typical entrance to the residences. The common hallway is always whitewashed with wooden doors leading into the apartments. The thick walls protect the interior from the hot sun, and traffic noise, and strangers like me.
Across the street, an ancient balcony juts out from the eastern wall of the Mosque Cathedral. Looks like a later Christian addition.
Further up the road, at the southern face of the Mosque Cathedral, there’s a square…
… where, to the left, the 16th century Christian-era Puerta del Puente (Bridge Gateway) stands. This used to be the southern wall of old Cordoba, and this gate marks the start of the main road heading south out of Cordoba.
Past the Bridge Gateway, the Bridge of Cordoba spans the wide Guadalquivir River (originally ‘Al Wadi Al Khabir’ – the ‘Great River’). Built in the 1st century by the Romans, it’s a 250-m long engineering feat. In those days, this river was navigable all the way from here to the Atlantic Ocean, some 300km away.
> THE END