Wednesday, 5 October 2016

(113): Al-Andalus: The Mosaque-Cathedral and the conscience of history (III)

Just like the Hammam Al-Andalus, some of the historical edifices in Madrid still bear the hallmark of Andalus. This includes the famous cathedral in the city of Madrid, called Almudena Cathedral, a name that clearly resembles the names of one of the holiest cities of Islam, Madina Al Munawwara.

Historical accounts suggested that Almudena was originally a mosque but later converted into a Church after King Alfonso reconquered Madrid.  Another historical site of interest in Madrid is Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) of the King of Spain, although it is more of a museum now. The King no longer lives there; it is utilized for ceremonies and visit by tourists.

Now that we have visited some of the remarkable historical sites in Madrid, my attention has returned to Cordoba, that magnificent city that represents the intellectual hub of Andalusia. I visited Cordoba twice during our study period between 2014 and 2015. The first was with my friend and colleague, Muhammad Ahmad Bello. After experiencing the aura of Cordoba’s historical significance, we agreed that we should bring our family with us, so that they will equally witness this interesting adventure. We decided that after our graduation ceremony, we should embark on another visit to Cordoba.

The visit to Cordoba was made more interesting by the surprise appearance of my friend, and brother, Suleiman Baba Suleiman. Before departing to Madrid, I called to tell him that I would be away for my graduation ceremony. Suleiman told me that he would also be on holiday in the United Kingdom around the same period.  I shared many stories with him on my previous visit to Cordoba.

Few hours after defending our final project at the IE business School, Muhammad Bello and I went back to the hotel to have some rest and prepare for the graduation ceremony scheduled for the following day. Guess who is there on our arrival at the hotel lobby? It was Suleiman and his wife checking in at the hotel. That was awesome. It was a pleasant surprise.

On Saturday 19 December 2015, about five different families embarked on the journey to Cordoba, primarily to visit the most historic site in the city, the Mosque-Cathedral. There is something unique about the Mosque-Cathedral; perhaps, it is only in Cordoba where the mosque means a church, and vice versa. If you meet any resident of Cordoba, ask him about Mezquita (mosque), he would refer you to the Umayyad mosque, though it is operating as a Church and tourist site at the moment.

During our first visit to Cordoba in 2014, we walked from the train station to Mezquita. We asked a lady for a description of the Mosque-Cathedral. “You mean the mosque?” and she went on to tell us what Mezquita means to the people of Cordoba. “Everyone here calls it the mosque,” she added.

The Mezquita is a huge building situated in the old city of Cordoba. It is adorned by the minaret, which historically was used by the Muezzin who makes the call to prayer. Inside the premises, surrounded by a huge wall, which partially resembles ancient city walls that you find in Hausa city-states like Kano and Bauchi. Some beautiful orange trees were planted in different parts of the inner wall. There are several entrances to the Mosque from different alleys surrounding the mosque.

There are several shops and restaurants around the building, some of them managed by North African Arabs. The premises was full of tourists from different countries. A number of the visitors travel in groups with a tour guide providing explanation in different languages.

On arrival at the Mosque-Cathedral, we purchased tickets and headed to the door. At the entrance, there were security officials who would give you brief guidelines about the dos and don’ts of the tour.
“Are you a Muslim?” one of the guards enquired. “You are welcome to make the tour, but please no prayers are aloud.”  He advised.

We then asked if there is tour-guide, who will take us through the mosque and explain the historical monument in English. The security guard looked at the officer next to him, and spoke in Spanish. He walked away briefly, and then returned with a lady named Christina, most likely in her late 40s or early 50s.

“I am a private-tour guide, so you have to pay.” She said with a smile. “How much” we asked. “It is 50 Euros” she answered. Without hesitation, we asked her to go ahead, and within seconds, we set our foot into Mezquita.

To be continued…



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