This weekend was another incredible adventure in our new home, España. Through the Tufts-Skidmore in Madrid program, we have had the chance to explore other parts of this beautiful country besides Madrid. Earlier in the semester, we took a trip to Spain’s province of Segovia, which gave us a really interesting insight into the country’s rich past. This weekend, we took a trip south to the beautiful and historic province of Anadalusia, where we visited Granada and Córdoba, two of its landmark cities.
Before coming to Spain this semester, all I really knew about this region was the city of Granada, which I knew was beautiful enough to inspire songs in its honor (check out a friend from my high school’s mariachi sing this song here as you read this). However, I had no idea of its significance in the history of not only Spain but in that of various religions as well. Through a course that I am taking at the Tufts-Skidmore program center this semester called Tres Culturas: Cristianos, Judíos, y Musulmanes, I’ve gotten a much better understanding of Spain’s complicated and fascinating religious history, which involves much more than just the Catholic Church. Rather, as I’ve learned, Catholicism was the last religion to arrive in Spain after an early Jewish presence and an eight-hundred year rule by Muslim caliphates. When the Catholics returned to Spain in the 9th and 10th centuries (an event called the Reconquista), conflict between the two eventually led to the Muslims being pushed out of Spain (which was called al-Andalus by the Muslims living in the territory). The fall of the Umayyad caliphate is often seen as the turning point for the Muslim caliphate in Spain.
Knowing this history made me appreciate this trip a lot more. In Granada, we visited the famous Alhambra. Constructed in the late 9th century, the palace served as a beautiful fortress for the Muslim emirs and their royal courts. It underwent a large renovation in the 1300s, and, in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs took over the palace and added more to it as they continued to push out Muslim emirs and their followers from the territory. It was left alone for a long period of time, but the Spanish and European community as a whole has made a joint effort over the last three centuries to restore it to all of its beauty. This was one of the only palaces I’ve seen in my life, and it was easily the most breathtaking in my opinion. The attention to detail in all of their architecture—from quiet streams so that the water would not disrupt their peace to ceilings that took over ten years to produce—and the overall aesthetic of the palace made the Alhambra one of my favorite spots that I have seen in my entire life.
Similarly, we had an incredible time walking the streets of Cordoba and seeings its rich history through the different sights that are still preserved in the city today. As the former capital of the Islamic Emirate and the most populous city in the world during the 10th century, Cordoba has a lot of incredible sights that were equally as breathtaking. However, it was also
interesting to see the other aspects of religious history in Cordoba, most notably the Cordoba Synagogue that was built in 1315. It was a very sobering experience to stand in a small room which so many people over the last 9 decades have stood for so many different reasons.
Overall, this trip was very eye-opening and helped me visualize and contextualize all of the incredible facts about this country that we have been learning over the course of the semester. I am now even more excited to take advantage of these next 9 weeks and to get to experience as much of Spanish and European history and culture as possible.