Visiting the Historical Landmarks of Spain! December 23, 2018 by Bilal Sultan
Spain was an intriguing experience to say the least. There are many historic sites there that hold the stories of Islamic Medieval Spain. This period is also known as La Convivencia, which means coexistence, a time of peace and harmony between people of different religions and cultures (especially Muslims, Jews, and Christian), cultural exchange and scientific exploration. Our journey began in Zaragoza. There lies the Aljaferia, which was a splendid palace built in the 2nd half of the 11th century by the, Taifa, a small government formed after Andalusia split up, of Zaragoza. On the exterior, it was a clear cream color, with what used to be a moat around it. But what filled the space of the moat, was a simple garden that suited the palace well. As I entered the palace, I was surrounded by its tall walls and the sunlight beating on my face. As I delved further in, the arch structures of the Moors were evident throughout. There were remnants of the Arabic writing on the walls. However, some of the Arabic works were destroyed by the invasion of other kingdoms and replaced when the Muslim reign over Spain had ended. At the final stretch of the palace, there is a mesmerizing flower garden that brings you peace for the end of the trip. Next, we visited Toledo, where I visited a series of churches, synagogues, and converted mosques. Toledo was evidence that many cultures could coexist even in one city. As I headed from one place to another of the old city, full of ancient sculptures and works of architectures, to the next, the archaic buildings were a wonder to look at. The Synagogue Santa Maria La Blanca, Iglesia De Santa Tome, and the Mezquita Cristo de Luz are just a few examples of how coexistence among diverse faiths and cultures is possible. Our next stop was Cordoba, a city built in ninth century and is famous as “the ornament of the world.” A heart of the cultural hub that had hospital, public baths, colleges and universities, libraries, public parks and paved, lamp-lit streets. In Cordoba, I first visited the Alcazar, which is a Moorish palace/fortress in Spain, there was a garden and a few small ponds that stretched from one end to the other. There were libraries, study rooms, paintings, and all sorts different rooms. It was amazing how society back then was organized to have talented artisans to craft luxurious architecture. The most amazing place of about Cordoba, though, was the Great Mosque of Cordoba built in the 8th century by Abd Al Rahman the 1st. It was a stunning piece of architecture. The rows and rows of arches and columns were astounding. The perfect symmetry was evident; if you stood with your back to one of the columns, in front of you, everything would look like one column. It was grand in size with the repeating patterns throughout. However, parts of this masterpiece were replaced with a church was made directly in the middle of the mosque once the Spaniards had reconquered Spain. But the Mosque still made a great impression on me and the night view of Mosque of Cordoba was mesmerizing. Next, in Sevilla, I visited the Torre del Oro, “Tower of Gold”. It was originally designed by the Moors to protect the city in the 13th century, but now it is a historical landmark. As, I climbed up the steps, I learned about the history of the tower. The view at the very top was breathtaking. It was just seeing the different sides of town that made it remarkable. Finally, at Granada, I visited the fabled Alhambra. The Alhambra is a grand site of 35 acres. The Alhambra is split into six parts, and I had the privilege to visit them all. I first visited the Alcazaba, the Medina, and the Rauda. The ruins were sparsely covered with dust and sand, but the outlines were still there. The Medina was a small town for the people working for the court. The Rauda was a small cemetery. The most important one was the Alcazaba, a big fort that was able to view the entire city of Granada. It had massive walls and long flights of stairs. In the main palaces, there were small streams, a beautiful lion statue, high ceilings, and amazing arches. The ancient paintings and the calligraphy were everywhere and the coexistence between the three faiths, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, was also seen in the art. Finally, the Generalife was the most beautiful garden in the entire trip. It was full of flowers, bushes, pathways, fountains, and was magnificent. My trip to Spain brought to life - a time long ago of tolerance and coexistence- regardless of who they were with, they learned to put aside their differences for the betterment of human civilization.