Friday, June 3, 2011


Last week, the engineering students had the opportunity to visit Cordoba which is approximately 80 miles northwest of Sevilla. Cordoba is an ancient community that dates back to 800 BC. The city was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC and became an important outpost. At the time of Julius Caesar, Córdoba was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior Baetica.

Cordoba was captured in 711 AD by an Arab Muslim army and eventually became the capital for the Muslim caliphate (state or province) on the Iberian peninsula. At the peak of this period (1000 AD), Cordoba had a population of approximately 500,000 and was a major cultural, political, and financial center.

In 1236 AD, it was captured by King Ferdinand III during the Spanish Reconquista. The city declined during and after the Renaissance times and the population was reduced to 20,000. The population and economy grew in the early 20th century with about 300,000 current inhabitants.

The first site to greet the students when they stepped off the bus was the Roman bridge which spans the Guadalquivir. The bridge has been improved over the years but the footings and basic structure were put in place by the Romans, almost 2000 years ago. Amazing.

This is the main attraction, the Mezquita or mosque/cathedral. It represents the combined influences of all the great civilizations that have ruled the Iberian peninsula.

The Visigoths and Romans built the first Christian temple on the site. The Muslims leveled the temple but reused the Roman columns and built their own characteristic Moorish arches on top of them. The Roman Catholics left the bulk of the mosque intact but built a cathedral squarely in the middle of it.

We had a first for engineering students in Spain, we were asked to leave the Mezquita after only 20-30 minutes. Evidently, there was a misunderstanding about how a group as large as ours should conduct themselves. Our students were perfect but they did not stay in the tight cluster that was expected. That is actually hard to manage for a group of more than 50. The real issue appears to be that we put 50 students through with student discounts of 50%.

During the Moorish period of domination, the Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their own faith with very little interference. An ancient synagogue in the old Jewish quarter is another interesting place to visit in Sevilla.

After the Reconquista, things were much more difficult for the Jews. Initially, they were forced to convert to Christianity but they were suspected of faking it and were eventually just forced out. The story of this time period was shared at the Sephardic (Spanish Jew) House.

We had an excellent guide who finished the tour with a traditional song.

The students were overwhelmed with all of the exceptional photo opportunities.

Here are the philosophy students getting a short briefing.

Here is a link to the complete Cordoba photo album.

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