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Cordoba

Few cities represent as strikingly the era of Moorish domination of the Iberian Peninsula, which lasted for more than 800 years, as Córdoba, at the time the residence of the caliphs of al Ándalus. In the heart of the city stands a mosque, surrounded by a wall as if it were a fortress, with an inner patio full of orange trees and with fountains where the Muslims washed their feet before their prayers. The architecture of the immense prayer hall, with more than 800 pillars, reminds one of an oriental palm-tree wood.

The Córdoba mosque is an authentic piece of the East in the middle of the West. Today's traders no longer wear a turban, and yet, the large number of souvenir shops surrounding the mosque creates a kind of Arab market atmosphere. Behind the mosque, the old Jewish and Moorish quarters invite you to wander around in their network of alleys. Even the whitewashed houses with their patios full of flower pots, which are specially smartened up at the end of May and opened to the public, transport the visitor to another era.

The former palace city of the caliphs -Medinat al-Zahra- before the gates of Córdoba, used to be one of the world's most luxurious royal residences. Here the caliph resided with his family and some 20,000 servants. Since 1910, archaeologists are working on the reconstruction of the buildings that once stood on this vast field of ruins.

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