A UNESCO tour of Andalusia’s three cultures

The wealthy historical past of Andalusia is in lots of respects the historical past of its three most influential cultures and their defining religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Andalusia is an enormous area of almost 34 thousand sq. miles, with some cities established in extra of three,000 years in the past, a number of the oldest in Europe. That’s quite a lot of historical past and quite a lot of geographical space to cowl for the uninitiated; happily, Andalusia’s three cultures and lots of of an important associated UNESCO World Heritage websites can greatest be explored in and round simply three of its capital cities: Granada, Cordoba and Seville.

The Islamic Moors dominated the area of Al-Andaluz already from across the eighth century BC, when many of the European continent was languishing in the dead of night ages, and their rule lasted by the remainder of the Medieval interval. Right now the Moorish capitals in Cordoba and Granada have been true centres of civilization and studying, whereas the three cultures lived in relative concord. This concord clearly and perpetually modified with the centuries lengthy wars of the Christian Reconquest and subsequent Inquisition culminating within the 15th century. Although many cultural websites have been misplaced throughout this time, the enduring legacies of all three cultures stay and could be explored with even a quick tour of Andalusia.


The Alhambra palace and Generalife Gardens in Granada are simply some of the in style and well-known UNESCO websites in Spain, certainly, some of the visited vacationer websites on the earth. The fortress complicated was the residence of the Moorish emirs after completion within the mid-thirteenth century and stands right this moment as among the finest preserved examples of historical Arabic structure. The adjoining outdated Arabic neighbourhood referred to as the Albaycin nonetheless seems like a stroll again in time with meandering, mazelike cobbled streets, tea homes and artisanal retailers.

In 1492, after the ultimate victory of the Christian leaders over the Islamic Moors, the Alhambra grew to become the royal courtroom of Ferdinand and Isabella. They instituted some adjustments to the palaces within the Renaissance model, however the Alhambra stays undeniably Moorish total to this present day. It was right here that Christopher Columbus obtained approval for his historic expedition.

Granada additionally comprises an vital Sephardi museum targeted on the historical past of the Sephardic Jews main as much as the time of the Inquisition. It’s positioned within the metropolis’s Jewish quarter, referred to as the Realejo, the place additional remnants of the Judaic affect on the town could be explored in additional depth.


Probably the most wonderful interval of Cordoban historical past started within the eighth century on the time of the unique Moorish conquest and for the next two centuries Cordoba was the central city and cultural focus of the western world. Some 300 mosques, numerous palaces and civic buildings have been constructed to ascertain Cordoba as a centre of civilization to rival Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus. Lots of of those historical buildings nonetheless stand as testomony to the legacy of the cultures that produced them and might nonetheless be explored. Such is the historic import of the centre of Cordoba that your complete city centre was awarded a UNESCO World Heritage designation and any observant stroll by the realm unveils a wealth of tradition and historical past.

Probably the most well-known website in Cordoba is the Mezquita, itself a UNESCO website, oft known as the Mosque-Cathedral for apparent causes when you’ve seen it. The sheer dimension of the unique mosque made a daring assertion, as did the constructing strategies that influenced subsequent Arabic and Christian designs thereafter. However essentially the most distinctive and incongruent function of the trendy construction arises from the adjustments made by the Christian rulers after the Moors have been expelled. Primarily, the mosque was preserved with its forest of columns and Arabic arches supporting a roof at remarkable heights for the time, but smack in the midst of the mosque a Christian cathedral was constructed.

The outdated centre of Cordoba additionally contains the Jewish Quarter, with quite a few historic synagogues, together with a really notable one from 1315 combining Christian and Islamic architectural design. Close by Lucena was based as a wholly Jewish metropolis through the Muslim rule of Spain within the 11th century. There lies the most important Sephardi necropolis in Spain with greater than 370 tombs.

Spain’s latest UNESCO World Heritage designation was awarded in July, 2018 to the Medina Azahara, a settlement designed because the residence of the primary Caliph from Cordoba, on the town’s outskirts, and constructed between the years 936-976. Not only a palace, however a metropolis complicated housing the civil and navy administration of the state, the Medina Azahara was supposed to indicate the greatness and dignity of Abd al-Rahman III, who had declared himself the very best chief of all Islam, and Mohammed’s successor. What makes the positioning most spectacular and vital right this moment is that, not like different monuments from the Hispanomuslim period, neither its construction nor ornament have been altered with later modifications. It stands as a pure archeological website and permits shut and correct inspection of the previous.


Our preliminary tour of an important UNESCO websites highlighting Andalusia’s Three Cultures leads us to a really centralised space of Seville, with the Cathedral, Alcazar and Archivo de Indias. This monumental complicated within the coronary heart of the town pays homage to the “Golden Age” of Spain, because the nation consolidated its royal sovereignty and immense buying and selling energy acquired by its New World colonies.

Town instantly displays a extra fashionable wealth than its counterparts in Granada and Cordoba, although the unique Alcazar (fortified palace) was constructed within the 10th century, across the similar time as these others beneath the Moors, as a palace for the Muslim governor of the area. It has been constructed and rebuilt, reformed and altered all through the ages, from Medieval to fashionable occasions. As such it’s a research in structure throughout the eras, each inside the partitions and within the intensive gardens hooked up, from the unique Moorish Almohad model to Renaissance and thru Neoclassical. It’s used right this moment because the royal residence in Seville, in step with its authentic function.

Based in 1403, the Cathedral was constructed on the positioning of a centuries outdated mosque. Not like the one in Cordoba, the Christian rulers razed many of the outdated construction and constructed a real Gothic/Renaissance Cathedral, nonetheless right this moment the most important Gothic construction in Europe and the third largest Cathedral on the earth. Its Moorish, Islamic roots are nonetheless seen right this moment, nevertheless, most notably within the Giralda tower (the previous minaret of the mosque) and the orange tree-lined courtyard aromatic with orange blossom. A sarcophagus inside is claimed to comprise the stays of Christopher Columbus.

The third UNESCO listed website comprising the central complicated is a comparatively later assemble. In-built 1585 to deal with a retailers consulate, the Archivo de Indias was transformed in 1785 to deal with the best assortment of paperwork referring to the invention of the New World and subsequent relations; fashionable testomony to the truth that Seville held a digital monopoly on commerce to the New World and “the Indies” for some 200 years.

With this considerably superficial glimpse into the enormously deep and complicated historical past of Andalusia’s Three Cultures, just about the various effectively deserved UNESCO websites, it must be potential for the resourceful traveller to plan and expertise a extremely illuminating tour. Nevertheless, for knowledgeable and expertly guided exploration, a bespoke journey planner akin to Toma & Coe ( can unearth and clarify sights, websites and historical past that will in any other case be almost not possible. In the meantime, a specialist culinary tour operator akin to Paladar y Tomar ( can information you thru a tasty exploration of Andalusia’s Three Cultures with a tailor made gastronomic tour of the culinary legacies of the Jews, Muslims and Christians within the area.

Alan Hazel is Proprietor and Director of Cortijo El Carligto. Cortijo el Carligto is a non-public Andalucían hideaway and luxurious rental property within the hills of Malaga, Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean.

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