At the end of 1999, in an emotional ceremony, the Hebrew Sabbath prayer was heard in the Cordoba Synagogue for the first time in five centuries.
Cordoba is rediscovering its multi-cultural roots.
The 14th-century synagogue, a fine example of Andalusian Mudejar art, is one of only three of its kind in Spain. It is located in the Juderia, the maze of narrow streets that make up the old Jewish quarter of Cordoba, and is a powerful symbol of the days when the city, the capital of a caliphate which encompassed most of the Iberian peninsula - a land known to the Moors as Al-Andalus and to the Jews as Sepharad - was a shining centre of culture, science and learning. In those days Cordoba, birthplace of the great Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides, was home to the most brilliant Christian, Jewish and Moorish scientists and thinkers. The designation by Unesco of Cordobas historical centre, including the Juderia and the adjoining Mosque, as a World Heritage Site in 1984 rekindled interest in the citys rich past and, in particular, its Jewish and Moorish roots.
Cordobas Association of Friends of Jewish Culture organises regular cultural activities and other events, and sponsored the years ceremony officiated by Dr. Raymond Scheindlin, a prominent scholar from New York. They are also promoting the cultural Route of Sepharad, taking in the major sights in the city as well as Cordoban towns with strong Sephardic roots, such as Lucena and Priego de Cordoba.
In the days of the Caliphate the Sephardim played an important role in Moorish society. Many of the citys traditional crafts, such as the delicate filigree work which is still produced by craftsmen in the citys picturesque Zoco (souk) across the street from the synagogue, can be traced back to those days.
The recovery of this heritage extends to the local gastronomy as well. Jose Garcia of the famous El Caballo Rojo restaurant was instrumental in reviving traditional Moorish and Sephardic dishes, which has served as an inspiration for other Cordoba restaurants such as Pepe de la Juderia, one of the most popular establishments in the old Jewish quarter, where chef Francisco Afan has developed dishes such as Bacalao Sefarad as a tribute to Cordobas multi-cultural past.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet