The very comfortable bus ride from Granada to Cordoba takes about two and a half hours. Two things occured to me on this ride. First, was the endless panorama of mature olive groves. They stretched in all directions as far as one could see. Hundreds of square kilometers of nothing but olives. Second, I noticed that nearly every town we passed through was surmounted by a large moorish fortress, similar to the Alhambra in structure, but just smaller.
A typical town with Moorish fortification.
Cordoba is truely an ancient city, with traces of human occupation dating back to around 35,000 BC. It was a fairly developed city by the 8th century BC. The first recorded history is from the Carthaginian records. The city was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC, and became a cultural center. It was then captured by the Visigoths in the late 6th century. But, in 711, it was captured by the Moorish army. By the year 766, it had been made the capital of the Muslim emirate, and later made a Caliphate. Its population grew to about 500,000 in that period, making it the largest city in the world at that time. In the 10th and 11th centuries Cordoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world, and a great cultural, political, financial and economic center. The Great Mosque was built in this period. All of this changed during the period from 976 and 1002 when the new ruler burned most of the books to please the Moorish clergy. Cordoba then fell into a rapid and deep decline leading to decades of war and strife. In 1236, during the Spanish Reconquesta, Cordoba was captured by the Spanish King. It continued to decline, eventually hosting a remaining population of only 20,000 persons. It wasn't until the early 20th century that its economy and population begain to recover.