Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
To begin this description I would like to thank the Feinstone family for funding my travel to various historical sites in Andalusia. I would also like to thank St. Lawrence University as a whole for the other grants that made it possible for me to spend the month of July in Seville conducting research in Los Archivos de Indias.
When I was not in the archives I did my best to absorb as much of Seville– its cuisine, geography, and culture– as possible. The funding I received from the Sol Feinstone Endowment covered my admission to two of Seville's most well known landmarks: the Alcazar and the Catedral. One of my attached photos displays Koranic carvings that still adorn the walls of the Alcazar (the palace in Arabic). After spending a semester in Jordan, I can assure you the prevalence of Islamic art in what is now one of the Spanish Royal family's palaces is beyond anything I saw in the Middle East.
After getting my bearings and overcoming jetlag I left Seville for Cordoba during my second weekend in Spain. Once again, the funding I received from CIIS covered my admission to the most iconic cultural sites of Cordoba. The first place I visited was the Cathedral-Mosque. La Mezquita (the mosque) as it is still often called in Spanish was once the second largest mosque in the world. As you might guess, after the Reconquista the grand mosque of the Umayyad Caliphate was converted into a Cathedral. The same day I visited la Mezquita, I also had the chance to visit one of the last remaining synagogues in Cordoba. I have included the Hebrew inscription marking the date of the structure's dedication in 1315 (5075 according to the Judaic Calendar). I concluded my travel in Cordoba by visiting the museum Living Al-Andalus.
My travels in Granada brought me to the Alhambra and, with some kismet, into contact to with the Muslim community of the city. My first weekend there, I spent as any tourist would; on walking tours and exploring the Alhambra. Yet as I was leaving Granada I stopped at what looked like an Islamic art gallery. I quickly found out from the owner that it was much more. She turned out to be a spokesperson for the Muslim community of Granada. Her store was stocked with original art not only from her family members but other Spanish Muslims from all over Andalusia. After speaking a mix of Spanish, English, and Arabic we both realized we had a mutual appreciation for the religious cohabitation that once existed in Spain between Muslims, Jews, and Christians (convivencia in Spanish, Tayush in Arabic). She then invited me to come visit her family the following weekend. I took her up on her offer and returned to Granada for my last weekend in Spain. The experience was memorable. I visited the first mosque built by Spaniards in centuries, attended a nocturnal Ramadan feast, and spoke more Arabic than Spanish. This hospitality taught me the new meaning of convivencia in Spain.