January 28, 2011

Córdoba, Spain. March, 1995

When Jay turned 50, I told him that his gift would be a trip anywhere in the world. That he should take his time and think about where he’d like to go, anywhere. After a few days, he told me: Key West. “Key West?,” I said, “Wouldn’t you rather go to Spain?” “Well, yeah.” So here he is inside the most memorable spot in Córdoba, La Mezquita. This great mosque was built in Andalucía’s Islamic capital by Moorish rulers in the 8th century. And it was so grand that later, when it was to be converted to a Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchs instead were able to build an entire Gothic cathedral within its vast expanse. It was my first mosque and it made a big impression, pointed me in a direction that I follow, fascinated, to this day. Other Córdoba memories, less grand but no less indelible: the señora at our pension who, when she saw how interested we were in her courtyard’s orange tree, warned us of its bitter fruit, “Muy fuerte.” And at breakfast in the same pension, the tweedy British lesbian admonishing her partner to stop lingering with a stern, “Come along, Sybil!” (When I turned 50, and Jay returned the birthday favor, I announced that I’d like to go to Istanbul. His instant, fear-prompted reply: “Absolutely not!” I wound up going without him.)

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