Monday, October 19, 2009

This one's a bit different

Medina Al-Azahara. Cordoba. Botellon. Closet. Clubbing. Mosque at Cordoba. Synagogue. Long bus ride. Home

Medina Al-Azahara: wake up in the hills of California and the ruins of an Umayyad City appear. Three fifths arches, with stone and brick stripes. A city brilliant in its glory days, now dusky monoliths of archways and columns. The hill upon which the city sits, abandoned ruins stare down at the busy modern suburbs of Cordoba. Drink from a marble fountain, the light yellow to orange, we travel to Cordoba proper.

Cross a bridge spanning the wide shallow river, the mezquita rises over the old town. And once we settle into the hotel across from the 8th century Mosque, all we can think is, “where can we get cheap booze?”

so we find it, because we are students and not gullible tourists. And we gather to drink and have fun, and I find myself in a closet because after a cup full of rum it seems like a good idea to chill with the coat hangers while everyone else figures out where the clubs are.

I am standing on the terrace of a building, staring out at the river, listening to spanish music, american music, and dancing with people I have come to rely on, trust, and perhaps know. At 3:30, after stumbling back with the most tired of the group, I wake up in my bed to return Claire's computer. I close my eyes and wake up at 7:30. By 9:15 I am following the Sunday procession into the Mosque. I am more than a little excited to see the striped double arches. The roman columns. The pishtaq. The church inside a mosque. The stunning Gothic architecture sitting in the middle of Muslim reverence.

And then the haze of the morning has me standing on the top of an ancient tower at another church, looking over gardens beautiful and fountains lined with orange trees. Everyone else has a hangover, but the morning light on stone structures almost incomprehensibly older than me gives me a brisk clarity and euphoria.

I have another first experience when I step into a synagogue. I souvenir shop. I see gypsies and I am on a bus asleep. The south turns into Madrid and the unfamiliar becomes the newly familiar and I am back home. Home, mas o menos, is Alcala and I am ok with that.

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