Is anyone into history?
Last night I watched a wonderful documentary called When the Moors Ruled in Europe. The documentary discusses the major aspects of Islamic Spain and the Golden Age of Islam, which was present in Al-Andalus, also known as, Andalusia. To be more specific, Andalusia is the southern part of Spain in which Islam flourished for several years (711 – 1492 A.D.).
I have traveled to Spain in the Summer of 2009 and visited the cities of Madrid, Seville, Granada and Cordoba. Seville, Granada, and Cordoba happen to be part of Andalusia/Southern Spain and are absolutely breath-taking! The pictures that I’ve placed here in this post clearly do no justice. Since I had studied the history of Spain and learned about Andalusia in my high school history class, it was very interesting to see those places in real life.
Interestingly, much of the architecture that is present throughout Spain is Islamic architecture. So, even if one is not visiting the southern part of Spain, he/she will still see some influence of Islamic architecture in Madrid or elsewhere in the country.
Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain
It is amusing to know that even video game companies send their staff to several countries to study the architecture of those places and obtain ideas from them to use in the setting of video games. Final Fantasy, particularly Final Fantasy XII, is one game that includes settings that are heavily inspired by Mediterranean and Islamic architecture. On another note, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones had a scene (click here to see) that was shot in Plaza de Espana in Seville. I’ve been to the place and loved it! Islamic architecture was noticeable over there as well.
My favorite tourist site, however, was the Alhambra in Granada. The intricate designs on the wall and the amazing architecture of the palace…phenomenal! The documentary that I watched also mentioned a special geometric trick that was utilized in building the mosque.
During the Golden Age of Islam, the Muslims had made many innovations, particularly in the areas of science (medicine, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy), and philosophy. Meanwhile, other European countries were struggling through the Dark/Middle Ages. Many of the scientific and philosophic discoveries made in the Age of Enlightenment, which bought Europe out of the Dark/Middle Ages, drew influence from the discoveries made in Islamic Spain.
It’s also amazing how the paper-making invention revolutionized the world and was perhaps considered the best thing since sliced bread during those times. Today, we have the Internet that has revolutionized everything!
Great Mosque of Cordoba (Mezquita), Cordoba, Spain
Anyhow, just like the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Islamic Spain also rose and fell. This was primarily due to the reason that Muslims started to go astray from the Islam and were indulging in things that were forbidden. The fall was clearly a punishment. As the people of Andalusia became care-free, Europe was preparing for the Crusades. You can guess what happened next. The Crusaders had taken many of the scholarly works from the Muslims and brought them to Europe where people would suddenly be inspired to rise from the Dark Ages.
I watched the documentary, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, when I went back to my uni. after my Summer trip in 2009 (I had post-travel depression/post-vacation blues at that time >_<). I was inspired to watch the documentary when I took a course in philosophy during that semester. My trip to Europe helped me a lot in understanding the documentaries that the professor had shown in class. The documentary that I watched during my free time in the dorms, however, goes in-depth on what exactly happened from the start and end of Islamic Spain. Surprisingly, this was also the time I actually discovered Korean dramas and K-Pop! xD
A view of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain
Apart from watching historical documentaries, it’s nice to gain insight on historical moments through people that actually lived through those times and can share their experiences with others. One of my friends in high school was 1/3 French, 1/3 Saudi (Arab), and 1/3 Greek, and I remember her grandma attending our World History class in 10th grade to speak about her experience of living in France during WWII. This may seem off-topic, but I would like to share her brief account (no, not a fan account =P) of her experience (I had written about it in a blog that I used to have during my high school years).
My friend’s grandma, who I will refer to as the lady, used to live in a small town in France that shared a border with Germany. During WWII, the Germans soldiers crossed over the French border to take control of France. The lady vividly described the night she woke up and looked through the window of her home to see the German soldiers advancing through the forests that lined along the border of France and Germany. The French people in her town could not retaliate against the German soldiers, so they went about quietly doing their regular choirs and tried to avoid trouble. The little French children in the town, however, would stand up on the rooftops of their homes and tease the German soldiers. The elderly French people had to scold the children and warn them not to mess with the German soldiers.
Furthermore, the lady used to work at a bakery that her grandma had owned. There was a time when a few German soldiers barged into the bakery and demanded some food. The lady was angry and didn’t want to listen to the soldiers, but her grandma said that it was best to just hand over some of the food in the bakery.
There was also an incident when the lady and her grandma heard that Hitler was in town and that he was attending a party at a hotel to celebrate their victory of successfully taking control of some of the areas in France. The lady and her grandma decided to travel to the area outside of the hotel to get a glimpse of Hitler, the man that everyone had been talking about during that time. The lady’s grandma even bought her camera! However, in the process of taking a photo of Hitler, one of the 19-year-old soldiers that was accompanying him saw the camera in the grandma’s hand and kicked it. The grandma fell and the lady had to help her up. Can you believe it!? Flash-forward a little later on, the lady met her future-husband-to-be at a British military base in France.
That’s all I remember of her story. Pretty interesting, huh?
Alhambra, Granada, Spain
On a completely random note, my friends got to see Korean actor, Song Joong-Ki, at a fan meeting in Abu Dhabi today! They are the same lovely friends that met ZE:A at a fan meeting and saw my favorite member, Siwan, last year! I hope they had fun! ^^ They all had to appear when I left the U.A.E. =P