Friday 2 August 2013


On my last day in Córdoba I had two new experiences: I entered a synagogue and a mosque, both for the first time in my life. However, neither serves its original function today; the synagogue is a historical vestige of the once-thriving Jewish community in Andalusia; and the mosque is now part of the Catholic cathedral.

I remember another double-first a long time ago, also related to Judaism.  On my first day in my first job – at Irish Life Assurance – I was introduced for the first time in my life to a Jew, and also to my first Protestant. I was 19 years old.  Imagine, throughout my childhood I had never even met a Protestant.  That's how mono-cultural my environment was.  I probably didn't meet a Muslim until I moved to France 10 years later.

That I should have this latest double-first in Córdoba is fitting; in the golden era of Islamic Andalusia,  the city was a centre of scientific and cultural excellence where Muslims, Jews and Christians associated freely.  It wasn't until the Reconquista that the Jews were expelled from Spain along with the Muslims.

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